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Television Exposure Not Predictive of Terrorism Fear
by Rubi Ala M. , Paul M. Haridakis , Gwen A. Hullman , Shaojing Sun , Pamela M. Chikombero , Vikanda Pornsakulvanich

 

 

At least since the RKO Mercury Theater production of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, communication scholars have been interested in the media's ability to generate fright. (1) Some have suggested that exposure to television content such as violent programs can lead to fear, fright or anxiety. (2) They have offered several findings: depictions of harmful events such as earthquakes, attacks and nuclear accidents can evoke fear; exposure to television violence is related to fear of being victimized; and watching television news undermines trust in others. (3)

 

Beginning with Cantril's early work, researchers also have noted that individual differences mediate the effects of the media. Cantril found that those who tended to panic from listening to the radio broadcast of the Martians invading the earth were most likely to possess certain traits reflecting a sense of external control of one's life. (4) More recently, studies suggest that a host of individual differences influence reactions to frightening television content. (5) Viewer attributes, then, are important contributors to and filters of media effects.

 

Theoretical Rationale

 

Focusing on how individual differences and socio-psychological dispositions affect the influence of media and their messages has been central to some media perspectives. One such perspective is uses and gratifications, which is an audience-centered perspective that assumes (a) media behavior is purposive, goal-directed and motivated, (b) people select media content to satisfy their needs or desires, (c) social and psychological dispositions mediate that behavior and (d) the "media compete with other forms of communication--or functional alternatives--such as interpersonal interaction for selection, attention and use." (6) In short, one's needs and desires are manifested in motives to communicate, which, in turn, influence media selection and attention, interpretation of media content, how actively the content is used, and, ultimately, media effects. (7)

 

Cognitive and affective motivation are central to media content selection, exposure and effects. People cognitively seek to maintain consistency

 

by maintaining an orientation to their environment and interpreting and making sense of that environment. They also seek meaning in their lives and skills to remedy problems. People affectively seek to maintain equilibrium by releasing pent-up emotions to reduce stress, relieving tension through self-expression, developing a positive self-image and behaving consistently. They also seek to enhance self-esteem, establish connection and learn how to react. (8)

 

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, motivated people to seek news for these cognitive and affective reasons. Cognitively, people needed to know what had happened and how their world had changed. They sought information to help them understand why the events occurred, who was responsible and how to interpret the events (e.g., as an act of war by another country or an act of terror by a terrorist cell). Affectively, people used the coverage of personal stories as a way of connecting to others. Those in New York City and Washington, D.C., and family members of the victims shared personal stories of tragedy through television.

 

In contrast to uses and gratifications, another media-effects perspective is based on different assumptions. According to cultivation, (a) television presents uniform images and portrayals of people and events regardless of the genre, (b) people watch non-selectively and habitually and (c) heavy viewers are more likely than light viewers to see the world in the manner presented on television. (9) In addition, cultivation focuses on the evolution of long-term enduring conceptions of reality.

 

Cultivation researchers have studied television's ability to generate fear and distrust. As society's chief storyteller and socializing agent, television presents images that contribute to perceptions of the world. Because these images are typically violent and mean spirited, television contributes to fearful perceptions, including a lack of personal safety, the belief that people cannot be trusted and a fear of being victimized. (10) Along with uses and gratifications, cultivation also is a viable perspective for assessing how television coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath cultivated a sense of fear, a concern for personal safety and a lessened faith in others.

 

Impact of Television Coverage of Terrorist-Related Stories

 

Following the extraordinary Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, polls have shown U.S. citizens have a heightened fear of terrorism and a belief in the likelihood of another terrorist act on U.S. soil in the near future. As people seek to interpret and make sense of the changing world, to relieve tensions and reduce stress, to achieve a sense of equilibrium and to cope with security concerns highlighted by those attacks, the coverage of terrorism after Sept. 11 provided an unparalleled opportunity to examine whether exposure to these televised stories contributes to a culture of fright.

 

Fright or fear stems from basic human reactions to portrayals of distressing events and uncertainty. Connections have been found between media use and fear of crime. (11) Fear is an emotional response closely tied to feelings of safety and faith in others. People feel afraid and unsafe when frightening media-depicted events are perceived to be possible or likely, (12) and "viewing an event on television can lead to an overestimation of its effects in reality." (13)

 

News coverage of the Sept. 11 events was dramatic enough, especially with the added dimension that the events were real. After the attacks, the media constantly depicted further terrorist acts as possible, if not likely. Given those circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that people would feel unsafe and fearful: "television's mean and dangerous world tends to cultivate a sense of relative danger, mistrust, insecurity, vulnerability, ... alienation and gloom." (14) Consonant with cultivation, heavy exposure to consistent television messages leads people to be more fearful, reduces feelings of safety and increases mistrust of others. (15)

 

Guided by postulates of both uses and gratifications and cultivation, then, we sought to examine whether television coverage of terrorism contributed to a sense of fright and fear in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events. We examined participants' motives for seeking news and information about world events and whether increased exposure and attention to terrorist-related television coverage affected relevant social attitudes such as faith in people, safety and fear of victimization by terrorist activity.

 

Role of Individual Viewer Differences

 

Besides television exposure and viewer motives for selecting and watching television content, research suggests that individual attitudes and dispositions affect the relationship between exposure and cultivation. Researchers have argued that cultivation effects depend on or can be enhanced by factors such as viewing intention, selectivity and attention to content, interpretation of content and felt realism of that content. (16) These studies highlight the importance of audience activity.

