Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Exploring the Relationship between Genre-Specific Television Viewing and Tanning Beliefs and Attitudes

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Exploring the Relationship between Genre-Specific Television Viewing and Tanning Beliefs and Attitudes

Article excerpt

Introduction

Each year, between two and three million people are diagnosed globally with some form of skin cancer (1). In fact, skin cancer incidence rates are rising dramatically; the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that the percentage of melanoma cases has doubled in the past thirty years (2). Although several different risk factors can lead to skin cancer, the most common is exposure to ultra-violet radiation (UVR) (3).

UVR exposure occurs naturally from sunlight, however it can also occur through the use of indoor tanning beds (4). Problematically, indoor tanning may be even more dangerous than tanning outside. Some researchers estimate that indoor tanning beds expose users to several times the amount of UVR than suntanning for the same amount of time (5,6). Thus, indoor tanning represents unnecessary exposure to a carcinogenic agent. In the US alone, over one million people frequent indoor tanning salons each day (7).

Extant research indicates that the use of tanning salons is predicted by positive attitudes toward tanning (8). If so, then sources of those attitudes must be identified and addressed. Although mass media have frequently been thought of as a source of positive attitudes (9-11), few empirical studies have been conducted to examine whether there is an association between media exposure and tanning attitudes.

Importantly, recent media effects theory and research suggests that genres of media need to be differentiated to understand the media's influence on individuals' beliefs and attitudes. Scholars suggest that the meta-narrative underlying different genres may present social issues or social groups from different angles, producing differential effects on beliefs and attitudes (12). Existing research on genrespecific media effects has frequently investigated the difference between informational and entertainment genres (13-15). Few studies focused on entertainment genres [for an exception, see 14], despite a growing body of research suggesting the potential of entertainment media to influence health and risk related perceptions and practices (16,17). Furthermore, little research has examined the relationship between genre-specific exposure and beliefs and attitudes within the applied domain of indoor tanning.

Thus, the goal of the current study is to explore whether and how genre-specific television exposure is related to beliefs, attitudes, and intentions concerning indoor tanning among young men and women. Four major genres of entertainment television were examined: reality shows, dramas, comedies, and talk shows. The findings of this study may add to the extant research on genre-specific media effects and provide useful implications for efforts to effectively prevent the risk of indoor tanning.

Media exposure and attitude formation

Much of the research examining the linkage between media representations and audience attitudes has been conducted using cultivation theory [18] and social cognitive theory (19). Generally, cultivation theory specifies that over time, media exposure can influence beliefs about society (18,20). In particular, media exposure can be viewed as one contributor to the social construction of reality (21).

Social cognitive theory (SCT) (19) posits a transactional and reciprocal relationship between personal factors, behavioral factors, and environmental factors. One noteworthy environmental factor is mass media (19). A prominent aspect of SCT is that individuals are self-reflective, and in relation to media influence, evaluate the validity of media content and compare it to one's own beliefs and views about the world.

Both cultivation theory and SCT can be used by researchers to conceptualize the ways that television programs can influence the audience. In this case, cultivation theory is useful as a meta-theoretical framework to understand how media effects function at the societal level. Alternatively, SCT may provide a lens to understand the cognitive mechanisms that contribute to cultivation. …

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