TV alters your beliefs

In a world obsessed with nanotechnology where things are increasingly getting smaller, there is one piece of technology that is increasingly bucking the trend; televisions. It is a not uncommon experience to enter a friend’s home and have the friend stand back with a smile of complacent triumph and let you enter the lounge room first where you find yourself greeted by a newly purchased television that forms a full wall of the house. You will utter appreciative noises as your host nods with pride as you secretly think to yourself, “What a pointless waste of space”. There are many though who don’t see mega-screens as pointless and there is obviously a market for them as television is increasingly a focus for leisure time, whether it be downloaded, streamed or broadcast. The problem with that, according to a new study, is that watching television changes your beliefs and not for the better.

The study was done in Austria and involved subjects being asked about their viewing habits. They were also asked whether they believed that the death penalty still applies in Austria. It emerged that 11.6 per cent of people surveyed believed that the death penalty still did apply. That might seem fair enough to those of us from other locations except that the death penalty was actually completely abolished in Austria in February 1968 and the last execution took place on March 24, 1950.

The researchers thought that the belief in the death penalty still existing might be due to the high proportion of American films and television series on Austrian television. Crime dramas in particular portray the American justice system where the death penalty plays a central role.

If it seems extreme that people’s worldview may be shaped by what they watch on television, then it might surprise you to know that these findings actually are consistent with what other research has shown. We know for instance that people who watch a lot of television overestimate the numbers of people involved in professions frequently portrayed on television such as doctors, lawyers and police women and men. It also leads people to overestimate the likelihood of being a victim of crime.

The researchers conclude that television changes attitudes and values as well as having a negative influence on awareness of fundamental social principles. If our prejudices and beliefs can be so influenced by television it begs the question as to whether we are citizens of our nation, citizens of the world, or victims of our screens?

Source: Death Studies

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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