Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Sarah Carney

Major

Psychology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Previous research has indicated a negative correlation between hours spent watching television and viewer self-esteem, particularly for women and people of color. Drawing theoretical support from cultivation theory and research on stereotype threat, this study hypothesizes that this negative relationship is due to negative or stereotyped portrayals of these groups. Seventy-eight undergraduate students at Wesleyan University participated in one of three conditions featuring positive, neutral, or negative representation of women in television. After viewing the television content, participants filled out a measure of self-esteem and also answered open-ended questions about their gender and racial identities. Quantitative results were nonsignificant for self-esteem scores. However, self-esteem means varied by gender, race, and condition in the hypothesized, although not statistically significant, direction. Qualitative evaluation of the responses to open-ended questions revealed several different themes for participant discussion of their gender and racial identities. The frequencies of these themes also varied by gender, race, and condition, although they were not tested for significance. Based on these results, it is likely that the limitations of the study prevented significant self-esteem results.

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