Media and Societal Values
Does the media influence society’s moral and political opinions, or merely reinforce the ones it already has?
The media can have a powerful effect on how people see certain topics, but in general this influence is seen simply to move people much further toward an opinion they already held. In several countries this has been proven to be the case, through the different media outlets of advertising, news, and entertainment. The first example, on advertising, is from a study done by Italian psychologists Stefano Tartaglia and Chiara Rollero on advertisements in the largest newspapers of Italy and the Netherlands. The study found that although the two countries scored very differently on the European gender equality index, a scale showing whether a country grants equal rights and representation to both sexes or not (Italy being the less equal of the two), the likelihood of advertisements to sexualize women more than men and show men “in occupational roles and women…in decorative roles” was the same, which demonstrated that the media reflected the Italian society and failed to influence or reflect the Dutch society, which unlike Italy has nearly equal numbers of men and women in the workforce. The second category, news media, is discussed in an essay by Francois Gruber-Magitot. In his writing he concluded that French news media tries to reflect the general public opinion through surveys, while American news media is more specialized toward the opinions of separate political groups. However, in both countries the media only reflected what the viewers already believed, and if it persuaded viewers of anything it was merely that their views were correct and should be held on to even more strongly than they already were. The third category, and often the most controversial when it comes to the origin of societal values, is entertainment. In an article on Christian Answers, the role of entertainment media in creating societal norms is considered from several points of view. On the one hand, the article states, the fact that Americans spend six or more hours per day in contact with entertainment media is important to note because “when you spend that much time watching something, you have just developed new role models and a new window on life.” The article also points to the vast number of studies which seem to suggest that life imitates art, not the other way around. On the other hand, family structure is an important factor in deciding how much media influences viewers, particularly children. The article points to studies showing how Japanese media, though having far fewer restrictions on showing violence than American media, has lower rape and violent crime rates by a long stretch. They also have much lower rates of teen pregnancy or pregnancy outside marriage, and thus a more family-oriented society than America. This implies that violent media is only likely to incite violence in those who grew up with violence and lack of supervision as a norm. It can therefore be concluded that media only influences society when the beginnings of a particular value are already present; otherwise, it merely reflects what is already there.
– lexxie rae 04-28-2016
“Entertainment Media – Does It Lead or Follow Society?” Christian Answers. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
White, Lawrence T. “Does Advertising Content Reflect or Shape Societal Values?” Psychology Today. N.p., 26 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
Gruber-Magitot, Francois. “Does Mass Media Shape or Reflect Public Opinion?” Academia. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.