What media shows DOES influence viewers -- despite what the media itself claims.
Those in the entertainment industry love to claim that their programs have no influence on viewers. This is absurd on its face. Why do advertisers and political candidates pay millions of dollars a year for commercials, if what viewers see has no influence on them?
Yet sadly, many people – young people especially – accept and believe the industry’s claims. Here are some facts that prove the influence media has in shaping viewers’ perceptions…and lives.
One commonly heard refrain is that, “I watched a violent show, and it didn’t turn me into a mass murderer.” This is what is known as a “straw-man argument.” No one claims that one instance of media violence will turn the viewer into a killer, any more than smoking one cigarette will give a person lung cancer, or eating one potato chip will make a person morbidly obese.
But just one instance of something in the media does have the power to influence our thoughts, actions and behaviors. For example:
- In the 2000 movie Mission: Impossible 2, Tom Cruise’s spy character receives instructions via his Oakley sunglasses. Sales of Oakleys soared to $100 million in the months following the movie’s release.
- Sales of the candy Reese’s Pieces increased 65% after the release of E.T. The Extraterrestrial, during which E.T. eats the candy.
- On March 31,1988, Ron Chapman, morning DJ at Dallas radio station KVIL, told his listeners to write a check for $20 and mail it to the station. Chapman never said why he wanted the money or what he would do with it. Listeners sent the station almost $250,000.
And repeated viewing of similar content has even more powerful effects.
- In June 2006, the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that teens who absorbed sexually explicit entertainment the most frequently were up to 2.2 times more likely to have had sexual intercourse by ages 14 to 16 than those who had been exposed the least.
- The American Academy of Forensic Sciences says that 25 people per week are calling regarding careers as forensic scientists, a five-fold increase since the 2000 debut of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Colleges and universities have noticed a steady increase in the number of students taking forensics classes. Manhattan’s Pace University added new undergraduate and grad-school degree programs in forensic science, and credited CSI as a “major force” in its decision.