This book had its conception about 10 years ago while I was teaching courses in Social Development at Cornell University. Social development is the study of all of the influences that impinge on a person in order to make him or her a functioning member of society. Listing the usual influences on social development such as parents, peers, and social institutions like the church and schools, always left an important question unanswered: What about television? It became a litany in my classes, sung by the students, and it resulted in the nagging worry that I was leaving something important out. It bothered me that I had no clear answer to that question, nor could I find the answer in a single place. There were a few books and many articles, often in obscure journals, that had to be described in order to answer this question.
Eventually, I decided to organize all of the research I could find on the psychological influence of television, and not just to list it but to organize and make sense of it to the best of my ability. This book is the result. It turned out to be no simple task. There is a great deal written about television, and much of it is worthless, idle speculation. But there is also a large and serious literature out there about the psychological influence of television, covering a wide range of issues and topics. I have done my best to summarize that literature here, working historically from the early studies that form the bedrock of the research, to the most recent that I know. In describing research, I have often begun with early studies so I could help the reader understand the paradigm of the researchers and the basic questions they were trying to answer. It is important to understand research in the context in which