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SELF-CONCEPTS AND TELEVISION VIEWING AMONG WOMEN BY JONATHAN GUTMAN In studies of TV program preference, personality traits have been relegated to the background. This article, in which TV viewing, itself, is considered value-expressive behavior, compares the self-concepts and ideal self-concepts of light and heavy TV viewers and relates them to demographic variables. The author is Associate Professor of Marketing and Communications at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He wishes to thank the Los Angeles Times for permission to publish these data and Professor David McConaughy for his comments on the manuscript. T HE TREMENDOUS IMPACT of television in America, particularly in terms of the large amounts of time Ameri- cans devote to watching TV, has been documented in a study by Robinson. 1 In 1970, each household watched television an average six hours a day, according to data compiled by the A. C. Nielsen Company. 2 Further information from Nielsen indicates that women viewed an average of 30 hours of television per week while men viewed an average of 24 hours per week. Many people regularly view even more television than this. Wiebe has offered an hypothesis that may explain why many people watch so much television. 3 He hypothesizes a "reluctance to cope with the other" and suggests that television viewing offers the viewer "the sense of experience without the accomodation re- quired in true participation." 4 The TV viewer is assumed to in- teract with persons (roles) seen on television programs. Wiebe feels that this maximizes immediate gratification, minimizes intellectual effort, and excuses the viewer from acknowledging a substantial other. Horton and Wohl have described the viewer-performer relation- ship as para-social: the viewer is personally involved with (i.e. 1 John P. Robinson, "Television and Leisure Time: Yesterday, Today and (Maybe) Tomorrow," Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 38, Summer 1969, pp. aio-22s. »"TV Viewing is Still on the Increase, Nielsen Reports," Advertising Age, May 14, 1971, p. 14. This figure is gs minutes higher than Robinson's. s Gerhart D. Wiebe, "Two Psychological Factors in Media Audience Behavior," Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 33, Winter 1969-70, pp. 583-36. « Ibid., p. 517. by guest on April 6, 2011 poq.oxfordjournals.org Downloaded from
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SELF-CONCEPTS AND TELEVISION VIEWING 389 identifies with) the perceived roles portrayed on television pro- grams. 6 Thus, it would seem, television can reinforce the viewer's ego and values, or even provide "meaningful" involvement. Be- cause of such possible motivations for watching TV, it would seem / that the personality traits that viewers perceive themselves as having ^ or that they would like to have (self- and ideal self-concepts) could be useful in understanding television viewing behavior.
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