 

Viewing intention and selectivity reflect the purposive communication behavior assumed in uses and gratifications and can be catalysts of effects. (17) Attentive viewers are more involved, and attention during viewing may lead to better memory of content. (18) Although involvement can lead to greater attention to media content and, by default, media effects, (19) researchers have proposed different links between involvement and cultivation. Shrum argued that low involvement might facilitate source confusion, and thus strengthen cultivation effects; whereas, Kim and Rubin found greater content involvement was positively related to cultivation effects. (20)

 

Perceived realism of television images also can affect viewers' social judgments and contribute to cultivation effects. (21) Slater and Elliott found that the more people perceived law enforcement programs to be realistic, the less likely they were to consider society as safe. (22)

 

The cultivation of effects such as perceptions of fear, faith in others and safety also are influenced by personality and personal experience. Locus of control, for example, reflects the degree one needs to be in command of his or her environment. Researchers have found that externals, who feel that chance, fate or luck control their lives, watch more television, are more fearful and exhibit more cultivation effects than do internals, who believe they control the course of their own lives. (23)

 

Experience with crime is another background factor important to this study, because fear has been found to result from appraisal of one's environment and information from the media. (24) Researchers have observed links between estimates of crime risk and television viewing only for those with more direct experience with crime, as well as a negative relationship between people's crime-related anxiety and their direct experience with victimization. (25) Cohen, Adoni and Drori found that less experience with political terrorism resulted in less differentiation between terrorism in society and presentations of terrorism on television news. (26)

 

Research also suggests that gender affects television's propensity to cultivate attitudes because gender moderates the relationship between the amount of exposure and fear of victimization. (27) Researchers have found gender to be a primary factor influencing the amount of television viewing and perceptions of vulnerability. Women tend to be more likely to report enduring fright reactions after viewing frightening films than do men. Fear-of-crime cultivation effects are weaker for men than for women in the U.S. and Korea, and cultivation effects are more stable across television genres for men than for women. (28)

 

These findings question whether such outcomes as feelings of fright, fear and safety are uniform and the result of habitual television use, as cultivation suggests. On the other hand, findings support uses and gratifications' assumption that motivated and active media use can moderate effects.

 

Hypotheses

 

Therefore, besides exposure to television and to terrorist-related television stories, we examined the role of several factors contributing to attitudes of fear, safety and faith in others: (a) individual predispositions found in the past to affect cultivation processes, including locus of control and experience with crime; (b) viewing motivation to seek such information; (c) intention to watch and attention to and involvement with such terrorist-related stories; and (d) perceived realism of the television stories about such events.

 

Specifically, we examined two hypotheses:

 

H1:

 

Level of exposure to television stories related to the events of Sept. 11 and terrorist-related activity will be related positively to feelings of fear and negatively to perceptions of safety and faith in others.

 

H2:

 

Individual differences (locus of control, experience with crime and gender), viewing motivation and viewing attitudes and activity (i.e., perceived realism, intention, attention and involvement) will explain more of the variance in the social attitudes (fear, safety and faith in others) than will level of television exposure.

 

Primarily, we expected that fear, insecurity in one's safety and the lack of faith in others would emanate more from individual differences in locus of control, experience with crime and gender and from differences in viewing motivation, attitudes and activity such as intentional seeking of information, than from exposure to such televised stories.

 

Method

 

Sample

 

We administered questionnaires to undergraduates enrolled in an introductory class in oral communication at a midwestern university. A total of 218 questionnaires provided usable data. The sample was 57.8 percent men (coded 0) and 42.2 percent women (coded 1). Average age was 20.6 years.

 

We administered the questionnaires approximately six months after the Sept. 11 attacks because cultivation stresses that perceptual effects of television exposure such as fear are long-term and cumulative. Thus, measuring perceptions and attitudes six months after the attack made more theoretical sense. In addition, collecting data in the immediate aftermath of an event as monumental as the Sept. 11 attacks, when people were tied to their televisions and channels were saturated with news coverage related to the attacks, may have resulted in a restricted range in scores on measures such as fear.

 

Measurement

 

We measured overall television exposure by having participants indicate how many hours of television they watched yesterday (a weekday) and how many hours they usually watched on a typical weekday. These two questions have provided reliable estimates of television viewing in past research. (29) We averaged responses to the two questions to create an index of overall television exposure (M = 3.02, SD = 1.73).

 

Exposure measures are crucial to the validity of a cultivation analysis. Instead of concentrating only on how much television the participants viewed, we also asked about their exposure to terrorist-related stories that had been on television since Sept. 11, 2001. We asked participants how often they watched (1 = never, 5 = very often) several types of terrorist-related stories. These included stories about: (a) flying safety, (b) anthrax, (c) the hunt for bin Laden, (d) terrorist suspects, (e) shoe and other explosives, (f) homeland security, (g) the concept of Islamic Jihad, (h) terrorist networks in and out of Afghanistan, (i) the Pakistani/ Indian conflict, (j) terrorist activity in Israel, (k) bioterrorist attacks on water supplies, small pox, etc., (l) potential terrorist targets such as nuclear power plants, (m) Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters and (o) kidnapping and hostages. We averaged responses to create a measure of exposure to televised terrorist-related stories (M = 2.62, SD = 0.77, Cronbach_ = .92)

 

We used the Television Viewing Motives Scale to identify viewing motivation for watching terrorist-related stories on television. (30) We adapted the scale to ask participants how much each statement was like their own reasons (1 = not at all, 5 = exactly) for watching the terrorist-related stories listed in the questionnaire. We analyzed the viewing motive statements using principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation. Our criteria to retain a factor were a minimum eigenvalue of 1.0 and at least 2 loadings (using a 60/45 guideline). We identified five factors, accounting for 55.2 percent of the total variance. We averaged responses to items that loaded on each factor to form indexes of each viewing motive.

