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Lights, camera, reactions.

Investigators of the effects of television and movies on behavior have recently begun to focus on whether people perceive specific media presentations as "real" or "made up." Yet if a viewer closely identifies with a TV or movie character, it may not make much of a difference if he or she thinks the show is a slice of life or a back-lot melodrama, according to a report presented at the recent American Psychological Association meeting in Los Angeles.

David F. Ross and John C. Condry of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., showed a short, highly emotional film to 60 male and 60 female college students. It contained several women talking, in turn, to a therapist about personal experiences of sexual abuse. Half of the subjects were told the film contained portrayals by actors. All of the students filled out mood questionnaires before and after the movie was shown.

In general, says Ross, those who thought the film was real were most upset by the presentation. But females were fare more upset than males, he notes. Also, females were equally upset whether they thought the movie was real or not. Males, on the other hand, were far more upset after viewing what they thought were real victims of sexual abuse.

"We think females were more involved with the characters in the film," says Ross, "so whether they thought it was real or fictitious didn't matter." If a viewer of either sex identifies with, say, a television character, then he or she is more likely to be affected by that character's program, he adds, regardless to how fanciful the show seems.
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Title Annotation:research on effects of television and movies on behavior
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 14, 1985
Words:270
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