Tuning into affluence: Television's role in American materialism

November 14, 2005

While our insatiable devotion to buying more stuff is no revelation, it is not completely understood where this materialistic mentality comes from. A forthcoming study from the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research seeks to better explain the cultivation of this rather unattractive, yet inimitably American trait, arguing that television plays a significant role in creating materialists.

"The more television individuals watch, the more materialistic they apparently become," writes L. J. Shrum (University of Texas--San Antonio).

Of note, say the authors, is the growing American dedication to television viewing--an important piece of information for public policy officials concerned about television's effects. These officials are concerned with the messages conveyed and learned through the television watching experience. But more than just teaching bad habits, the authors argue that television is actually indoctrinating or 'cultivating' its watchers into a world of materialism. In this instance, American moral fabric is being rewoven into a troubling pattern.

"Predominant theories of television influence would suggest this is due, in part, to a cultivation effect. That is, television tends to glamorize affluence, and individuals who watch a lot of television gradually come to incorporate these 'televised' values into their personal values structures," the authors conclude.
-end-
Shrum, L.J., James E. Burroughs, and Aric Rindfleisch. "Television's Cultivation of Material Values." Journal of Consumer Research, Dec. 2005.

University of Chicago Press Journals

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