The Impact of Social Issue Television Programming on Attitudes Toward Rape


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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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-208
Number of pages30
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language

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