Television Affects Behavior?

We have a thread going on over in MPSIMS about whether advertising works. This is the link to it:

The discussion has to do with whether advertising really makes people go out and buy the advertised item. So, I made the following post:

“My comment probably really belongs in Great Debates (and maybe I’ll go post it there . . . ) but it’s this: Why do advertising execs and the industry insist that advertising has an effect on the buying habits of the American public, while the television industry (which is selling that ad time at the highest possible rates) insists that it has never been proved that what people watch on television shows affects their non-buying behavior? I’m specifically referring to violence on t.v. and in the movies, but other behaviors as well.”

I decided that the topic really belongs over here. So, I put it to you: Whattaya think?


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I would say the TV execs know full well the influence of what people watch, and share that knowledge with advertisers even as they talk out of the other side of their mouths to people concerned with the content of TV shows. I understand their need to defend themselves against the groups calling for censorship, but wish they would do so on free speech grounds instead of lying about it.

I once read an interesting comment by a man who was admittedly calling for more TV censorship (albeit self-censorship by the networks). He said that when a network broadcasts a show like Roots, Sesame Street, or even Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman that has a morally uplifting message they are anxious to take credit for making their viewers better people. He then asked why these same networks then denied that shows like Dallas, South Park, or Oz could have a negative impact and make their viewers worse people. While I don’t agree with his suggestions, I’d have a hard time refuting his argument.

Because your first set of shows are mostly self-serving. They are primarily watched by goody-two-shoes. Show’s like “Touched by an Angel” don’t create more Christians, they attract more Christian viewers. Likewise, your above mentioned shows don’t create better people, they merely attract better people to them. This is calculated by the networks. They have a blend of shows designed to create a niche for all audiences (except Africans and Hispanics. Turns out they don’t buy enough stuff. Oh, well). They’re not trying to make better audiences, just to assure that everyone in the country is watching their network at some point in the day. So there is a range of programs, from “Dr. Quinn” to “South Park.”

Jason R Remy

“Open mindedness is not the same thing as empty mindedness.”
– John Dewey Democracy and Education (1916)

Frankly, the only purpose advertisements serve for me is to make me aware of products. It takes much more than an ad to cause me to buy something.

Oh well, okay, there is one more purpose … entertainment. :wink:

I just find it hard to believe that people are actually swayed by advertisements. “Oh look, that suburban mother is making excuses to take the new minivan out for a drive, wasting countless gallons of gasoline and putting more miles on the vehicle, just because it’s such a fun thing to drive! I think I’ll get one of my own!”


I believe I am not alone when I take issue at this as applied to the programs given in the reference.

Irrelevant and not on point. Go back and read in context; the issue is that a given network, say XYZ, claims that the “goodie-goodie” shows DO influnence behaviour, while the “more negative” shows do not. This arguement, on its face, can never hold up logically.

BTW I think there are probably a lot of Black and Hispanic people, working very hard in TV, now and in the past, that might take exception when you do not recognize that they are very much a part of the “blend” on TV today.
Frankly, I am very confused on this issue. I am a stalwart supporter of everyone’s constitutional rights…I am also very aware that there is an insane amount of racism, hatred and violence in our society today. somebody needs to stop being so defensive and take some responsibility. And I believe that the media, in all forms, affects how we think, feel, and treat others. I don’t want to sue anyone over it…I want to FIX THE PROBLEM! Everyone, from advertising, TV & film industry to parents and the man on the street says its someone else’s fault. I think everybody is overwhelmed by the size of the problem and the only thing they know to do is blame the next guy…I believed in “the Village” a long time before Hillary made it a catch phrase.
Sorry for the rant, Melin, I seem to be on a roll tonight. I’m off to post my own question. Hope to hear your feedback there.

“Man, the 60’s must have been real good for you!”
George Carlin…“Outrageous Fortune”

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
Dorothy…“The Wizard of Oz”

Does television affect behavior? A question that has been asked by many over the last several years. Yes and no.

Obviously advertising increases purchasing of a product. Otherwise the companies would not pay the amounts they pay for ads (especially during the Super Bowl or Seinfeld). But does it cause people to buy a product that they would not normally buy. No, I do not think so. I do not smoke, so no amount of ads will cause me to smoke, I do not drink alcohol, again no amount of ads will change this behavior. If I am in the market for a minivan, then a commercial might get me to consider that brand, but I would not buy a SUV just because a commerical showed it as being fun to drive.

So, I think that if a person is pre-disposed to an action, (i.e. buying a product or killing his family), then maybe television could affect the behavior, but if they would never do such a thing, then TV will not make them.


Why does everything have to be so black-and-white?

As I see it, everyone is affected by everything they experience, to some degree however small.

When something appears on TV, radio, or wherever, regardless of whether it is a good thing, bad thing, or neutral thing, it is NOT going to make millions of people go out and be copycats. But there are many people on the edge, and it will push some people over that edge. As far as just about everyone else, they will be moved - ever so subtly - closer to that edge. And there will also be some people who will have a negative reaction, and move in the opposite direction. But just about everyone will be affected to some degree.

Example: You watch a movie and see some kind of wacko evil and/or perverted act that you never would have dreamed of before. Someone may very well try it, and the rest of us will slightly less revolted the second time we hear about it.