 

Factor 1, Entertainment (eigenvalue = 4.16), explained 13.9 percent of the total variance after rotation. Its five items reflected watching terrorist-related stories because they are entertaining, fascinating, sensational and enjoyable (M = 2.58, SD = 0.87, Cronbach_ = .82).

 

Factor 2, Pastime (eigenvalue = 3.92), explained 13.1 percent of the variance. Its six items reflected watching out of habit, to pass and occupy one's time, because there is nothing better to do and because there is no one else to talk to (M = 2.63, SD = 0.81, Cronbach_ = .85).

 

Factor 3, Escapist Relaxation (eigenvalue = 3.37), explained 11.2 percent of the variance. Its three items reflected watching to escape and unwind (M = 2.33, SD = 1.00, Cronbach_ = .83).

 

Factor 4, Companionship (eigenvalue = 2.65), explained 8.8 percent of the total variance. Its two items reflected watching not to be alone and to feel less lonely (M = 1.63, SD = 0.74, r = .67).

 

Factor 5, Information (eigenvalue = 2.46), explained 8.2 percent of the variance. Its three items reflected watching to learn about oneself and others (M = 2.96, SD = 0.83, Cronbach_ = .69).

 

We asked participants their agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) with statements adapted from past research to measure viewing attitudes and activity. For each of the four attitude and activity variables, five statements measured perceived realism of the stories, viewing intention, attention to the stories when watching and involvement when watching. (31) We reverse-coded negatively worded items, and averaged responses to create the four measures: perceived realism (M = 3.07, SD = 0.59, Cronbach_ = .62); intention (M = 1.83, SD = 0.75, Cronbach_ = .90); attention (M = 3.17, SD = 0.73, Cronbach_ = .82); and involvement (M = 3.15, SD = 0.71, Cronbach_ = .77).

 

We assessed two viewer predispositions previously identified as important factors affecting cultivation, We measured locus of control with a shortened version of Levenson's scale, which has been used in media research. (32) Participants indicated their agreement with 12 items (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) for powerful others control (e.g., "I feel like what happens in my life is mostly determined by powerful people"), chance control (e.g., "When I get what I want it's usually because I'm lucky") and internal control (e.g., "I can pretty much determine what will happen in my life"). We recoded external items (the first two dimensions) so that higher scores meant more internal control (M = 3.47, SD = 0.45, Cronbach_ = .71).

 

Participants also answered four questions about their experience with crime (i.e., whether they, a family member, a friend or someone else they knew had been a crime victim). (33) We averaged responses to the four questions (0 = no, 1 = yes) to create an experience with crime index (M = 0.35, SD = 0.33, Cronbach_ = .72). Of all participants, 11.5 percent had been a victim of crime, 30.3 percent had a family member who had been a victim of crime, 42.7 percent had a friend who had been a victim of crime and 56.9 percent knew someone who had been a victim of crime.

 

To assess attitudinal outcomes, we asked participants to indicate their agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) with statements measuring three social attitudes. We measured fear with five items adapted from cultivation research and supplemented these with five items to tap fear related to terrorist activity. (34) We measured safety with three items adapted from prior research and supplemented these with seven items to tap specific fears people may have as a result of media coverage of terrorism. (35) We measured faith in others with 10 items used in past research to tap feelings of trust or altruism. (36) We averaged responses to create the measures: fear (M = 2.57, SD = 1.02, Cronbach_ = .95); safety (M = 3.82, SD = 0.63, Cronbach_ = .85); and faith in others (M = 2.92, SD = 0.61, Cronbach_ = .90).

 

Results

 

Correlates of Social Attitudes

 

We initially examined the relationships as second-order partial correlations, controlling for age and gender. Hypothesis 1 predicted exposure to terrorist-related stories would correlate positively with feelings of fear and negatively with safety and faith in others. This was supported only for fear. Exposure to these stories was related significantly to fear (r = .16, p < .05), but not to perceptions of safety or faith in others. According to the tenets of cultivation, overall television exposure, rather than exposure to particular stories or content, also should be related to these social attitudes in the expected directions. This was not the case. Overall television exposure did not significantly relate to fear, safety or faith in others. (37)

 

Predicting Social Attitudes

 

According to the Hypothesis 2, we expected viewer background, motivation and viewing attitude and activity to explain more of the variance in the three social attitudes than exposure. Given our uses-and-effects orientation, we entered the variables in four conceptual blocks in separate hierarchical regressions. First, we entered viewer background variables (i.e., locus of control, experience with crime, gender and age). Second, we entered the five viewing motives. Third, we entered viewing attitude and activity (i.e., perceived realism, intention, attention and involvement). Fourth, we entered overall television exposure and exposure to terrorist-related stories on step four. Table 1 summarizes the final results of the separate hierarchical regressions for each social attitude.

