Effects of US-sitcoms on the German
Perception of US-Americans’ Wealth
by Fabian Hellmuth, Sandra Naumann & Lea Schlue
PRESENTATION OUTLINE
1. The German TV-Viewer
2. Sitcoms, Wealth and Cultivation
3. Mediator: Processing Sitcoms as Materia...
THE GERMAN TV VIEWER
• ...watched 32 minutes of
fictional series a day in
2012
(Gerhards et al., 2013)
• ...hardly watches any
German sitcoms (...
?
...are sitcoms.
...are produced and take place
in the USA and they mainly
portay US-Americans.
...portray materialistic we...
SITCOMS, WEALTH & CULTIVATION
DEFINING SITCOM
According to Lacey (2000) a television genre can be
described by subdividing it into six categories:
• Nar...
SITCOM CHARACTERISTICS
Narrative:
humorous, simple, ficticious, entertaining
Characters: recurring group of main
character...
DEFINING WEALTH
Relational
Wealth
Quality of Life
Social Surrounding
Materialistic
Wealth
Standard of Living
Posessions/Mo...
DEFINING WEALTH
Materialistic
Wealth
Standard of Living
Posessions/Money
Our research
proposal
focuses on...
WEALTH: TV vs. REALITY
Unlike suggested in the US-sitcoms...
... the average income per capita of US-Americans in
2012 was...
WEALTH: TV vs. REALITY
In sum:
US-Americans portrayed in US-sitcoms cannot be seen as
representative of real US-Americans,...
CULTIVATION THEORY
TV changes the viewers’
perception of social reality!
The more time people spend
watching TV, the more ...
CULTIVATION THEORY
Assumes:
• Passive audience
• Media messages are
perceived in a uniform way
• Effect is stronger on Hea...
CULTIVATION EFFECT
If:
Exposure to US-sitcoms  Perception that the US-
Americans are materialistically wealthy.
H1:
Highe...
MEDIATOR
PROCESSING SITCOM AS MATERIALISTIC
• Empirical studies show that viewers can
process the same fictional media content in
d...
PROCESSING SITCOM AS MATERIALISTIC
• For the cultivation effect to occur, the US-sitcoms
need to be processed as portrayin...
MODERATOR
INTERGROUP CONTACT
• Interpersonal contact between group members
reduces prejudices towards each other
(Allport, 1954)
• A...
INTERGROUP CONTACT
• Our focus is on the group of German citizens and their
contact with the group of US-American citizens...
TYPE OF CONTACT
• If the German viewer has contact with a
materialistically...
…very wealthy person,
 it should reinforce...
TYPE OF CONTACT
http://99against1.com/blog/wp-
content/uploads/2012/05/rich-guy1.jpg
http://stayviolation.typepad.com/.a/6...
MODEL
Intergroup
contact
Perception of
US-Americans‘
as wealthy
Processing
sitcom as
materialistic
US-sitcom
exposure
Expected C...
Intergroup
contact
Perception of
US-Americans‘
as wealthy
Processing
sitcom as
materialistic
US-sitcom
exposure
Existing v...
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!
References
• Allport, G. W. (1955). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing
Company.
...
References
• Gerhards, M., Klingler, W., & Blödorn, S. (2013). Sparten- und Formattrends im deutschen Fernsehen.
Media Per...
References
• Pattigrew, T. F. & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A Meta-Analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory. Journal of
Persona...
Picture Sources
1. http://mhstatic.de/fm/1/thumbnails/sh_TV-Konsum_800x462.2909378.jpg.2909389.jpg
2. http://blogs.coventr...
CONTACT
Fabian Hellmuth:
f.hellmuth@yahoo.de
Sandra Naumann:
kanin-chen@gmx.de
Lea Schlue:
lea.schlue@gmail.com
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Effects of US-sitcoms on German Viewers’ Perception of US-Americans’ Wealth

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A presentation by my German undergraduate students as part of the 2013 SPICE Study Abroad program at the University of Erfurt. This one, from the Media Psychology and Influence course.

ABSTRACT: US-American television sitcoms have reached great popularity in Germany. They mostly depict their fictional US-American characters as being materialistically wealthy. The present research proposal hypothesizes that high exposure to the mentioned sitcoms results in high perception of real US-American citizens as materialistically wealthy. This effect is explained by cultivation theory. The effect only occurs if the recipients process the sitcom as portraying materialistic wealth. It is further hypothesized that intergroup contact can suppress or multiply the main cultivation effect. This depends on whether the US-American citizens, to whom the German recipient has contact with, are poor or wealthy - relative to the sitcom characters. Finally, a model is given which synthesizes the introduced constructs and identifies the mediator variable as processing the sitcom as materialistically wealthy. What is more, it identifies the moderator variable as intergroup contact.