Example: You see someone on the news doing some incredible act of generosity and/or heroism. At first you say, I could never do that. But then a smaller opportunity comes your way, and you actually consider doing it.

Example: You’ve driving in your car, listening to the radio on your favorite station, and an absolutely awful song comes on. The idiot DJ plays it a few dozen more times over the next couple of weeks, and without even realizing it, you catch yourself humming along.

No, not all the time. But the mind is very malleable, and it takes a conscious effort to fight off the outside influences.

I don’t think commercials affect my buying habits. I hate, nay, DESPISE, the taste of beer, and no matter how clever or cute the commercial is i will not start buying it and drinking it. I’ve never bought a product because of an ad. I will say that advertisement does affect me inasmuch as it makes me aware of the products out there.
There have been times that I’d see an ad and think, “Hey! I didn’t know they made THAT!” or “Hey! I didn’t know there was such a thing!”.
So i do agree that we are affected somewhat by ads.

Sometimes life is so great you just gotta muss up your hair and quack like a duck!

I recognize that african-americans and hispanics SHOULD have a better representation on the television. Unfortunately the networks do NOT feel the same way. There are pittifully few shows with african-american lead actors (at last count: 2 sitcom (The Hughleys, Cosby) and a smattering of Dramas (ER, Homicide: Life on the Streets)). The point I was making, which should have been obvious to anybody with a greater than 4th grade education, was that there should be MORE representation of the various groups that make up the American Culture on American TV. What part of that do you disagree with???

Jason R Remy

“Open mindedness is not the same thing as empty mindedness.”
– John Dewey Democracy and Education (1916)

I think we’re basically looking at two questions here:

  1. Does television advertising cause people to go out and buy the products advertised?, and
  2. Does television violence cause people to go out and commit similar violent actions?

My answer: if you are predisposed to either one, yes. If you are not, no. I, for instance, cannot be induced under any circumstances to purchase any product manufactured by the Chrysler corporation. I have never had anything but filthy luck with them, they are junk and have been ever since 1956, and there isn’t a single car ever built by Chrysler that a good 750-foot cliff couldn’t help. Ergo, no matter how any commercials I watch with the dulcet tones of Edward Herrman telling me that “they’ve changed everything”, I am still not going to purchase their junk. So the commercials do not affect me. As for violence, that won’t affect me either, since I’ll ususally just shut the damned thing off and go find a good book to read.

BUT: if you absolutely love Chrysler Corporation cars (and I would strongly advise you to see a doctor soon about your condition if you do), you might very well be disposed to go buy their new minivan. And if you are already warped by heavy-metal lyrics, the last 17,469 hours of Doom that you’ve just played, Ollie Stone’s movies, and repeatedly being dropped on your head from a third-story window as a child, then you might very well be influenced by TV violence. But it’s only because you are already bent that way anyway. If you ain’t leaning in that direction already, then TV is not going to shove you over the edge.

Example: Coke vs. Pepsi.

Since I am a cola drinker, among other things, I sometimes shop for cola.

I usually buy the cheaper brand, or what’s on sale. But a lot of times coke and pepsi are exactly the same price. If I jump into a local 7-Eleven looking for a 20 oz cola, which do I choose? Since I have no preference for taste (they all taste the same to me) I would guess the choice was 50 - 50.

It may be as trivial as one commercial remaining on my mind as I reach for any of the two which are equidistant from my hand, and I guess this is the slight egde the companies are competing for. Also, if there was some other cola, Big Black cola, for example, which was the same price, I probably wouldn’t even consider it because of its unknown.

It all goes to show the effect of advertising, no one is immune to it (unless you never watched it, and that would mean you’ve never heard of Coke or Pepsi.)

Another point. No matter how much they advertise tampons, I would never buy them (for myself anyway) since I’m a guy. What advertisements exceed at is getting people to buy products they would normally buy anyway. (And this only works if you buy products, as opposed to producing everything at home.)

To say you are not influenced by what you perceive is contradictory. Let’s face it, advertising wouldn’t be around if it didn’t work. And if you think it doesn’t work on you, well, aren’t you special?

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Hey, looks like Pickman beat me to it. And he sounds a lot better too.

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I used to disagree with the idea that television could cause violent behavior. However, if I see this exchange…

Grandma: I like his tight butt!
Julia Roberts: Grandma!
Grandma: Well I do!!

…one more time, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

Advertising execs love to hear stuff like ‘advertising doesn’t affect me’! They want everyone in the dark as to the power of advertising.
No amount of advertising is going to convert you to get something you don’t want, and advertisers aren’t going after you with their commercials, they want the guy on the fence. They also want penetration, getting their product known, so that if you do go to get one of these widgets, you’ll consider theirs because you’ve heard of it. Statistics bear out that advertising works, and works well. How many of us have gone to see a movie based on the trailer, only to be disappointed after? There will always be specific items that we can all site that we won’t buy regardless of the advertising, but those are minor. Many of us are swayed by public opinion on products, and this opinion is developed by advertising, how else to explain the fashion industry, and which clothes are ‘cool’ this year. The trick is to influence you without you knowing it, most commercials have NOTHING to do with their product, but show a lifestyle or situation that we like, subliminally linking this to the product. There has been a lot of talk lately within the advertising circles concerning the internet, mostly worrisome talk, because the net has made word-of-mouth is approaching mass-media levels, and negative comments on their products are getting ‘penetration’ into the population.