How Does Television Affect the Perception of Affluence?
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How Does Television Affect the Perception of Affluence? A Work in Progress Ava Mauriello – RTVF Department Susan Brown Eve Ph.D . College of Arts and Sciences Honors College. ABSTRACT. METHODOLOGY CHART. BACKGROUND.

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How Does Television Affect the Perception of Affluence?

A Work in Progress

Ava Mauriello – RTVF Department

Susan Brown Eve Ph.D.

College of Arts and Sciences

Honors College




This study will focus on the importance of television’s impact on people’s ideas of relationships with others and their ideas of success. The results will be measured by creating two surveys. The first survey will be distributed to viewers who watch Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, and House; it will define and distinguish the heavy viewers from the light viewers. The second survey will measure the level of distortions and perceptions caused by television through asking questions about products, interactions with others, and activities participated in the shows. The second survey will question expectations of others, and views of success. There will be a control group of light to moderate viewers and the experimental group will be the heavy viewers.

  • Television has a much greater impact than people believe.

  • T.V. shapes perceptions of:

    • Affluence

    • Portrayal of social groups

    • Occupational Roles

  • Two main affects:

    • Psychological

    • Sociological

  • Survey 1: Distinguishing HEAVY VIEWERS and LIGHT VIEWERS that Watch 4 Primetime Shows


    Affect T.V. has on Consumer Ideology of Relationships and Success

    Survey 2: Distinguishing DEGREE OF DISTORTION OF REALITY


    In order to examine the perception of affluence television incorporates into our society, three studies will be compared to distinguish the overall impact television has sociologically and psychologically.

    When watching television, people are introduced to massive amounts of information, most of which is not entirely true, but people may not distinguish the difference right away due to a “blurring” effect. According to O’Guinn and Shrum, “televisions’ representations are discrepant from so-called objective reality; however, they are not too discrepant. Viewers still recognize them as familiar” (O’Guinn and Shrum, 1998, p. 279). People become so exposed to these representations of consumption (activities and products represent socioeconomic class) that the effects start to become obscured (O’Guinn and Shrum, 1998). In twenty-six different network programs, 93% of characters had overrepresented status occupations. In the majority of television shows, the upper and middle classes are highly disproportional (Fox and Philliber, 1978). Not only are occupations misrepresented, even the behaviors of fictional characters are becoming obscured. The general public may engage in the belief of “backstage behaviors,” private moments of others which people do not get to observe directly but only through reading or dramatization (O’Guinn and Shrum, 1998). This sociological effect is much more significant than many individuals realize.

    Television obviously has many social implications, but what most people are unaware of are the hidden psychological mechanisms used in the encoding of media information. As information is encoded into memory as truth, it becomes more difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. According to Shrum, Wyer and O’Guinn accessibility depends on the frequency and recency of television viewing. In a study done by Shrum, Wyer and O’Guinn the participants that were primed for the experiment estimated less of a disproportional relation concerning crime and occupation status (O’Guinn, Shrum and Wyer, 1998). They found that heavy viewers made higher and quicker estimates of social situations. The main concern is that people may not be able to reject the messages administered by television due to a lack of experience and fewer cognitive resources. Those who are unmotivated or distracted will be less successful in determining veracity (O’Guinn, Shrum and Wyer, 1998). Although the psychological effects are not obvious, they are imperative in understanding the effects television has on individuals and the American society.

    What was not addressed and deserves further observation are the effects upon morality and ethics. These three articles touch upon these topics, but do not show tangible evidence (O’Guinn and Shrum, 1998). Also, an important question remains unanswered: does the perception of affluence on television associate with happiness? Until this question is answered the understanding on this matter will be greatly lacking.



    Fox, S., W., Philliber, W., W., (1978). Television viewing and the perception of affluence [Electronic version]. The Sociological Quarterly, 19, 103-112.

    Gerbner, G., Gross, L., (1976). Living with television: The violence profile [Electronic version]. Journal of Communication, 26, 173-199.

    O’Guinn, C., T., Shrum, J., L., (1997). The role of television in the construction of consumer reality [Electronic version]. The Journal of Consumer Research, 23, 278-294.

    Wyer, S., R., Shrum, J., L., O’Guinn, C., T., (1998). The effects of television consumption on social perceptions: The use of priming procedures to investigate psychological processes [Electronic version]. The Journal of Consumer Research, 24, 447-458.

    In order to examine the perception of affluence television incorporates into our society, specifically ideas of relationships and ideas of success, I will create two surveys to measure the impact heavy television viewing has on individuals’ perceptions.

    If an individual watches heavy amounts of television, then his or her perception of relationships and success will be distorted.