The article aims to assess whether data is consistent with critics’ claims on the effects of talk show viewing on the social reality beliefs of adolescents. Critics hypothesize the following negative effects occur (on adolescents) as a result of talk-show viewing: 1) a incessant focus on bizarre behavior and social deviance leading viewers to accept distorted versions of reality, 2) desensitization to the suffering of others occurs due to (regular) viewer immunity to graphic discussions and guest outbursts, 3) the trivialization of important social issues due to the oversimplification of difficult issues.
In order to test the three hypotheses, a survey was administered to 282 high school students ranging in age from 13-18. Students answered questions about their attitudes towards social issues and related media use and talk show viewing behavior. The study analyses was limited to daytime television talk shows featuring non-celebrity individuals discussing their personal lives and problems. The authors the study based on the interpretive theory of communication. They attempted, through the survey, to uncover the ways in which talk-shows do/do not influence adolescents in arriving at their general meaning of social reality.
Interpretive theories “describe the process whereby the active mind [the adolescents] uncovers the meanings of experience [bizarre topics] in whatever form it may take [talk-show viewing]. The results of the survey provided support for the first hypothesis, disputed the second and proved contrary to the third, actually establishing a positive relationship between talk-show viewing and the importance of social issues. Although talk-shows have an effect on adolescents, the data did not suggest that adolescents are corrupted by watching them.
Stacey Davis and Marie-Louise Mares, “Effects of Talk Show Viewing on Adolescents,” Journal of Communication, (1988) p.69-85.
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