Milgram's Scotch Verdict on TV--A Retrial.

by George A. Comstock


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An evaluation, by the former science adviser and senior research coordinator to the Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, of a series of experiments directed by Stanley Milgram, reported in S. Milgram and R. L. Shotland, [Television and Antisocial Behavior: Field Experiments]. Exposure to portrayals of antisocial behavior on television was manipulated, and subsequent imitative behavior measured, with both viewing and behavioral measurement occurring in nonlaboratory "everyday" circumstances. The data are interpreted as supporting a "Scottish verdict" in regard to the influence of television on antisocial behavior: case "not proven." Sponsored by CBS, the research cost about $500,000, and is probably the unique instance of a network altering programming on behalf of science. Unfortunately, the experiments are poorly conceived, flawed, and largely irrelevant to the large body of prior research on television's effects--a very modest contribution primarily illustrating the difficulty of conducting meaningful and compelling field experiments on mass media effects. 13 pp. Ref.

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