 

First, after all variables were entered, the final regression equation accounted for 26.9 percent of the variance in fear (R = .52, p <.001). Significant contributors were gender (- = .27, p <.001), companionship viewing motivation (- = .19, p <.05) and viewing intention (- = .21, p <.01), R = .52, [R.sup.2] = .27, F(15, 202) = 4.97, p <.001. These results suggest that women who intentionally watched terrorist-related stories when viewing to be with others tended to be more fearful than their counterparts. Neither exposure variable significantly predicted fear.

 

Second, after all variables were entered, gender (- = -.16 p <.05), locus of control (- = .16, p <.05), pass-time viewing motivation (- = .19, p <.05), and escapist-relaxation viewing motivation (- = -.19, p <.05) significantly contributed to the final regression equation for safety. The predictors accounted for 16.2 percent of the variance in safety, R = .40, [R.sup.2] = .16, F(15, 202) = 2.61, p <.01. These results suggest that internally controlled men who watched terrorist-related stories to pass the time, rather than to relax or escape, were more likely to feel safer than their counterparts. Once again, neither exposure variable significantly predicted safety.

 

Third, after all variables were entered, the final regression equation explained 16.9 percent of the variance in faith in others. Perceived realism, attention and involvement were significant predictors, R = .41, [R.sup.2] = .17, F(15, 202) = 2.73, p <.01. Those who perceived terrorist-related stories to be realistic, but did not pay close attention to the stories when watching, had more faith in others than did their counterparts. Neither exposure variable significantly predicted faith in others.

 

Pattern of Relationships Among Variables

 

We also used canonical correlation to assess the relationship between the set of predictors (i.e., television exposure, viewing motivation, and viewing attitude and activity) and the set of social attitudes (i.e., fear, safety and faith in others). (38) Table 2 summarizes these results.

 

We identified one significant root ([R.sub.c] = .59, p < .001), which explained 34.8 percent of the variance shared by the canonical variates. These results suggest that externally controlled women who watched terrorist-related stories to seek information and to be with others, intentionally sought the stories to watch, felt involved with the content when viewing and perceived the content to be realistic. Although they had faith in people, these viewers tended to feel fearful and unsafe. The results suggest that women generally were more fearful than men.

 

Discussion

 

The ability of television to generate fright has been a longstanding interest in media research. Cultivation research, in particular, has focused on the fear of being victimized, a sense that personal safety is wanting, and a belief that people cannot be trusted. According to cultivation, such effects are likely because television emphasizes repetitive violent and fearful images of a mean world. The events of Sept. 11 and the ongoing repetitive stories on television of terrorism provided a unique opportunity to consider whether exposure to such coverage contributes to a culture of fear for personal safety and distrust of others.

 

Cultivation assumes that effects of heavy television exposure on viewer perceptions of the surrounding world are long-term and cumulative. (39) Some though, have questioned this assumption and have suggested that cultivation effects may dissipate over time. (40) We surveyed participants six months after Sept. 11 to see if there was a persisting relationship between exposure to such stories and a fear of being a victim and a concern for personal safety.

 

Although cultivation assumes effects emanate from habitual exposure, others have argued that viewer selectivity and attention to specific content mediate cultivation effects. (41) Therefore, besides overall levels of exposure, we assessed exposure to specific terrorist-related content. Because some have suggested that cultivation depends on or can be enhanced by individual differences, (42) we also examined the impact of relevant viewer dispositions. Our results support certain notions of cultivation and the impact of individual differences on cultivation effects.

 

The Issue of Television Exposure

 

Watching terrorist-related stories did not significantly correlate with perceptions of safety or faith in others, or predict fear, safety or faith in others. Exposure to the stories only correlated with the fear of being a victim of terrorism. Cultivation effects, then, may not be long term. We assumed at the outset that fear would be cultivated in many who watched the extensive coverage of terrorist-related stories since Sept. 11. Several topics we asked our participants about, though (e.g., stories about al-Qaeda fighters, flying safety, anthrax), were spotlighted shortly after Sept. 11, but were less prevalent in the news when we surveyed our participants. Concern about such topics may have dissipated by that time. In addition, several stories were less close to home (e.g., Indian/Pakistani conflict, terrorist activity in Israel) and may have been less salient for our participants than homeland security would have been.

 

Cultivation assumptions, however, suggest that the overall story of terrorism as an expanding culture of evil should have been more prevalent than the specific topics in our questions. Our evidence about this is mixed. Exposure to terrorist-related stories correlated with fear but did not predict any of the social attitudes. Overall television exposure did not significantly correlate with the social attitudes but approached statistical significance as a predictor of a reduced sense of both safety and faith in others. The evidence about cultivation effects resulting from overall exposure or specific-content exposure, at best then, is inconclusive.

 

Viewer Motivation, Attitudes and Activity

 

Another tenet of cultivation is that people tend to watch television habitually. They "watch by the clock ... they watch whatever is offered to them." (43) We found mixed support for the premise that habitual exposure leads to cultivation. Watching to pass time positively predicted safety, but watching to escape and to relax negatively predicted safety. Habitual or ritualistic viewing motives produced findings in direct contrast to each other.

 

We also had contrasting findings for audience activity. Being actively involved when watching and perceiving the terrorist-related stories to be realistic predicted more trust or faith in people. But, paying attention to the stories, which also reflects active behavior, predicted less trust in others. Intending to watch these stories to be with others who were watching, which reflects active, instrumental behavior, predicted more fear. These latter two findings are counterintuitive to cultivation, which assumes that ritualistic use predicts fear and mistrust.

