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TESTING THE LIMITS OF SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY: A cautionary tale for media effects research Robin L. Nabi University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Presentation on theme: "TESTING THE LIMITS OF SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY: A cautionary tale for media effects research Robin L. Nabi University of California, Santa Barbara."— Presentation transcript:

1 TESTING THE LIMITS OF SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY: A cautionary tale for media effects research Robin L. Nabi University of California, Santa Barbara

2 WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? We say we value theoryWe say we value theory But how good are we at developing it?But how good are we at developing it?

3 TRENDS IN MEDIA EFFECTS RESEARCH Bryant & Miron (2004): content analysis of 1,806 articles in 3 leading journals between Bryant & Miron (2004): content analysis of 1,806 articles in 3 leading journals between Only 26 theories/models mentioned more than 10 timesOnly 26 theories/models mentioned more than 10 times Only 5 mentioned more than 30Only 5 mentioned more than 30 Uses & GratificationsUses & Gratifications Agenda settingAgenda setting CultivationCultivation Social LearningSocial Learning MarxismMarxism

4 TRENDS IN MEDIA EFFECTS RESEARCH Potter & Riddle (2007): content analysis (every issue of 16 mass media/comm journals)Potter & Riddle (2007): content analysis (every issue of 16 mass media/comm journals) 8 theories cited more than 10 times8 theories cited more than 10 times FramingFraming Agenda settingAgenda setting CultivationCultivation Mediation modelsMediation models Third-person effectThird-person effect Uses and gratificationsUses and gratifications Selective exposureSelective exposure Social cognitive/learningSocial cognitive/learning

5 RAISES THE QUESTIONS…. Why these theories?Why these theories? Are those good reasons?Are those good reasons? Could we do better?Could we do better? If so, how?If so, how?

6 WHY THESE THEORIES? WIDELY APPLICABLE & IN IMPORTANT CONTEXTSWIDELY APPLICABLE & IN IMPORTANT CONTEXTS (Framing, Cultivation, Uses & Gratifications)(Framing, Cultivation, Uses & Gratifications) EASY TO UNDERSTAND, TEST, & APPLYEASY TO UNDERSTAND, TEST, & APPLY (Cultivation, Uses & Grats)(Cultivation, Uses & Grats) WILL SURELY FIND EFFECTSWILL SURELY FIND EFFECTS (3 rd Person, Cultivation, & Uses & Grats)(3 rd Person, Cultivation, & Uses & Grats) COMPELLING EVIDENCE IN OTHER, NON-MEDIA CONTEXTSCOMPELLING EVIDENCE IN OTHER, NON-MEDIA CONTEXTS (Social Cognitive Theory)(Social Cognitive Theory)

7 ARE THESE GOOD REASONS? DEPENDS ON GOALSDEPENDS ON GOALS Helps ID effects/confirm theoretical predictionsHelps ID effects/confirm theoretical predictions More likely to get publishedMore likely to get published More appeal to wider-audienceMore appeal to wider-audience But as media scholars…. Raises concerns….But as media scholars…. Raises concerns….

8 REASONS FOR CONCERN THEORETICAL STAGNATIONTHEORETICAL STAGNATION Content analyses showsContent analyses shows 48% (35% since 2000) simply reference theory48% (35% since 2000) simply reference theory 26% used theory as a framework26% used theory as a framework Note: Not necessarily used correctlyNote: Not necessarily used correctly 26% offered theoretical critique, comparison, or development26% offered theoretical critique, comparison, or development Note: yay! Is it productive critique?Note: yay! Is it productive critique?

