The role of media in American political polarization

Here is an excellent article about our country’s political polarization and the media’s role in keeping it going. It’s all about ratings and the human psyche’s apparent need for the adrenaline rush of conflict. It seems we all love to watch a good fight. What’s your take?

Another study of violent video games

Pub Med has announced a new study on the effects of violent video game playing on persons with autism spectrum disorder, a study launched in response to some recent commentary that such game playing is more likely to negatively affect persons with ASD than those without the disorder. However, the authors report in their abstract that results “suggest that societal concerns that exposure to violent games may have a unique effect on adults with autism are not supported by evidence.”

Here is the link:

It has been my contention for some time that violent video games are not causative of antisocial or violent behavior. Such behaviors have other roots, leaving only some measure of correlation (which is not causation) in its place. My view depends much on Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura) and the principal of self-agentic behavior, which is what led Bandura to leave the behaviorist school he originally advocated.

I would like to see someone investigate the possibility that playing violent video games may reinforce bad behavior in those predisposed to antisocial spectrum disorders, and not in those who lack such predispositions. But I’m afraid that experimental studies are likely to run afoul of guidelines for experiments with human subjects, leaving only population studies over time to try and fill the gap.

Any thoughts?

Inland Empire Museum of Art

Public TV station KVCR has produced a very nice three-minute news piece on the Inland Empire Museum of Art (IEMA), for which I have been volunteering some time for PR (including setting up this coverage). Here is the URL for the KVCR “news” website:

The story on IEMA is in the upper right hand corner. Click and watch. Tell me what you think!

The Magic Kingdom makes jobs disappear!

Please read this story from today’s NY Times:

I first became aware of Disney management’s arrogance when I got a direct mail piece advertising their management training program back in the late 1990s. The piece, done during the Eisner era, took the tone of “We are so incredibly hot, wonderful and successful, don’t you wish you could be as cool as we are?” They wrote it like they were Harvard or Stanford, Penn or Wharton…a business school better than any other!

And over the years I’ve seen and heard other stories in the same vein. Their organizational psychology is one of multiple personality disorder. There’s Dr. Jekyll, the warm and wonderful creator of Pixar films and Disney characters. Then there’s Mr. Hyde, the miserable, penny-pinching Scrooge out to screw everyone they can for a buck.

How do you like their new park visitor pricing scheme? As much as I genuinely admire Ed Catmull and his team for their apparent grasp and successful practice of media psychology concepts, I abhor the fact that he’s tied up with these bastards. So I won’t go see any more Pixar films. I won’t visit the parks anymore. I won’t watch ABC TV. I intend to boycott any and all things Disney, as best I can. I ask you to join me.

Tablets and Smartphones–the New Babysitters?

Time magazine ran an article reporting on a recent study showing that children under the age of two have used smartphones and tablets. As the article notes, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes exposing infants under the age of two to any mediated content, a position it first took many years ago as parents starting parking their kids in front of TV sets to keep them occupied.

As Reeves and Nass point out in their book, The Media Equation, we all–not just children–interpret media characters as if they were people. Even to an adult, our response to Donald Duck is as real as if it were your next door neighbor. Especially worth noting, however, is that children that young have not formed the cognitive ability to judge the content they are exposed to, they just soak it up.

This then has the capability to affect cognition later in life, inasmuch as memory is associative and to the degree that a present stimulus brings to mind–consciously or unconsciously–some earlier, infantile media experience accepted at full face value, this puts one at a rational disadvantage in terms of sorting out fact and fiction.

Here’s the link:

Will we some day see the “Infantile Smartphone Usage Defense” in some criminal trial to come?

The Psychology of Being Put on Hold

Today’s TIME magazine reports on a recent study that showed people put on hold are LESS angry when finally connected to a live person, if they have been given pop music to listen to. So-called elevator music makes them angrier. And so does pop music with a pro-social bent. The authors speculate about the latter effect, wondering if being reminded about making good things happen just makes the caller madder, considering their initial state of mind.

What do you think? What’s going on here?

Here’s the article link:

Sex and Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s ads

Carl’s Jr. spots have been using sexy females to draw attention to their offerings for a number of years now. Here’s a link to an Ad Age article that discusses one of the company’s latest ads:

If that’s too long for you, try this Tinyurl instead:

The article reports independent research that seems to imply that this kind of advertising is not viewed very favorably by a lot of people. No doubt that is true. But it’s also completely beside the point.

If you don’t like the ad, realize that the ad is not aimed at YOU! It’s aimed at the kind of people who like that kind of advertising: Young, testosterone-enriched, girl-crazy males. Guys who like BIG burgers! Preferably real ones, not cereal-added, not turkey-based, not calorie-reduced. Nice, wet, juicy burgers. That’s the ticket! Crude? Of course. But satisfying.


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