 

In light of these findings, it is not surprising that overall viewing did not significantly predict fear, but approached significance as a predictor of safety. Predictors of fear reflected more active viewing; whereas, predictors of safety reflected more habitual viewing. However, it is more difficult to explain other findings from a cultivation viewpoint, especially active viewing tending to predict fear and faith in others and overall television exposure approaching significance as a predictor of faith in others.

 

Our findings support uses and gratifications' arguments, which suggests that viewer differences are more important than sheer exposure for explaining media effects. The pattern of relationships among the variables uncovered in canonical analysis suggests that active television use was more strongly associated with social attitudes than was exposure. Watching those stories intentionally to gain information and to be with other people, and being involved with and perceiving the stories to be realistic, correlated with being more fearful and feeling less safe.

 

One unexpected finding was the positive relationship between perceived realism and faith in others. In light of previous research and the tenets of cultivation, we speculated that there would be an inverse relationship between perceiving terrorist stories to be realistic and faith in others. (44) Our finding to the contrary might be the result of neglecting to measure the context in which the stories were presented. Although terrorist-related stories were pervasive after Sept. 11, the news also presented positive, supportive actions of people after the attacks (e.g., helping others, exhibiting national pride), which may have influenced perceptions of trust.

 

Viewer Background

 

Cultivation theorists tend to discount the importance of viewers' background differences in relation to the impact of pervasive television images. Our results are consistent with research that has questioned cultivation's de-emphasis of the role of individual differences in media effects. (45) Here, gender and locus of control predicted one or more of the social attitudes. This is consistent with research that has suggested that demographics and personality must be accounted for in cultivation research. (46) When combined with the differential importance of motivation and television attitudes and activity in predicting the three social attitudes, this suggests that individual characteristics were the most important and consistent predictors of the social attitudes we examined. This conclusion was corroborated by the canonical analysis.

 

Conclusion

 

We sought to examine whether television, with its extensive coverage of terrorism, contributed to a culture of fear. We found that the young adults in our sample did not exhibit a high degree of faith in others. However, these young adults, contrary to what we expected, were not fearful and generally felt safe, despite the almost around-the-clock coverage of terrorist acts and the war on terrorism.

 

Only about one-third of the participants indicated they usually watched four or more hours of television daily. Based on usual cultivation definitions, two-thirds of our participants would not be classified as heavy viewers. In addition, the data summarized in Table 3 suggest significant gender differences in exposure to terrorism stories, entertainment and information motives for watching these stories, experience with crime and attitudes about fear and safety. Future studies should address the extent and role of such differences in media effects.

 

Given the amount of media attention on terrorism during the six months after the attacks, and the trend to inundate the many television, cable and satellite channels with recurrent stories about major events, more research should focus on the effects of such an abundance of coverage on specific topics of prolonged media attention over long periods of time. Given such extensive coverage, it would seem that even lighter viewers cannot escape the repetitive images and cultivation of perceptions related to the overriding themes presented in those stories. However, our findings, at least in this study, suggest that cultivation effects did not appear to be long term or of great magnitude.

 

Besides exposure, we explored the impact of viewer background, behavior, attitude and motivation on cultivation judgments. These, though, do not sufficiently account for factors such as lifestyle and cultural diversity, which may suppress or enhance cultivation effects. (47) Much research has been driven by a concern that factors other than amount of exposure account for social reality judgments. (48) Our results suggest this may be the case even when the content is the ongoing and pervasive coverage of long-term media events such as the war on terrorism.

 

 
Table 1 
Summary of Final Results When Regressing Social Attitudes
on Background, Motivation, Attitude, Activity and Exposure Variables

Faith in
Fear Safety Others
Final Final Final

Predictors -- -- --

Step 1
Background Variables
Gender .27 *** -.16 * .10
Age .03 .08 .13
Locus of control -.12 .16 * .05
Experience with crime .02 -.07 .00

Step 2
Viewing Motivation
Entertainment -.12 .17 .04
Pastime -.07 .19 * .06
Escapist relaxation .04 -.19 * -.07
Companionship .19 * -.01 .10
Information .06 -.05 .01

Step 3
Attitudes and Activity
Intention .21 ** -.09 .09
Attention .05 -.00 -.19 *
Involvement .10 -.07 .17 *
Perceived realism .02 .07 .23 **

Step 4
TV Viewing
Television exposure .05 -.13 -.13
Terrorist story exposure -.06 .05 .03

Note. All betas are final betas on the last step of the regression.
N = 218.

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Table 2
Canonical Correlation of Background, Motivation,
Attitude, Activity and Exposure Variables
With Social Attitudes

Root 1
Set 1: Antecedents

Gender .62
Viewing intention .58
Viewing involvement .54
Information motivation .47
Companionship motivation .41
Perceived realism .35
Locus of control -.33
Terrorist story TV exposure .21
Escapist-relaxation motivation .17
Story attention .15
Experience with crime -.11
Overall TV exposure .11
Age .06
Entertainment motivation -.01
Pastime motivation -.01
Redundancy [.04]

Set 2: Social Attitudes
Fear .85
Safety -.46
Faith in others .45
Redundancy [.13]

Note. [R.sub.c] = .59, [R.sup.2.sub.c] = .35, - = .54,
[x.sup.2](45, N = 218) = 126.47, p < .001.

