Media influences on addictive behaviour

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  • Created by: Deekshana
  • Created on: 06-02-16 10:15

A01 Media- Introduction

  • Media has an influence on addiction (through movies, shows) which encourage addictive behaviours such as gambling.
  • Media glamorises addictive behaviours which removes the stigma associated with the behaviour which making it come accross as socially acceptable.

e.g. Trainspotting -Recreational drugs

  • Showed the world of a heroin addict
  • Even though the movie was dark and disturbing, the movie came accross as fascinating for a mainstream audience.


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Research into film representations of addiction

Sulkenen (2007)

  • Collected 140 scenes from 47 films that represented various forms of addictions. 
  • Films about drug use, such as American beauty (1999) showed a sense of achievement when consuming drugs and also feeling joy out of the effects.
  • Enjoyment was generally compared to the dullness of ordinary life.
  • In Human Traffic (1999)- Showed how the use of ecstasy is portrayed as a way of resolving relationship problems.

Representation of smoking in films

  • Research has proven that media representations of smoking is influential towards teenagers causing them to take up the habit.

Waylen et al.(2011)

  • Examined 360 of the top US box office films released between 2001-2005 which exhibited smoking.
  • Findings- Teenagers who watched films that glamorized smoking were more likely to start smoking.Also found a correlation between teenagers smoking and the number of films they watched that were associated with smoking.
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The role of media in changing addictive behaviour

  • Treatment of addiction is often interfered by factors such as:
    • A limited number of professionals who are able to administer the treatment
    • The motivation for an addict to attend treatments etc.
  • This has led to other ways of providing support/ education for individuals.
  • Biggest form of intervention is through media
    • Promotes healthy lifestyles
    • Behaviour change- E.g. stop smoking
    • physical exercise

Television support for problem drinking

Bennett el al.(1991)

  • Evaluated a BBC TV series "Psst...the Really Useful Guide to Alcohol"
  • Matched pairs design- Viewers of the series compared against non-viewers
  • Findings- Even though the results showed an improvement in alcohol related knowledge, they still did not show a change in attitude or alcohol consumption.
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A02 Film representations of addictions

Research support

Point- Despite various studies showing how addictions are represented in film media, only a few studies have assessed whether if these representations actually have an effect on viewers.

Elaborate- Evidence- Sargent and Hanewinkel (2009)

  • Tested whether teenagers exposure to smoking from films influenced their initiation into smoking
  • Surveyed 4384 teenagers aged 11-15 and re-surveyed them a year later
  • Findings- Individuals who did not smoke when first surveyed, exposure to films about smoking over the year had a significant impact as to whether they had begun to smoke when re-surveyed.


Real world application- As several ethical issues are raised regarding what materials is broadcasted through mediums such as televisions and how studies have shown how vulnerable teenagers are to be influenced into smoking; this means that materials with behaviours such as smoking or gambling may need to be broadcasted after childrens bedtimes.

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AO2- Against Sulkunen (2007)

An alternative perspective

Point- Researchers such as Sulkunen (2007) who claim that films portray addiction in a positive/ glamorised way, Boyd (2008) argues that films do frequently represent the negative consequences of addictions such as drugs or alcohol.

Elaborate- For example illegal drug use and addiction are represented by violence, crime, sexual degradation and moral decline.

Link- In US, film makers are provided with script-to-screen advice about how to represent drug use and addiction in films. Also financial incentives are offered if they do so in a negative way.


  • Most of the evidence about the impact of media on addictive behaviour is correlational
  • Therefore difficult to determine cause and effect- There may be confounding variables. (e.g. genetics, personality)

Age bias

  • Explanations and research mainly focuses on younger viewers
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