CHAPTER 6
Cognitive Mechanisms II:
Attention, Comprehension,
and Perceived Reality

In some ways I am the opposite of a magician. A magician gives you illusion disguised as reality, whereas I give you reality disguised as illusion.

-- Tennessee Williams

As we have described the effects of television, first indirect and then direct, we have been following along with the research in the historical order in which it was done. Research on indirect effects, for example, described in the first chapter, was mostly done in the 1950s and 1960s, although some of it is still ongoing in countries where television is just being introduced. The research on content and direct effects described in chapters 3, 4, and 5, was begun in the 1960s and continued throughout that decade and into the 1970s. We can broadly classify these studies into (a) those focused on the content and how it may be described, and (b) those focused on the audience, including viewer responses to the content and what implications or consequences these responses might have on a society-wide basis.

This line of research has been called the dominant-image approach ( Collins , 1983a) because its focus was almost exclusively on the influence of violence, the dominant image of prime-time television. This descrip-

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