Table 3
Differences Between Men and Women on Background,
TV Viewing and Social Attitudes

Males Females

Variables M SD M SD t

Background
Experience with crime 0.41 0.33 0.27 0.31 3.18 **
Locus of control 3.49 0.45 3.44 0.46 0.87

TV Viewing
Overall exposure 3.05 1.66 2.98 1.83 0.26
Terrorist story exposure 2.72 0.80 2.50 0.70 2.08 *

Viewing Motivation
Entertainment 2.75 0.91 2.34 0.76 3.50 **
Pastime 2.70 0.81 2.52 0.81 1.62
Escapist relaxation 2.40 1.00 2.25 1.01 1.12
Companionship 1.63 0.73 1.62 0.74 0.11
Information 2.83 0.84 3.15 0.80 -2.84 **

Viewer Attitudes and Activity
Intention 1.83 0.75 1.83 0.76 -0.02
Attention 3.17 0.77 3.18 0.67 -0.11
Involvement 3.07 0.69 3.26 0.74 -1.91
Perceived realism 3.04 0.59 3.11 0.60 -0.85

Social Attitudes
Fear 2.29 0.95 2.97 0.97 -5.19 ***
Safety 3.95 0.65 3.66 0.58 3.44 **
Faith in others 2.87 0.57 2.99 0.66 -1.50

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, ** p < .001.
  Notes (1.) Hadley Cantril, The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1940). For a review, see Joanne Cantor, "Fright Reactions to Mass Media," in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, 2nd ed., eds. Jennings Bryant and Doll Zillmann (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 2002), 287-306.

 

(2.) Jennings Bryant, Rodney A. Carveth, and Dan Brown, "Television Viewing and Anxiety: An Experimental Examination," Journal of Communication 31, no. 1 (1981): 106-119; Cantor, "Fright Reactions to Mass Media"; Mira Sotirovic, "Affective and Cognitive Processes as Mediators of Media Influences on Crime-Policy Preferences," Mass Communication and Society 4, no. 3 (2001): 311-329; Glenn G. Sparks, "The Prevalence and Intensity of Fright Reactions to Mass Media: Implications of the Activation-Arousal View," Communication Quarterly 37, no. 2 (1989): 108-117.

 

(3.) Cantor, "Fright Reactions to Mass Media"; Patricia Moy and Dietram A. Scheufele, "Media Effects on Political and Social Trust," Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 77, no. 4 (2000): 744-759; Robert M. Ogles and Cynthia Hoffner, "Film Violence and Perceptions of Crime," in Communication Yearbook 10, ed. Margaret L. McLaughlin (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1987): 384-394.

 

(4.) Cantril, The Invasion from Mars.

 

(5.) Kristen Harrison and Joanne Cantor, "Tales from the Screen: Enduring Fright Reactions to Scary Media," Media Psychology 1, no. 2 (1999): 97-116; John E. Newhagen, "TV News Images that Induce Anger, Fear, and Disgust: Effects on Approach-Avoidance and Memory," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 42, no. 2 (1998): 265-276; Glenn G. Sparks, Cheri W. Sparks, and Kristen Gray, "Media Impact on Fright Reactions and Belief in UFOs: The Potential of Mental Imagery," Communication Research 22, no. 1 (1995): 3-23; Glenn G. Sparks, Marianne Pellechia, and Chris Irvine, "The Repressive Coping Style and Fright Reactions to Mass Media," Communication Research 26, no. 2 (1999): 176-192; Glenn G. Sparks, Mellissa M. Spirek, and Kelly Hodgson, "Individual Differences in Arousability: Implications for Understanding Immediate and Lingering Emotional Reactions to Frightening Mass Media," Communication Quarterly 41, no. 4 (1993): 465-476.

 

(6.) Alan M. Rubin, "The Uses-and-Gratifications Perspective of Media Effects," in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, 2nd ed., eds. Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann (Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum, 2002), 528.

 

(7.) Elizabeth M. Perse, "Involvement with Local Television News: Cognitive and Emotional Dimensions," Human Communication Research 16, no. 4 (1990): 556-581; Rubin, "The Uses-and-Gratifications Perspective of Media Effects"; Alan M. Rubin and Elizabeth Perse, "Audience Activity and Soap Opera Involvement: A Uses and Effects Investigation," Human Communication Research 14, no. 2 (1987): 246-268; Alan M. Rubin and Elizabeth Perse, "Audience Activity and Television News Gratifications," Communication Research 14, no. 1 (1987): 58-84.

 

(8.) William J. McGuire, "Psychological Motives and Communication Gratification," in The Uses of Mass Communications: Current Perspectives on Gratifications Research, eds. Jay G. Blumler and Elihu Katz (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1974), 167-196.

 

(9.) George Gerbner et al., "Growing Up with Television: The Cultivation Perspective," in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, eds. Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1994), 17-41; James W. Potter, "Cultivation Theory and Research: A Conceptual Critique," Human Communication Research 19, no. 4 (1993): 564-601.

 

(10.) Gerbner et al., "Growing Up with Television"; Nancy Signorielli, "Television's Mean and Dangerous World: A Continuation of the Cultural Indicators Perspective," in Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research, eds. Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990), 85-106; Ron Tamborini, Dolf Zillmann, and Jennings Bryant, "Fear and Victimization: Exposure to Television and Perceptions of Crime and Fear," in Communication Yearbook 8, ed. Robert N. Bostrom (Beverly Hills. Calif.: Sage, 1984), 492-513.

