Television and Its Viewers

What Social Science Sees

by George A. Comstock

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In the past 25 years there has accumulated a sizable scientific literature on television. This paper focuses on four themes: (1) The role of TV in behavior modification: There is evidence that TV can contribute to both voluntary and involuntary behavior modification. (2) The influence of TV on the way people spend their time: A UNESCO investigation of large samples from 15 industrialized cities found that set owners spend about an hour a day more in time devoted to television, and about 13 percent less time sleeping. (3) The contribution of TV to politics: Television has altered the organization of campaigns so that TV access is a major thrust, and it has increased the public's vicarious participation in politics. (4) Television and the public: The relationship between the public and TV is one of love-hate, the public accepting the faults as a fair price for the pleasures, and acclaiming it the major source of news, yet not fully paying attention.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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