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Effects of US-sitcoms on German Viewers’ Perception of US-Americans’ Wealth

  1. 1. Effects of US-sitcoms on the German Perception of US-Americans’ Wealth by Fabian Hellmuth, Sandra Naumann & Lea Schlue
  2. 2. PRESENTATION OUTLINE 1. The German TV-Viewer 2. Sitcoms, Wealth and Cultivation 3. Mediator: Processing Sitcoms as Materialistic 4. Moderator: Intergroup Contact 5. Synthetic Model
  3. 3. THE GERMAN TV VIEWER
  4. 4. • ...watched 32 minutes of fictional series a day in 2012 (Gerhards et al., 2013) • ...hardly watches any German sitcoms (cf. Riehl, 2012) • because there hardly are any German sitcoms on German TV • and because they seem to be rather irrelevant in Germany The average German television viewer...
  5. 5. ?
  6. 6. ...are sitcoms. ...are produced and take place in the USA and they mainly portay US-Americans. ...portray materialistic wealth. What do many popular fictional series in German television have in common? They...
  7. 7. SITCOMS, WEALTH & CULTIVATION
  8. 8. DEFINING SITCOM According to Lacey (2000) a television genre can be described by subdividing it into six categories: • Narrative • Characters • Setting • Iconography • Style • Stars
  9. 9. SITCOM CHARACTERISTICS Narrative: humorous, simple, ficticious, entertaining Characters: recurring group of main characters, supporting characters Setting: limited locations Iconography: laugh tracks, allthough not necessary anymore Style: one wall is never shown Stars: guest stars as characters or as themselves. Metz (2008), Mills (2009)
  10. 10. DEFINING WEALTH Relational Wealth Quality of Life Social Surrounding Materialistic Wealth Standard of Living Posessions/Money Biwas-Diener (2008), Diwan (2000)
  11. 11. DEFINING WEALTH Materialistic Wealth Standard of Living Posessions/Money Our research proposal focuses on...
  12. 12. WEALTH: TV vs. REALITY Unlike suggested in the US-sitcoms... ... the average income per capita of US-Americans in 2012 was 50,000 US-Dollars (The World Bank, n.d.) … 15.1 percent of the population, judged by their income, lived in poverty in 2010 (Die Welt, 2011).
  13. 13. WEALTH: TV vs. REALITY In sum: US-Americans portrayed in US-sitcoms cannot be seen as representative of real US-Americans, concerning materialistic wealth… ...but German TV-viewers may think that they are representative. Why is that?
  14. 14. CULTIVATION THEORY TV changes the viewers’ perception of social reality! The more time people spend watching TV, the more likely they are to believe social reality portrayed on television. Gerbner (2002)
  15. 15. CULTIVATION THEORY Assumes: • Passive audience • Media messages are perceived in a uniform way • Effect is stronger on Heavy Users Gerbner (2002)
  16. 16. CULTIVATION EFFECT If: Exposure to US-sitcoms  Perception that the US- Americans are materialistically wealthy. H1: Higher exposure to US-sitcoms  Overestimation of the wealth of the US-American population This would be in an inaccurate stereotype of US- Americans in the German viewers’ minds
  17. 17. MEDIATOR
  18. 18. PROCESSING SITCOM AS MATERIALISTIC • Empirical studies show that viewers can process the same fictional media content in different ways (e.g. Green & Brock, 2000)
  19. 19. PROCESSING SITCOM AS MATERIALISTIC • For the cultivation effect to occur, the US-sitcoms need to be processed as portraying materialistic wealth by the German viewers Hence it is our mediating variable • It challenges Gerbner‘s approach of a passive audience that cognitively processes media content in a uniform way
  20. 20. MODERATOR
  21. 21. INTERGROUP CONTACT • Interpersonal contact between group members reduces prejudices towards each other (Allport, 1954) • A meta-analysis of 696 samples showed this by an overall effect size of r ≈ -.2 (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006)  Hence it is our moderating variable
  22. 22. INTERGROUP CONTACT • Our focus is on the group of German citizens and their contact with the group of US-American citizens • Thus our moderating variable predicts more altering of the cultivation effect, the more interpersonal contact a German TV-viewer has with US-Americans But in which Direction?
  23. 23. TYPE OF CONTACT • If the German viewer has contact with a materialistically... …very wealthy person,  it should reinforce the image of the sitcoms. …rather poor person,  It should counter the image of the sitcoms. So...
  24. 24. TYPE OF CONTACT http://99against1.com/blog/wp- content/uploads/2012/05/rich-guy1.jpg http://stayviolation.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834515b c269e20133f4606812970b-320wi  Enhancement of cultivation effect  Suppression of cultivation effect
  25. 25. MODEL
  26. 26. Intergroup contact Perception of US-Americans‘ as wealthy Processing sitcom as materialistic US-sitcom exposure Expected Correlations
  27. 27. Intergroup contact Perception of US-Americans‘ as wealthy Processing sitcom as materialistic US-sitcom exposure Existing vs. Spurious Correlations
  28. 28. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!