 

(11.) Sotirovic, "Affective and Cognitive Processes."

 

(12.) Glenn G. Sparks and Robert M. Ogles, "The Difference between Fear of Victimization and the Probability of Being Victimized: Implications for Cultivation," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 34, no. 3 (1990): 351-358; Sparks, Sparks, and Gray, "Media Impact on Fright Reactions and Belief in UFOs."

 

(13.) John E. Newhagen and Marion Lewenstein, "Cultivation and Exposure to Television Following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake," Mass Comm Review 19, nos. 1/2 (1992): p. 51.

 

(14.) Signorielli, "Television's Mean and Dangerous World," 88.

 

(15.) Gerbner et al., "Growing Up with Television."

 

(16.) Robert P. Hawkins and Suzanne Pingree, "Uniform Messages and Habitual Viewing: Unnecessary Assumptions in Social Reality Effects," Human Communication Research 7, no. 4 (1981): 291-301; W. James Potter, "Perceived Reality and the Cultivation Hypothesis," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 30, no. 2 (1986): 159-174; Alan M. Rubin, Elizabeth Perse, and Donald S. Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation," Communication Research 15, no. 2 (1988): 107-134; James Weaver and Jacob Wakshlag, "Perceived Vulnerability to Crime, Criminal Victimization Experience, and Television Viewing," Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 30, no. 2 (1986): 141-158.

 

(17.) Carolyn A. Lin, "Modeling the Gratification-Seeking Process of Television Viewing," Human Communication Research 20, no. 2 (1993): 224-244; Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation."

 

(18.) Kathy Kellerman, "Memory Processes and Media Effects," Communication Research 12, no. 1 (1985): 83-121; Mark R. Levy and Sven Windahl, "The Concept of Audience Activity," in Media Gratifications Research: Current Perspectives, eds. Karl E. Rosengren, Lawrence A. Wenner, and Philip Palmgreen (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1985), 109-122.

 

(19.) Glen T. Cameron, "Spreading Activation and Involvement: An Experimental Test of a Cognitive Model of Involvement," Journalism Quarterly 70, no. 4 (1993): 854-867.

 

(20.) JungKee Kim and Alan M. Rubin, "The Variable Influence of Audience Activity on Media Affects," Communication Research 24, no. 2 (1997): 107-135; L. J. Shrum, "Assessing the Social Influence of Television: A Social Cognition Perspective on Cultivation Effects," Communication Research 22, no. 4 (1995): 402-429.

 

(21.) Rick W. Busselle, "Television Exposure, Perceived Realism, and Exemplar Accessibility in the Social Judgment Process," Media Psychology 3, no. 1 (2001): 43-67; W. James Potter, "Three Strategies for Elaborating the Cultivation Hypothesis," Journalism Quarterly 65, no. 4 (1988): 930-939.

 

(22.) Dan Slater and William R. Elliott, "Television's Influence on Social Reality," Quarterly Journal of Speech 68, no. 1 (1982): 69-79.

 

(23.) Jeffrey S. Wilkinson and James E. Fletcher, "Bloody News and Vulnerable Populations: An Ethical Question," Journal of Mass Media Ethics 10, no. 3 (1995): 167-177; Mallory Wober and Barrie Gunter, "Television and Personal Threat: Fact or Artifact? A British Survey," British Journal of Social Psychology 21, (1982): 239-247.

 

(24.) Sparks and Ogles, "The Difference between Fear of Victimization."

 

(25.) L. J. Shrum and Valerie D. Bischak, "Mainstreaming, Resonance, and Impersonal Impact: Testing Moderators of the Cultivation Effect for Estimates of Crime Risk," Human Communication Research 27, no. 2 (2001): 187-215; Weaver and Wakshlag, "Perceived Vulnerability to Crime."

 

(26.) Akiba A. Cohen, Hanna Adoni, and Gideon Drori, "Adolescents' Perceptions of Social Conflicts in Television News and Social Reality," Human Communication Research 10, no. 2 (1983): 203-225.

 

(27.) Potter, "Perceived Reality and the Cultivation Hypothesis."

 

(28.) Hyokjin Kwak, George M. Zinkhan, and Joseph R. Dominick, "The Moderating Role of Gender and Compulsive Buying Tendencies in the Cultivation Effects of TV Shows and TV Advertising: A Cross Cultural Study Between the United States and South Korea," Media Psychology 4, no. 1 (2002): 77-111; Michael Morgan and James Shanahan, "Two Decades of Cultivation Research: An Appraisal and Meta-Analysis," in Communication Yearbook 20, ed. Bryant R. Burleson (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1997), 1-45; Sparks, Spirek, and Hodgson, "Individual Differences in Arousability"; Weaver and Wakshlag, "Perceived Vulnerability to Crime, Criminal Victimization Experience, and Television Viewing."

 

(29.) See, for example, Alan M. Rubin, "Television Uses and Gratifications: The Interactions of Viewing Patterns and Motivation," Journal of Broadcasting 27, no. 1 (1983): 37-51. The two television-exposure items correlated at r = .34, p < .001.

