I’m often amused by the scientific need to confirm the obvious – it can’t be real until it’s been tested, documented and peer reviewed, which I fully understand has a purpose. A recent study claims to show causality between video streaming and viewer behavior. Causality in itself is a significant term indicating that there is a proven relationship between one factor and another establishing cause and effect. Typically what science documents is that there exists a correlation between two or more factors. Correlation indicates a relationship, but not cause and effect. In this case, relying on more than 23 million video playbacks and more than 6 million unique visitors, the study released late last year documents that a video “start” delay lasting for more than two seconds causes viewers to begin to abandon the video (Sitaraman & Krishnan, 2012). Continue reading →
Anybody who has ever watched television or films knows that both mediums are replete with violent entertainment – from cartoons and children’s programs, to horror “porn” such as the Hostel film series that “grossed” $80 million, worldwide. If one takes in enough of the stuff they may believe it is a mean world indeed.
George Gerbner (August 8, 1919 – December 24, 2005) was dean emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania and a World War II veteran of the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency). He founded the Cultural Indicators Research Project in 1968 which tracks television content (especially that of a violent nature) and how that content affects viewers’ perceptions of the world. Its database has information on more than 3,000 television programs and 35,000 characters (Associated Press, 2006). By its estimates, American children witness more than 8,000 murders and 100,000 other violent acts on television by the time they leave elementary school (Stossel, 1997). This study led to Gerbner’s formation of cultivation theory which states “the more time people spend “living” in the television world, the more likely they are to believe social reality portrayed on television…//… effects occur only after long-term, cumulative exposure to television” (Cohen & Weimann, 2000). This cognitive bias is known as mean world syndrome and may be comprised of up to four different recurring attitudes to include the beliefs in:
Increased chances of involvement with violence
Fear of walking alone at night
Perceived activity of police
General mistrust of people (Miller, 2013; Griffin, 2011)
In the following six minute clip provided by the Media Education Foundation Gerbner discusses how this culture of violence has come about and how it translates easily in films and television programming around the world directly stereotyping minorities. Additionally he observes that violent film sequels typically double the level of violence when compared to their predecessors.
Further, Gerbner testified to a congressional subcommittee that “Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line measures. They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities. That is the deeper problem of violence-laden television” (Associated Press, 2006).
Interested in more proof? Scott Stossel of the The Atlantic Online had the following independent studies to offer which appear to backup Gerbner’s hypothesis:
A 1956 study compared the behavior of twelve four-year-olds who watched a Woody Woodpecker cartoon containing many violent episodes with that of twelve other four-year-olds who watched “The Little Red Hen,” a nonviolent cartoon. The Woody watchers were much more likely than the Hen watchers to hit other children, break toys, and be generally destructive during playtime.
In 1981, Brandon Centerwall, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, hypothesized that the sharp increase in the murder rate in North America beginning in 1955 was the product of television viewing. Television sets had been common household appliances for about eight years by that point — enough time, he theorized, to have inculcated violent tendencies in a generation of viewers. He tested his hypothesis by studying the effects of television in South Africa, where the Afrikaaner-dominated regime had banned it until 1975. He found that twelve years after television was introduced there, murder rates skyrocketed.
In 1960 Leonard Eron, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, studied third-graders in Columbia County in semi-rural New York. He observed that the more violent television these eight-year-olds watched at home, the more aggressive they were in school. Eron returned to Columbia County in 1971, when the children from his sample were nineteen. He found that the boys who had watched a lot of violent television when they were eight were more likely to get in trouble with the law when older. Eron returned to Columbia County a third time in 1982, when his subjects were thirty. He discovered that those who had watched the most television violence at age eight inflicted more violent punishments on their children, were convicted of more serious crimes, and were reported more aggressive by their spouses than those who had watched less violent television. In 1993, at a conference of the National Council for Families & Television, Eron estimated that 10 percent of the violence in the United States can be attributed to television.
For those of you who don’t know him, Mel Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was a voice actor fondly known as the “The Man of a Thousand Voices.” His more popular characterizations included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, and many, many others. The podcast below examines Mel’s near death experience in 1961, and the events around his death in 1989. It leaves a lot of questions as to how it may be possible that the characterizations brought to life by a man may have preserved his life in 1961, and were a part of his final moments. In this case media appears to have become a part of the man.
“Cognitive cues are strategies that help the individual remember the sequence of steps, as well as content … They are especially important to those who can’t seem to retain, or follow multi-step, or multi-element situations” (Packer, 2009). These cues can activate neurological networks associated with them that affect the way a subject behaviorally executes their self-concept.
Discrete social identities, such as those formed based on relational roles and positions with other people and social groups, may correlate to specific neural pathways, which when cued, would lead to certain typical behavioral responses associated with them (such as specific way of talking, walking, thinking, relating to oneself and others etc.). These discrete identities are normally not experienced as such, as the mind instantaneously re-creates a sense of a singular, continuous, unchanged, overarching self that encompasses them all – unless damaged. Thus, while the observed behavior might change from one situation to another, a different identity may be cued when prescribed situations come into play – or possibly when another can’t respond. Neurologically, there is interconnectedness between these circuits, and a higher order organizational principle – the sense of a unified self – that maintains continuity, and creates enough consistency in observable behavior for others to witness an underlying singular personality that changes minimally throughout many different situations. Blanc, as discussed, easily slipped in and out of various characters all of his life, and any number of times throughout a single day over the course of more than 60 years, therefore the range of possible cognitive cues for his various discrete personalities would have been exceptional. Which leads to the possibility that when his singular self could no longer respond due to physical stress or trauma, his characterizations still could.