Media Influences on Addictive Behaviour - Psychology A Unit 4 Edexcel

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Media influences on addictive behaviour
Most evidence about media effects is correlational, which doesn't necessarily indicate a causal relationship
between exposure and addiction
Sulkunen, 2007: the notion of `addiction' is used universally in everyday language, but there is no universally
accepted definition of its meaning
McMurran, 1994: media can a) promote addictive behaviour through advertising, or b) decrease addictive
behaviour through health education
Film representations of addictions ­ films tend to present addictions as positive
Sulkunen, 2007: collected 140 scenes from 47 films ­ generally, in films where the storyline is not specifically
about addictions, addictions are presented as a positive factor, e.g. Trainspotting (1999) and American
Beauty (1999) both present scenes of drug competence and enjoyment of the effects, which frequently
contrasts the dullness of normal life.
Boyd, 2008: addictions are often depicted by physical deterioration and moral decline. In the US, filmmakers
are provided with advice about how to portray addictions and are offered financial incentives if they portray
addictions in a negative way
Assumes that all viewers of films are naïve ­ a large part of filmmaking is allowing the audience to make up
their own mind about a film, and therefore in films where addictions are portrayed as positive, research
doesn't consider that this may have been done ironically.
Byrne, 1997: argues that films are important because they provide enduring stereotypes about addictions,
and information is portrayed in cases where viewers may not have found this out for themselves. An
example is that the dominant image of ECT comes not from psychology literature but from the 1975 film One
Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Representation of smoking in film ­ research suggests that media representation of smoking influences teenagers
to take up the habit.
Waylen et al, 2011: examined 360 top box office films from 2001-2005 and found that teenagers who
watch films showing actors smoking were more likely to start smoking themselves. Even when controlling
social factors, researchers found a significant relationship between adolescent smoking and the number of
films they'd seen depicting smoking.
Sargent and Hanewinkel, 2009: tested whether adolescents' exposure to smoking in films influenced them
to start smoking. Surveyed 4384 11-15 year olds and re-surveyed them a year later; found that exposure of
smoking in films was a strong predictor of whether the adolescent would take up smoking over that year.
Television support for drinking problems
Bennett et al, 1991: reviewed 6 part series in Psst... the Really Useful Guide To Alcohol that aired on the
BBC in 1989; found that alcohol-knowledge improved but viewers showed no significant subsequent change
in their attitudes or in alcohol consumption.
Kramer et al, 2009: assessed the effectiveness of five part self-help television intervention series Drinking
Less? Do It Yourself! and found that the intervention group was more successful that the control group, a
difference that was maintained in the follow up a month later.
In the Kramer study, the intervention group received weekly visits from the researchers, who could have
influenced the participants behaviour, working in favour of a positive outcome for this group.
In the Kramer study, the control group (waiting list group) were aware that they were on the waiting list, and
so may have postponed behavioural change, thereby artificially inflating the magnitude of difference
between the two groups.


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