A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Mass Communication
in Society: Swimming
in the Media Sea

Q: What is the most popular leisure activity in the world?

A: Watching television. Every week residents of the United States spend 15 out of their average 39 hours of free time watching television, making it by far the most popular leisure activity. Only work and sleeping take more of our time, and we spend only 2.8 hours reading. Every day people worldwide spend over 3.5 billion hours watching television (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Numbers, 1997).

Q: When a television is turned on, how often is it for the purpose of watching a specific program?

A: About half the time we turn the TV on for a specific program, and about half the time we just turn it on and then find something. The best and easiest way to start controlling and limiting TV use in your home is to adhere to the rule, “Never turn on the TV except to watch a specific program that you have in mind. ”

Q: What was the most popular U. S. television export of the mid-1990s?

A: Baywatch, seen by about 1 billion people in 150 countries every week! (“Most Famous Canadian, ” 1996). Although such exports may be culturally irrelevant, or even offensive in some places, they do come cheap. According to one estimate, for example, an episode of syndicated Baywatch costs $450 to the Namibian Broadcasting Company, compared to $1200 for a local soccer match, and over $2000 for a locally produced drama (Wresch, 1996).

In 2001, 13-year-old Jason Lind of Torrington, CT was hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns after he and a friend poured gasoline on his feet and legs and lit him on fire, in imitation of a stunt seen on MTV's popular show Jackass.

People very frequently take portable radios, or even televisions, to the stadium with them when they attend a sports event. When asked why they

-1-

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