Selective Exposure to Communication

By Dolf Henry Zillmann; Jennings P. Bryant | Go to book overview

7
Fear of Victimization and the Appeal of Crime Drama

Dolf Zillmann Jacob Wakshlag Indiana University

Gerbner and his associates (e.g., Gerbner & Gross, 1976a, 1976b; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1980) have drawn much attention to the possibility that extensive consumption of television, especially of violence-laden crime drama, leads to exaggerated perceptions of crime in society, to apprehensions about becoming a victim of crime, to interpersonal distrust generally, and to fear of one's fellow citizens. In their theorizing, the heightened sense of risk and insecurity is said to increase the citizen's dependence on established authority and to promote the acceptance of its use of force in accomplishing social pacification. Television's "cultivation" of fear, together with the acceptance of authority that this fear nurses, is considered "the established religion of the industrial order, relating to governance as the church did to the state in earlier times" ( Gerbner & Gross, 1976a, p. 194).

To back up such a grand proposal, Gerbner and his associates have presented data that show a significant positive correlation between the magnitude of television consumption, on the one hand, and perceptions of dangers in the environment, interpersonal distrust, and apprehensions about becoming a victim of violent crime, on the other. Specifically, heavy television viewers (defined as persons watching 4 or more hours a day) were found to perceive the world as more dangerous, to report greater distrust, and to be more apprehensive about becoming a victim of crime than were light television viewers (persons watching 2 hours a day or less). This correspondence between heavy television consumption and concern about crime was observed in several social strata.

The interpretation of this simple correspondence as proof of a causal relation between exposure to television and fear of victimization has prompted immediate challenges. Doob and Macdonald ( 1979) considered the observed relationship

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Selective Exposure to Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Selective-Exposure Phenomena 1
  • 2 - Cognitive Dissonance in Selective Exposure 11
  • References 31
  • 3 - Measuring Exposure to Television 35
  • References 58
  • 4 - Informational Utility and Selective Exposure to Entertainment Media 63
  • References 88
  • 5 - Determinants of Television Viewing Preferences 93
  • References 110
  • 6 - Thought and Action as Determinants of Media Exposure 113
  • References 136
  • 7 - Fear of Victimization and the Appeal of Crime Drama 141
  • References 154
  • 8 - Affect, Mood, and Emotion as Determinants of Selective Exposure 157
  • References 187
  • 9 - Selective Exposure to Educational Television 191
  • References 200
  • 10 - Cable and Program Choice 203
  • References 223
  • 11 - "Play It Again, Sam": Repeated Exposure to Television Programs 225
  • Acknowledgment 241
  • Author Index 243
  • Subject Index 249
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