9 REASONS FOR CONCERN DESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH  MINIMAL INSIGHTS INTO PROCESSDESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH  MINIMAL INSIGHTS INTO PROCESS E.G. Uses & GratificationsE.G. Uses & Gratifications FAILURE TO OFFER SUITABLE TESTSFAILURE TO OFFER SUITABLE TESTS E.G., Framing, Cultivation, SCTE.G., Framing, Cultivation, SCT BLIND APPLICATIONS  POTENTIAL MISAPPLICATIONSBLIND APPLICATIONS  POTENTIAL MISAPPLICATIONS Social Cognitive TheorySocial Cognitive Theory

10 SCT – BRIEF OVERVIEW Bandura (1977, 1986, 2002)Bandura (1977, 1986, 2002) Focus on OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING & SELF-EFFICACYFocus on OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING & SELF-EFFICACY Building from capacity for abstract thought & goal settingBuilding from capacity for abstract thought & goal setting

11 SCT – 4 KEY PROCESSES 4 PROCESSES4 PROCESSES ATTEND to certain models (e.g., like, attractive)ATTEND to certain models (e.g., like, attractive) RETAIN symbolic representation of behavior and consequencesRETAIN symbolic representation of behavior and consequences PRODUCE behavior in appropriate contextPRODUCE behavior in appropriate context MOTIVATED to produce those selected behaviors based on nature of reinforcementMOTIVATED to produce those selected behaviors based on nature of reinforcement IN ESSENCE: show liked models engaged in healthy behaviors (pos reinforced)  audience more likely to engage in those behaviorsIN ESSENCE: show liked models engaged in healthy behaviors (pos reinforced)  audience more likely to engage in those behaviors

12 THE PROBLEM SCT frequently cited to guide depictions of risky behavior in mediaSCT frequently cited to guide depictions of risky behavior in media BUT rarely (well) tested in mediaBUT rarely (well) tested in media Cause to question the appropriateness of its application in media contextsCause to question the appropriateness of its application in media contexts

13 ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Schema Schema – Serial TV ProgrammingSchema – Serial TV Programming Main characters don’t experience truly bad, long-lived outcomes (“Happily ever after”)Main characters don’t experience truly bad, long-lived outcomes (“Happily ever after”) This future expectation influences how viewers interpret current story eventsThis future expectation influences how viewers interpret current story events Minimizes negative valence of negatively- reinforced behaviorsMinimizes negative valence of negatively- reinforced behaviors Increase positive valence of “negatively”- reinforced behaviors because liked characters do themIncrease positive valence of “negatively”- reinforced behaviors because liked characters do them

14 STUDY 1: PROGRAM SCHEMA (Nabi & Clark, under review) H1: TV viewers believe main characters in fictional TV series will experience positive outcomes, despite the adversity they face.H1: TV viewers believe main characters in fictional TV series will experience positive outcomes, despite the adversity they face. RQ1: What explanations do TV viewers offer for expecting positive outcomes?RQ1: What explanations do TV viewers offer for expecting positive outcomes?

15 STUDY 1 METHOD 60 Undergraduates60 Undergraduates Survey (after finale of 2007 TV season)Survey (after finale of 2007 TV season) 6 closed-ended items6 closed-ended items Likelihood M.C. suffer long-lived consequences, happy ending, etc.Likelihood M.C. suffer long-lived consequences, happy ending, etc. 7 closed and open-ended items7 closed and open-ended items Likely outcomes of specific cliffhangers (e.g., Desperate Housewives, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost)Likely outcomes of specific cliffhangers (e.g., Desperate Housewives, CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost) Why? (coded into 7 categories)Why? (coded into 7 categories) bad things won’t happen to the M.Cbad things won’t happen to the M.C contract disputescontract disputes secondary characters are disposablesecondary characters are disposable

16 STUDY 1 RESULTS: Expectations of Positive and Negative Outcomes for Main Characters in TV Serial Programming ItemMeanSDt-value Will suffer long-term neg. consequences 2.43*** Will bounce back from adversity quickly 5.71*** Will survive seemingly impossible situations 5.91*** Will dies is stricken with an illness2.07*** Will be killed in a threatening situation 1.93*** Will experience a happy ending6.14***