  29. 29. References • Allport, G. W. (1955). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. • Biswas-Diener, R. M. (2008). Material Wealth and Subjective Well-Being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.). The Science of Subject Well-Being. New York: The Guilford Press. • Bundesverband für audiovisuelle Medien (2013). Der Videomarkt 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.bvv-medien.de/jwb_pdfs/JWB2012.pdf • Chandler, D. (1995) Cultivation Theory. Retrieved July 19, 2013 from http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/cultiv.html • Chirot, D., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2001). Ethnopolitical warfare: Causes, consequences, and possible solutions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. • Die Welt (2011). Fast jeder sechste Amerikaner lebt in Armut. Die Welt. Retrieved 19 July, 2013 from http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article13603680/Fast-jeder-sechste-Amerikaner-lebt-in-Armut.html • Diwan, R. (2000). Relational wealth and the quality of life. Journal of Socio-Economics, 29, pp. 305-340. • DWDL.de (n.d.). TV-Quoten. Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://www.dwdl.de/zahlenzentrale/#tvquoten • Gerbner, G. (2009). Cultivation Theory. In M. Ryan (Ed.). A First Look at Communication Theory. New York City: Frank Mortimer. • Gerbner, G., Gross, L, Morgan, M., Signorielli, N., & Shanahan, J. (2002). Growing Up with Television: Cultivation Process. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.). Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  30. 30. References • Gerhards, M., Klingler, W., & Blödorn, S. (2013). Sparten- und Formattrends im deutschen Fernsehen. Media Perspektiven 4, 202-220. • Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 79, 701-721. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.79.5.701 • Griffin, E. (2012). A First Look at Communication Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages. • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (Ed.) (2011). The American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved July, 19, 2013 from http://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=situation+comedy • Lacey, N. (2000). Narrative and Genre: Key Concepts in Media Studies. London: Macmillan Press Ltd. • Marc, D. (2005). Origins of the Genre: In Search of the Radio Sitcom. In M. M. Dalton & L. R. Linder (Eds.).The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed. New York: State University of New York Press. • Metz, W. F. (2008). How Sitcoms Work. Retrieved July, 19, 2013 from http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/sitcom.htm • Mills, B. (2009). The Sitcom. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press Ltd. • Naor, M., & Milgram, R. M. (1980). Two preservice strategies for preparing regular class teachers for mainstreaming. Exceptional Children, 47, 126 –129. • O'Guinn, T. C., & Shrum, L. J. (1997). The Role of Television in the Construction of Consumer Reality. Journal Of Consumer Research, 23, 278-294.
  31. 31. References • Pattigrew, T. F. & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A Meta-Analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90, 751-783. DOI: 10.1037/0022- 3514.90.5.751 • Riehl, K. (2012). Schluss mit lustig. Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved July 17, 2013 from http://www.sueddeutsche.de/medien/comeback-der-sitcom-schluss-mit-schluss-mit- lustig- 1.1254908 • Savorelli, A. (2010). Beyond Sitcom: New Directions in American Television Comedy. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. • Schneider, D. J. (2004). The Psychology of Stereotyping. New York: Guilford Press. • Shrum, L. J. (2001). Processing strategy moderates the cultivation effect. Human Communication Research, 27, 94–120. • Shrum, L. J., Jaehoon, L., Burroughs, J. E., & Rindfleisch, A. (2011). An Online Process Model of Second- Order Cultivation Effects: How Television Cultivates Materialism and Its Consequences for Life Satisfaction. Human Communication Research, 37, 34-57. • The World Bank (n.d.). GNI per capita, Atla method (current US$). Retrieved July 19, 2013 from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD • United States Census Bureau (2012). Table 622. Unemployed Workers - Summary: 1990 to 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2013 from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0622.pdf • Works, E. (1961). The prejudice-interaction hypothesis from the point of view of the Negro minority group. American Journal of Sociology, 67, 47–52.
  32. 32. Picture Sources 1. http://mhstatic.de/fm/1/thumbnails/sh_TV-Konsum_800x462.2909378.jpg.2909389.jpg 2. http://blogs.coventrytelegraph.net/passtheremote/the%20big%20bang%20theory%20dec%2020 12.jpg 3. http://dispositiv.uni-bayreuth.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/001__1_.jpg 4. http://www.gbheld.com/upload/0fe94df5.jpg 5. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01385/women_laughing_1385493c.jpg 6. http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110725161642/bigbangtheory/de/images/5/52/Sheld ons_Superblick.jpg 7. http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Travel/Pix/pictures/2009/8/19/1250694261816/Friends- character-Phoebe--002.jpg 8. http://blog.ponoko.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Personal-Applause-Sign.jpeg 9. http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120527003703/himym/images/5/50/The-kids.jpg 10. http://www.serien-load.de/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/himym.jpg 11. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YJb4tIq ToAI/UY5sZtkkrWI/AAAAAAAAO-4/b4IELUQQAqk/s320/TV-shutterstock_23301313.jpg 12. http://www.pocketyourdollars.com/2009/05/outsmart-financial-temptation/ 13. http://www.heibel-unplugged.de/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/pleite.jpg 14. http://www.123inspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/batman-thumb-600x401.jpeg
  33. 33. CONTACT Fabian Hellmuth: f.hellmuth@yahoo.de Sandra Naumann: kanin-chen@gmx.de Lea Schlue: lea.schlue@gmail.com

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