The Impact of Social Issue Television Programming on Attitudes Toward Rape

Authors

  • BARBARA J. WILSON,

    1. Barbara J. Wilson and Daniel Linz are Associate Professors and Edward Donnerstein a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • DANIEL LINZ,

    1. Barbara J. Wilson and Daniel Linz are Associate Professors and Edward Donnerstein a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • EDWARD DONNERSTEIN,

    1. Barbara J. Wilson and Daniel Linz are Associate Professors and Edward Donnerstein a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • HORST STIPP

    1. Horst Stipp is Director of Social Research at the National Broadcasting Company in New York. Funding for this study was provided by the National Broadcasting Company.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Support for the authors and for previous studies by the authors cited herein was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. MH40894). Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Barbara J. Wilson, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106–4020.

Abstract

A field experiment was conducted to evaluate the impact of a television movie about acquaintance rape on subsequent attitudes about rape. To maximize external validity, a nationally representative sample of 1,038 male and female adults from three age groups was selected to participate in the study. These participants were then randomly assigned to view or not view the movie over a closed-circuit channel, prior to the network broadcast of the film. Afterward, acceptance of rape myths and perceptions of rape as a social problem were measured. The movie increased awareness of date rape as a social problem across all demographic groups. The movie also had a prosocial effect on older females who were less likely to attribute blame to women in date rape situations after exposure. However, the opposite effect tended to occur among older men. The findings suggest that emotional involvement with a movie and selective perception of movie events may mediate the impact of social issue television programming.

Ancillary