The Image of Psychology through the Eyes of the Media
Psychology can be presented by the media in forms such as magazine or newspaper articles, and the most popular today is through commercials watched on TV. Psychology is presented in a form of science today compared to what it was viewed as in the late 1800s and onto the 1900s. It is more of a science nature because viewers have to think about the meaning of the article or commercial to understand the message that is being presented. Then, psychology was viewed as a form or common sense. Psychology was never really looked at as a science but rather as philosophy in the 1980s. The public was often confused with the subject of psychology because it was always changing. The media presents both social and cognitive psychology to the public. Psychologists are not exactly overrepresented today, but the media uses them to their advantage.
In the 1800s and the 1900s, psychologists were underrepresented and not taken seriously until World War I when “pop” psychology was let out to the public. The public was made to believe that the war was won because of the psychologists’ work. The media definitely relies more on psychologists than self-proclaimed experts. Many articles in magazines are psychologist interviewed and psychologists even write their own articles for the public to view and respond back with questions. Today, the media presents psychological information in more of a sensationalistic manner. This is a way that the media can catch the reader’s attention. By catching their attention, the media tends to over exaggerate many stories to make them sound better or worse than the story truly is. Psychology is still a confusing subject to the public today and many may never understand the role that psychology plays in society.
The approach that psychology is presented in today’s media can somewhat differ from the way it was presented in the late 1800s through the 1900s. The message that lies beneath the commercials will not always pop right out. I as a viewer have watched many commercials over the past couple weeks and I kept thinking to myself, what does this have to do with psychology? The more the viewer thinks about what the message is supposed to be, the harder it takes to come up with an answer. After awhile, I let my brain be able to process the commercial and allow it to trigger many thoughts, not just one. One of the very first commercials that I had watched was an invitation to Fairbanks, which is a rehab center. Many rehab centers will not flaunt alcohol in front of the ones who are trying to stop the abuse. The commercial started with slow music and ended with a glass of whiskey. Personally, I think that kind of commercial would trigger the want for alcohol rather than wanting to go to rehab. But, that’s the reverse psychology that comes into play.
The abuser has to look past what is being presented and want to make a change in his or her life. The depressing music can show the abuser that his or her life may be depressing when turning to alcohol and a rehab may be their best “go-to.” The next commercial was for a violent video game. The video game views the world as a violent and scary place. Not all children take the games seriously but some can relate the games to reality. The psychology of the commercials are presented in a manner that hides the true meaning and leaves it up to the viewer to discover what is really trying to be put out there. I personally feel that today’s media presents psychology in a form of science by relating it to social and cognitive psychology, relies on psychologists for major information, and the media always has a way of over exaggerating the information that is being put out to the public. I personally feel that psychology in the media today is presented in more of a science nature rather than common sense. In the early 1900s, psychology was viewed more as a common sense. Today, the viewer’s have to take the time to think about the commercial that they are watching or the article that they are reading to truly understand what the message is supposed to be. In the 1980s the federal government doubted psychology as a science and a profession…
The government stated that it was a way of “promoting human welfare” (Ludy, 1986, p. 941). But, rather than psychology being looked at as philosophy, two students wanted to switch the views of psychology to being more scientifically related. James MKeen Cattell and Harry Kirke Wolfe were the first two Americans to receive their degrees with the help of Wihem Wundt (Ludy, 1986, p. 941). The two students thought deeply of their work and strongly believed that psychology would be the next big science in the media within the next thirty years. The media presents “hidden messages” that the common person many not always see, but the brain processes the information and triggers a reaction based on the viewers own thoughts. After watching many commercials on TV, social and cognitive psychology both come into play. Social psychology is when a person can select from his or her memory on a past situation that he or she has read or watched and can then reacts accordingly. After viewing many commercials some of the commercials tend to clash together by presenting the same message. When the viewer remembers seeing or hearing something specific from a commercial, the brain automatically reacts by thinking, “I’ve heard about this before.” Cognitive psychology is when the viewers are watching a commercial that may come off violent and then the viewers themselves been a trigger set off that makes them angry.
That same situation can happen with a commercial or article that is heartbreaking and then always makes the viewer’s heart hurt. Although some forms of information being put out to the public are common sense, most that I had come across were more science like from my perspective. Psychology has drastically changed over the past thirty to forty years, but through the eyes of the media, exaggeration and hidden messages still take place today. I personally feel that psychology that is presented in the media today is often presented in a sensationalistic manner rather than a more sober manner. By meaning sensationalistic, I feel that the media over exaggerates too much. Many reporters and commercials use this form as a way to catch the viewer’s attention. Many ways to engage the viewers include sex, conflict and fear. For example, a commercial comes on with a girl groaning and yelling in the shower, and the viewer comes to find out that the commercial is about the new amazing shampoo. Who would have actually thought about shampoo in a situation like that? That of course is just the introduction of the media industry.
In the past, the public had been confused on the education of psychology because of the way the field would keep changing, and the different view points that were being stated (Ludy, 1986, p. 942). The forms of psychology in the late 1800s early 1900s were greatly written in popular magazines and newspaper articles. The stories were not talked about on TV or through commercials. During World War I psychology was greatly exaggerated, and even many psychologists were thanked for their work with winning the war. Later on, the public comes to find out about the over exaggeration, and were told about the “pop” psychology. In 1920, Grace Adams argued that psychology had forsaken its scientific roots so that individuals would become popular (Ludy, 1986, p. 944). After the media feeding so many over exaggerated stories to the public, of course the public will be shocked and confused. Today’s society still remains to be the same way. The only way to look past the media’s exaggeration is to look right through the information. The viewer’s should laugh at the crazy commercials dealing with psychology that we all know are either too good to be true or are presented just for entertainment purposes. I personally feel that the media relies more on psychologists for the information that they put out to the public rather than “experts.”
Psychologists are experts on using the “hidden message” method. In the late 1800s and on into the 1900s, psychologists were underrepresented in the field of the media until World War I. I wouldn’t say that psychologists are overrepresented today, but I would definitely agree that the media uses them to their advantage. Many articles that are put in newspapers and magazines are usually psychologist interviewed. Authors can sometimes tweak the words and notes from the psychologists to make the article be presented in a “wow” way. Dealing with commercials on the other hand, the makers rely on psychologists to help present messages without actually putting the message out there. After a couple weeks of watching commercials, there is a bit of psychology in each one.
The message can sometimes be what the viewer makes it. I feel that psychology will always be a topic that will continue to struggle with the media. Because of the use of exaggeration that started many years ago, the exaggeration will always come about when presented by the media. The media seeks attention and will continue to make a situation sound better or worse than it really is. Now that psychology has more than just newspaper and magazine articles to spread the word, psychologists are receiving attention, but it is not always the acceptable kind. With psychology going from a more spiritual and philosophical point of view to wanting to become scientifically related, that situation confused the viewers. The public has never had a stable understanding of psychology, and I don’t think that the people will ever fully understand the subject. I personally feel that today’s media presents psychology in a form of science by relating it to social and cognitive psychology, relies on psychologists for major information, and the media always has a way of over exaggerating the information that is being put out to the public. References
Ludy, B. (1986). Why don’t they understand us? A history of psychology’s public image. American Psychologists, 41, 941-946.