 

(30.) Rubin, "Television Uses and Gratifications." We added three items to the original 27 items: because I like watching sensational events, because I find topics such as terrorism fascinating, and because I am concerned about what might happen to my relatives or friends.

 

(31.) Donald J. Cegala, "Interaction Involvement: A Cognitive Dimension of Communicative Competence," Communication Education 30, no. 2 (1981): 109-121; Mark R. Levy and Sven Windahl, "Audience Activity and Gratifications: A Conceptual Clarification and Exploration," Communication Research 11, no. 1 (1984): 51-78; Perse, "Involvement with Local Television News"; Rubin, "Television Uses and Gratifications"; Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation."

 

(32.) Hanna Levenson, "Activism and Powerful Others: Distinctions Within the Concept of Internal-External Control," Journal of Personality Assessment 38, no. 4 (1974): 377-383; Alan M. Rubin, "Effect of Locus of Control on Communication Motivation, Anxiety, and Satisfaction," Communication Quarterly 41, no. 2 (1993): 161-171; Alan M. Rubin and Rebecca B. Rubin, "Social and Psychological Antecedents of VCR Use," in The VCR Age: Home Video and Mass Communication, ed. Mark R. Levy (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1989), 92-111.

 

(33.) Weaver and Wakshlag, "Perceived Vulnerability to Crime."

 

(34.) Mark Warr and Mark Stafford, "Fear of Victimization: A Look at the Proximate Causes," Social Forces 61, no. 4 (1983): 1033-1043. Supplemental items were: concern of being kidnapped or held hostage, exposed to anthrax or small pox, on a plane hijacked by terrorists, having our homeland invaded, or of being a victim of a terrorist bombing.

 

(35.) Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation." Supplemental items included: I feel safe opening my mail at work, school, and at home; I feel safe traveling out of the country; and I feel safe going to a large city.

 

(36.) Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation."

 

(37.) Several background, motive, attitude, and activity variables related significantly to the social attitudes. Fear correlated with locus of control (r = -.20, p < .01), companionship motivation (r = .24, p < .001), information motivation (r = .19, p < .01), viewing intention (r = .32, p < .001), story attention, (r = .14, p < .05), and involvement (r = .22, p < .001). Safety correlated with locus of control (r = .16, p < .05). Faith in others correlated with viewing intention (r = .18, p < .01), involvement (r = .17, p < .05), and realism (r = .25, p < .001).

 

(38.) To avoid the effect of multicollinearity on the canonical weights, we focused on the structure coefficients, which are the correlation between the original variables and the canonical variates. We used canonical loadings above .30 to interpret the roots, because smaller ones are not sufficiently stable. See, for example: Jacob Cohen and Patricia Cohen, Applied Multiple Regression/ Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, 2nd ed. (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1983), 456; Zarrel V. Lambert and Richard M. Durand, "Some Precautions in Using Canonical Analysis," Journal of Marketing Research 12, no. 4 (1975): 468-475; Bruce Thompson, Canonical Correlation Analysis: Uses and Interpretation (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1984).

 

(39.) Gerbner et al., "Growing Up with Television."

 

(40.) Tamborini, Zillmann, and Bryant, "Fear and Victimization."

 

(41.) Potter, "Cultivation Theory and Research"; Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation."

 

(42.) Potter, "Perceived Reality and the Cultivation Hypothesis"; Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation"; Weaver and Wakshlag, "Perceived Vulnerability to Crime, Criminal Victimization Experience, and Television Viewing."

 

(43.) George Gerbner, "Epilogue: Advancing on the Path of Righteousness (maybe)," in Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research, eds. Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990), 254.

 

(44.) Potter, "Three Strategies for Elaborating the Cultivation Hypothesis"; Slater and Elliott, "Television's Influence on Social Reality."

 

(45.) W. James Potter, "Examining Cultivation from a Psychological Perspective: Component Subprocesses," Communication Research 18, no. 1 (1991): 77-102; 1991; Rubin, Perse, and Taylor, "A Methodological Examination of Cultivation"; J. Mallory Wober, "Does Television Cultivate the British? Late 80s Evidence," in Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research, eds. Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990), 207-223.

 

(46.) Paul M. Hirsch, "The "Scary World" of the Nonviewer and Other Anomalies: A Reanalysis of Gerbner et al.'s Findings on Cultivation Analysis, part I," Communication Research, 7, no. 4 (1980): 403-456; Michael Hughes, "The Fruits of Cultivation Analysis: A Reexamination of Some Effects of Television Watching," Public Opinion Quarterly 44, no. 3 (1980): 287-302; Potter, "Examining Cultivation from a Psychological Perspective"; Wober and Gunter, "Television and Personal Threat."

 

(47.) Bo Reimer and Karl E. Rosengren, "Cultivated Viewers and Readers: A Life-Style Perspective," in Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research, eds. Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990), 181-206; Ron Tamborini and Jeongwa Choi, "The Role of Cultural Diversity in Cultivation Research," in Cultivation Analysis: New Directions in Media Effects Research, eds. Nancy Signorielli and Michael Morgan (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990), 157-180.

 

(48.) L. J. Shrum and Thomas C. O'Guinn, "Processes and Effects in the Construction of Social Reality," Communication Research 20, no. 3 (1993): 436-471.

 

Rubin is a professor and director, Haridakis is an assistant professor, Hullman and Sun are doctoral candidates and Chikombero and Pornsakulvanich are doctoral students. All are in the School of Communication Studies at Kent State University.
 
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