17 STUDY 1: Specific Program Outcome Expectations ItemMeanSD Will Lynette die?1.95***1.01 Will Edie be saved?5.67***1.45 Is Burke & Cristina’s relationship over? Will George return?5.07***1.54 Will Charlie survive?4.53*1.78 Is Sylar dead?3.15***1.63 Will Sara survive? 5.84***1.00

18 RESULTS RQ1: Open-Ended Responses Bad things don’t happen to main characters 30%21%2%13%28%8%36% Main character necessary to keep the show interesting 51%49%43%51%20%43%28% Contract/production disputes 5% 2%5%2% Happy endings are the norm3%2%12%2%10% It fits the nature of the program 5% 8%2%23%7%3% Secondary characters are disposable 3%2% Other5%3%2% 10%2%3%

19 STUDY 1 RESULTS Across 7 cliffhangers, 41% said expected outcome they did because “main character is important to the program”Across 7 cliffhangers, 41% said expected outcome they did because “main character is important to the program” 100% gave this answer at least once100% gave this answer at least once THUS, American viewers’ TV schema: “Happily Ever After”THUS, American viewers’ TV schema: “Happily Ever After”

20 STUDY 2: COMPETING TEST OF SCT v. SCHEMA H2: TV depiction should influence those without direct experience, but not those with direct experience.H2: TV depiction should influence those without direct experience, but not those with direct experience. AMONG THOSE WITHOUT DIRECT EXPERIENCE:AMONG THOSE WITHOUT DIRECT EXPERIENCE: H3: Neg. Depiction < Positive DepictionH3: Neg. Depiction < Positive Depiction (SCT Prediction)(SCT Prediction) H3 ALT : Neg. Depiction = Positive DepictionH3 ALT : Neg. Depiction = Positive Depiction (Schema prediction)(Schema prediction)

21 STUDY 2 METHOD 400 women completed survey re: past sexual behavior (valid n = 238)400 women completed survey re: past sexual behavior (valid n = 238) Focus on One Night StandsFocus on One Night Stands 30% of sample had personal experience30% of sample had personal experience Viewed 1 of 6 edited versions of Sex & The City episodes depicting One Night StandsViewed 1 of 6 edited versions of Sex & The City episodes depicting One Night Stands 3 manipulations of rewards & punishments3 manipulations of rewards & punishments Regret vs. no regretRegret vs. no regret Lesson learned vs. acceptance of behaviorLesson learned vs. acceptance of behavior Negative vs. positive outcomesNegative vs. positive outcomes

22 EXAMPLE OF STIMULI

23 STUDY 2 METHOD (cont.) POSTTEST (Key measures)POSTTEST (Key measures) Enjoyable (α =.93)Enjoyable (α =.93) Carrie Likeable (α =.84)Carrie Likeable (α =.84) ACCEPTING OF CARRIE’S BEHAVIOR (α =.83)ACCEPTING OF CARRIE’S BEHAVIOR (α =.83) HOW REGRETFUL CARRIE SEEMEDHOW REGRETFUL CARRIE SEEMED FUTURE LIKELIHOOD OF ONSFUTURE LIKELIHOOD OF ONS Attitude toward friend who had a ONS (α =.72)Attitude toward friend who had a ONS (α =.72) Homophily (α =.80)Homophily (α =.80) Seen episode beforeSeen episode before

24 PRELIMINARY ANALYSES No differences across conditions in any pre- test measureNo differences across conditions in any pre- test measure No differences in enjoyment, similarity, likeability, etc.No differences in enjoyment, similarity, likeability, etc.

25 MANIPULATION CHECKS REGRETREGRET R > NR, p =.02R > NR, p =.02 LL > A, p =.001LL > A, p =.001 NEGATIVE VIEW OF BEHAVIORNEGATIVE VIEW OF BEHAVIOR N > P, p =.04N > P, p =.04

26 RESULTS: H2 (supported) Those without direct experience evidenced “positive” change. Those with direct experience did not.Those without direct experience evidenced “positive” change. Those with direct experience did not.

