Musings for late June…

It’s that awkward time of year when the traditional TV season is over and new shows are just now launching. Just thinking about what’s on TV these days and what used to be on TV….

I remember watching “Ozzie and Harriett,” a sit-com with a musical twist as Ricky the kid Nelson grew into Rick Nelson, teen idol. Now I have “Empire” to consider, a raw drama of a family and its recording empire coming apart at the seams, then (perhaps) sewing itself back together???????

I remember “Father Knows Best” (dating myself, I know) and “The Honeymooners” (my dad’s favorite show, along with “Archie Bunker”); “The Brady Bunch” and “I Love Lucy”;  “Bonanza” and “Sea Hunt.”

Now there’s “Two Broke Girls,” “Shameless,” “The Good Wife,” and “Vinyl.”

On the other hand, where once there was “High Chaparral,” now there’s “Hell on Wheels.” And “Dragnet” has become “The Sopranos” or, perhaps, “NCIS.”

And we never had anything to compare with either “Downton Abbey” or “Game of Thrones.” Nor “Justified,” whose like we are not likely to see again any time soon, now that author Elmore Leonard has passed.

But where is today’s “Murphy Brown”?

The Golden Age of Television, some say. I wonder.

The Warrior Gene

Recently Medscape cited a recent study about the MAOA gene and its being linked to a greater risk for antisocial behavior for young men who “who were exposed to violence or maltreatment in childhood….”

I bring this up in my blog because as many of you know, I have often commented negatively on studies that purport to show that engagement with violent media, including violent video games, can lead to violent behavior in the real world. My objections have been based on Bandura’s Social Cognitive Learning Theory and the person as agent therein.

The Medscape piece can be accessed at:

Quoting from the piece:

“Investigators found higher levels of conduct disorder in adolescence and of antisocial behavior in adulthood, including a higher probability of arrest and partner violence, among those who had been exposed to violence in childhood, such as parental maltreatment and sexual and physical abuse.

“Importantly, those with the MAOA polymorphism were more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors compared with those who had been maltreated as children but who did not carry the polymorphism.”

I believe this accounts in part for why some perpetrators of mass killings and the like act out their behaviors and others do not.

Also, I want to point out that researchers Reeves and Nass, in their landmark studies that showed how adults respond to mediated images and presentations as if they were real events taking place in real time, leads to my hypothesizing that such youthful exposure need not have been a real event for the person. It could as well have been viewing someone else being treated in this way AND even viewing violent media. But to have that effect, the “victim” would be most impacted if they had low self-efficacy AND the MAOA gene.

What do you think?

Music and Advertising

In a November 24th article for Ad Age, advertising guru Al Ries points out the vital role that music can play in generating memorable content. ( He refers to psychological research that has demonstrated music’s attachment to right-brain (emotional, affective) thought, its ability to form tight associations that are remembered long after the first hearing.

He discusses the fact that many brands have names that simply do not register or generate an emotional response, names that are too “blah” to make it into long-term memory. He suggests that using music well may be the way to reverse that course.

As an example, he reminds us of the 1971 “Hilltop” commercial for Coca Cola and a song that over 40 years later still generates a powerful emotional surge in listeners. And I think you’ll agree. Here, have a Coke and a memory:

Mainstream Media’s Slow Meltdown

I was struck by an article in today’s online edition of Ad Age about the Republican field’s dissatisfaction with CNBC’s mishandling of their recent debate. The author, Ad Age’s “media guy” Simon Dumenco, notes that outsider candidates Trump and Carson feel it’s time to tell the networks how things will be run, rather than the other way around. And if the networks are not amenable, then go with alternative media instead. Then networks can either arrange to air the streamed content or not. Per Dumenco, Trump and Carson don’t really much care either way.

As Dumenco sees it, these outsider candidates are such hot content creators in their own way, they see the nets as having little to offer. He cites the ongoing loss of newspaper subscribers, to which I would add the ongoing erosion in cable subscribers and the long-term ratings decline for the nets as evidence that America today gets its news in other ways. From MSNBC and Colbert on the left to Fox News and Breitbart on the right, it is clear that “silent” America is voting with its eyeballs and ears, steering a course away from the pundits and commentators of the past, who are now seen as biased purveyors of pre-packaged points of view.

The right and the left are quite well represented in today’s media bastions.

But while both Democrats and Republicans suffer continuing long-term losses in party affiliation, Independents are on the rise. In January of this year, Gallup reported that a new record of 43% of Americans now identify as independents. Democrats were at 30% (down from 31 the prior year), Republicans at 26% (up from 25).

So where are the TRULY mainstream media, the media in the center of things? This looks to me like a vastly underserved market, ripe for some entrepreneurial startup activity that has deep pockets. We need a “Central Broadcasting Company.”

Here’s the link for the Ad Age article:

Research Says Brands Still Matter

Ad Age reports in its September 28th online edition that the inherent importance of brands may be on the decline, but that brands still matter overall.


Ogilvy & Mather’s study points out that how much they matter is correlated with what country you’re talking about. “The consumer…wants marketing that helps. And one thing that stood out in the research is that customer service, exclusive offers and deals and charitable giving impress consumers far more than celebrity tie-ins and guerilla advertising” (para. 7). Research respondents also said that Coke is an expert on happiness!

Not long ago advertising pros used to say that rational reasons for purchase are not enough, that an emotional “hook” is essential to attract customers. Perhaps emotion is now, in fact, dominant and has become the driving force behind purchase decisions for consumers.

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?


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