SPEAKER 1: Let's move away from realism for a moment and ask the question, how does television influence us? Does it influence us consciously or unconsciously. The answer is yes, it does both. Let's look for a moment at how television could influence us unconsciously.
For this I'm going to draw heavily on investigations done by Hansen and Hansen. What I mean when I say that something influences you unconsciously is that you aren't really aware of the thoughts that influence you. You're not consciously aware that you were thinking about something.
Keep in mind that I'm not saying such unconscious thoughts are bad just because you're not consciously aware of them. In fact, the kinds of thinking we're very good at tend to be the most unconscious. Thinking too consciously can be a bad thing in some cases. If somebody yells watch out, the less we think before ducking out of the way, the less likely we are to be hurt. But as we'll see, that thinking can also have some unfortunate consequences in modern life.
Let's take the example of stereotype activation. In particular, let's look at stereotypes of women. Even if we reject the traditional view of women, it does not mean that the traditional stereotype isn't in our memory. In fact, to reject that stereotype, we have to know the stereotype in the first place.
Hanson and Hanson we're interested in what happens when adults view sexually stereotyped images of women in music videos. The researchers watched a lot of those videos and found that music videos often depicted women as submissive, powerless, sexually nurturing, and as either sexual playthings or cold. Let's look at a few music videos to see what they were talking about.
[KID ROCK, "FEEL LIKE MAKIN' LOVE'"] Till I'm dyin' on the--
[BEYONCÉ, "BABY BOY"] Come on, girl. Baby boy, you stay on my mind, fulfill my fant--
[TRACE ADKINS, "HOT MAMA"] --away. Oh, and believe me, you still do. Baby, all I see--
[KELIS, "MILKSHAKE"] --waiting. La-la-la-la-la. Warm it up. La-la-la-la-la.
[BRITNEY SPEARS, "TOXIC"]
[OUTKAST, "THE WAY YOU MOVE"] --way you move. I love the way-- I love the--
SPEAKER 1: It's not just music videos that depict women in a stereotyped way. For example, look at this scene from a recent animated cartoon.
- Hey. What happened to Miguel?
- I don't know.
- Oh, my God. He's gone! Miguel's gone! He's loose! What am I going to do? Oh, no, no.
- Oh, Miguel is right. You worry too much.
- Oh. Oh. Oh yeah. Oh, oh, oh. Whoa! No!
Big trouble. Oh, whoa. Look, sweetheart, we're in the middle of a con here, walking the razor's edge. On the one hand, gold. On the other hand, painful, agonizing failure. I can't afford any temptations-- uh, distractions. So I'm sorry, so sorry. But perhaps another time, another place?
- Too bad. I'm free now.
- I'm not really sure I trust you.
- Hm. I'm not really asking you to trust me, am I?
SPEAKER 1: The opposite of that stereotype would have women as equal to men, competent, and able. One way to think of memory is as a stack of organized concepts sometimes called schema. The higher in the stack something is, the more likely it is to influence us unconsciously.
For example, a particular person may have this stack of schema about women. Note that the sex role stereotype schema is at the bottom. If it's at the bottom of the stack, it's not used very often.
However, watching sex role stereotype music videos could activate that sex role stereotype schema, moving it to the top of the stack. At the top of the stack, it's more likely to influence a person's unconscious thinking. This activation effect may not last very long, usually a matter of minutes to a day. But while something is temporarily near the top of the stack, you may make different decisions than you ordinarily would.
Hanson and Hanson's experiments are complicated. But what they found is that a woman in a later job interview was judged very differently by those who saw stereotypic music videos compared to those that didn't. For example, people who saw the stereotyped music videos later judged a woman in an interview who didn't reciprocate a sexual advance by the interviewer as more threatening. Those who saw the music videos were more likely to use the stereotyped view of women. It didn't matter if the person making the judgment was male or female. Many studies have found similar results.
Our judgments about a number of things can be influenced without being aware, at least for a short time. But if we're thoughtful, those effects tend to go away. In the next segment, we'll look at what happens when people consciously think about whether or not they want to copy behavior that they see on TV.
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Television, video games, and other media often represent the world in ways that concern us. We worry that young children may copy what they see on cartoons, that older children may be influenced by the sexual and violent images they see, and that adults may be influenced by stereotyped images. While there is cause for concern, there is also evidence that even children are able to reasonably interpret much of what they see. On the other hand even adults can be influenced by television without being aware of that influence. Understanding the complex psychological mechanisms that people use when watching television can help families know what to worry about and what to do about it.
This video is part 3 of 5 in the The Psychology of Television Realism series.