27 H3: SCT v. SCHEMA 3 ANCOVAs3 ANCOVAs IVs: ONS experience, Viewing conditionIVs: ONS experience, Viewing condition DV: post likelihood of ONSDV: post likelihood of ONS Covariate: initial likelihood of ONSCovariate: initial likelihood of ONS MAIN EFFECT FOR EXPERIENCE supports H2MAIN EFFECT FOR EXPERIENCE supports H2 INTERACTION (in expected direction) supports H3INTERACTION (in expected direction) supports H3 MAIN EFFECT, BUT NO INTERACTION supports H3altMAIN EFFECT, BUT NO INTERACTION supports H3alt

28 RESULTS H3 NO MAIN EFFECTS for different depictions (ps = )NO MAIN EFFECTS for different depictions (ps = ) MAIN EFFECTS FOR CONDITIONSMAIN EFFECTS FOR CONDITIONS R/NR: p =.007R/NR: p =.007 LL/A: p =.01LL/A: p =.01 N/P: p =.06N/P: p =.06 NO INTERACTIONS between previous experience & depictionsNO INTERACTIONS between previous experience & depictions LL/A: p =.27LL/A: p =.27 N/P: p =.23N/P: p =.23 R/NR: p =.03 BUT in the “wrong direction” (those with direct experienced were influenced, not those without)R/NR: p =.03 BUT in the “wrong direction” (those with direct experienced were influenced, not those without) THUS, regardless of depictions, those without past experience reported increased likelihood re: future ONSTHUS, regardless of depictions, those without past experience reported increased likelihood re: future ONS

29 CONCLUSIONS Results support Schema over SCT explanationResults support Schema over SCT explanation Should not think of depictions in isolation but in the cognitive context in which receivedShould not think of depictions in isolation but in the cognitive context in which received SCT perhaps more useful for depicting positive health behaviors than warning against negative onesSCT perhaps more useful for depicting positive health behaviors than warning against negative ones Emphasize importance of carefully testing interpersonally-based theories in media contextsEmphasize importance of carefully testing interpersonally-based theories in media contexts

30 FUTURE DIRECTIONS Perhaps examine harsher negative outcomesPerhaps examine harsher negative outcomes Consider more carefully role of identificationConsider more carefully role of identification Test other elements of SCTTest other elements of SCT Self-efficacySelf-efficacy Perceptions of what constitutes negative outcomesPerceptions of what constitutes negative outcomes

31 MORAL TO CAUTIONARY TALE? MUST NOT “BLINDLY” ACCEPT ESTABLISHED THEORIES AS LAWMUST NOT “BLINDLY” ACCEPT ESTABLISHED THEORIES AS LAW CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONSCHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS Look to other disciplinesLook to other disciplines Consider unique features of media contextsConsider unique features of media contexts OFFER SERIOUS TESTSOFFER SERIOUS TESTS OFFER MULTIPLE TESTSOFFER MULTIPLE TESTS OFFER COMPETING TESTSOFFER COMPETING TESTS DON’T BE AFRAID OF “HARD” RESEARCHDON’T BE AFRAID OF “HARD” RESEARCH DON’T THROW BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATERDON’T THROW BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER

32 GLASS IS HALF FULL PROMISING LINES OF RESEARCHPROMISING LINES OF RESEARCH 3rd person research3rd person research psychological explanationspsychological explanations Framing researchFraming research moderatorsmoderators CultivationCultivation stagnated since Shrumstagnated since Shrum U&GU&G developments in mood managementdevelopments in mood management SCTSCT some newer studies offering more direct testssome newer studies offering more direct tests

33 FUTURE OF MEDIA EFFECT THEORIZING? LOTS TO DO – IT’S UP TO YOU!LOTS TO DO – IT’S UP TO YOU! ICA SPOTLIGHT PANELICA SPOTLIGHT PANEL READ WIDELYREAD WIDELY TAKE YOUR TIMETAKE YOUR TIME QUALITY OVER QUANTITYQUALITY OVER QUANTITY MAKE IT MEANINGFULMAKE IT MEANINGFUL


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