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Media studies

discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media

Media studies is a discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history, and effects of various media.


  • Violent video games, television, films, and music have all been found to affect aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior (Anderson et al., 2003; 2010), while the introduction of television itself to a rural area of Nepal significantly affected residents' attitudes and behaviors regarding family issues (e.g., contraceptive use; Barber & Axinn, 2004). However, not all media are expected to have the same effects on beliefs and behavior. Intuitively, it seems to follow that media content should tend to influence beliefs that are relevant to that particular content. For example, watching television crime drama is related to oppositional attitudes toward gun control (Dowler, 2002). Similarly, viewing genres of film or television that focus on relationships (e.g., romantic comedies) is associated with idealistic relationship expectations (Segrin & Nabi, 2002). As a final example, watching shows with paranormal content is associated with paranormal beliefs (Tseng, Tsai, Hsieh, Hung, & Huang, 2014). Each of these examples illustrates how specific content is associated with specific attitudes in ways that are consistent with the content. Media may influence attitudes as disparate as our perception of aggression and paranormal beliefs, so there is reason to believe that media may also influence sexist attitudes.
  • Sexism in media partly involves the portrayal of both men and women in ways that are consistent with prevailing stereotypes. Illustrating this sexism, men are more likely to appear in prime-time programming than women, and when women are shown, they are less likely to be shown working outside the home and more likely to be shown in a romantic relationship (Signorielli, 1989). Lauzen, Dozier, and Horan (2008) similarly found that women were underrepresented in prime-time shows and were more likely to be shown in interpersonal or social roles, while men were more likely to be portrayed in work roles. This underrepresentation of women even pervades television commercials, where women not only appear less, but are also more likely to be portrayed as secondary characters supporting a male character when they are present (Ganahl, Prinsen, & Netzley, 2003). The same trend holds true for video games, where female characters are less likely to be heroes or main characters and, when they are included, they tend to dress in a manner consistent with stereotypes (Dietz, 1998). Female (vs. male) video game characters are also more likely to be sexualized and scantily dressed, while male characters tend to be hypermasculine and violent (Dill & Thill, 2007). And, consistent with research on other media effects, sexist content does affect consumers in a content-consistent manner. For example, media consumption in general (Swami et al., 2010) and frequency of playing sexist video games specifically are both associated with greater benevolent sexism (Stermer & Burkley, 2015). In another study, greater video game playing over one's lifetime was found to correlate with hostile sexism (Fox & Potocki, 2016). Together, the research shows that the way gender roles are portrayed in media can influence consumers’ own attitudes.

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