Popular entertainment, like cinema and television, impacts on public attitudes towards science and in raising awareness of science
From Informal Science Education Evidence Wiki
Several review articles on the larger question of science in entertainment media provide short summaries of how entertainment media impact public attitudes and behaviors and how they raise awareness of scientific issues (Kirby, 2008; Nisbet &Dudo, 2010). Many recent ISE efforts are concerned with helping the public learn about the benefits of scientific research and the role of science in society in order to improve public attitudes towards science (Bell et al., 2009). Studies of entertainment media show that it can strongly influence the public’s attitudes towards science by shaping, cultivating, or reinforcing the “cultural meanings” of science and scientists. Losh (2010) shows how the shift in entertainment texts to more heroic representations of scientists in the 1990s and 2000s has influenced public perceptions of scientists. Jocelyn Steinke and her colleagues also found that teaching media literacy skills helped people recognize media stereotypes of scientists (Steinke et al., 2009).
Cultivation Analysis and Television
Several audience reception studies using cultivation analysis suggest that representations of science in television have an influence on public attitudes towards science. George Gerbner and his colleagues performed a content analysis of U.S. television from 1973 to 1983 and found an overall negative depiction of science and scientists (Gerbner et al., 1981; Gerbner, 1987). They then surveyed viewers and found that adults who frequently consumed television –habitual viewers– were more likely than infrequent viewers to hold negative opinions about science, to believe that science is dangerous, to consider scientists odd and peculiar people, be mistrustful of scientists, and to feel that a career in science is undesirable. Habitual viewers of entertainment television are also more likely than infrequent viewers to hold positive opinions about pseudoscience and the paranormal (Sparks et al. 1994; Sparks et al. 1997; Sparks 1998).
More recent cultivation analysis studies find that the depiction of science and scientists on television has changed since the 1970s and 1980s with scientists more likely to be portrayed as good or neutral rather than as evil (Dudo et al., 2010). As such, researchers have found that heavy television viewing has led to a positive impact on people’s perceptions about and attitudes towards science. Nisbet et al. (2002) found that heavy television viewers were still more likely to be concerned about potential applications of science, but they also found that frequent viewers held much stronger beliefs in the “promise” of science. Likewise, a study by Besley and Shanahan (2005) found that individuals who watched more science fiction television programs were more trusting of food biotechnology than less frequent viewers. Dudo et al. (2010) also found that any correlation between frequency of television viewing and negative perceptions of science may be due to differences in pre-existing knowledge of science.
Climate Change and The Day After Tomorrow
One difficulty with audience reception work on television and films is separating out entertainment media’s influence from all other media coverage as well as from other cultural contexts. Researchers need to be able to study audience responses before and after immediate exposure. This requires identification of an appropriate television program or movie with sufficient time to arrange for surveys, focus groups, and interviews. One film for which this was accomplished was The Day After Tomorrow with survey and focus group-based studies of public attitudes about global warming before and after the release of the film in Germany (Reusswig et al., 2004), Britain (Balmford et al., 2004; Lowe et al., 2004), and the U.S. (Leiserowitz, 2004). These studies showed mixed, culturally specific impact of the film on public opinion towards climate change (Schiermeier, 2004; Nisbet, 2004). There was little change in the opinions of U.S. audiences towards climate change, positive impact on British audiences with stronger motivations to act on climate change, and a negative impact on belief in climate change in Germany. Every study found that the film raised awareness of climate change as an issue, however.
Work in the area of “entertainment education” has also shown that STEM in entertainment media can significantly impact the public’s behavior especially regarding health issues. Entertainment education involves the intentional use of fiction to raise awareness of social issues and change individual behaviour (Singhal et al., 2004). These works are almost exclusively related to using television as a means for changing individual behavior regarding public health issues. There are a number of organizations involved in entertainment education including [Hollywood Health and Society], [Kaiser Family Foundation], and the [] Environmental Media Association. Representative studies of the effectiveness of EE campaigns include cervical cancer storylines in a British soap opera (Howe, Owen-Smith & Richardson, 2002), organ donation storylines in U.S. television dramas (Morgan, Movius & Cody, 2009), and HIV/AIDS prevention in Tanzanian radio dramas (Vaughan et al., 2000).
Raising Awareness, Agenda Setting, and Framing
One of the biggest impacts of movies and television on public perceptions of STEM has come through their ability to raise public awareness of an issue or scientific field (Kirby, 2011). Entertainment media serve an agenda setting function for news outlets that use the release of a new movie or the success of a new television program to provide news content. The ability of entertainment media to raise the visibility of a scientific issue has led to an inordinate amount of influence for movies and television shows on national science policies (Greenbaum, 2009) such as debates over cloning and stem cells (Haran et al., 2008), Near Earth Objects (Kirby, 2011; Mellor, 2007), nuclear power (Sjoberg & Engelberg, 2010), and emerging viruses (Tomes, 2000). Movies and television shows have also proved to be an effective means for creating public excitement about undeveloped technologies, including medical, computer and space, which then move from the fictional into the real world (Bleecker, 2009; Kirby, 2010).
Balmford, A., A. Manica, L. Airey, Birkin, A. Oliver & J. Schleicher (2004) “Hollywood, Climate Change, and the Public,” Nature, 305: 1713. (http://tomix.homelinux.org/~thomas/eth/7_semester/large-scale_climate_variability_WS_2006_2007/unterlagen/edit/day_after_tomorrow1.pdf)
Bell, P., B. Lewenstein, A. Shouse, & M. Feder, eds (2009) Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (Washington, DC: National Research Council). (http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12190&page=R1)
Besley, J. C., & J. Shanahan (2005) “Media Attention and Exposure in Relation to Support for Agricultural Biotechnology,” Science Communication, 26(4), 347-367.
Bleecker, J. (2009) “Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact and Fiction,” Near Future Laboratory. (http://nearfuturelaboratory.com/2009/03/17/design-fiction-a-short-essay-on-design-science-fact-and-fiction/)
Dudo, A., D. Brossard, J. Shanahan, D.A. Scheufele, M. Morgan, & N. Signorielli (2011) “Science on Television in the 21st Century: Recent Trends in Portrayals and Their Contributions to Public Attitudes Toward Science,” Communication Research, 38(6): 754-777.
Gerbner, G. (1987) “Science on Television: How it Affects Public Conceptions,” Issues in Science and Technology, 3: 109-115. (http://www.asc.upenn.edu/gerbner/archive.aspx?sectionID=39&packageID=163)
Gerbner, G., L. Gross, M. Morgan & N. Signorielli (1981) “Scientists on the TV Screen,” Society, May/June: 41-44. (http://www.asc.upenn.edu/gerbner/archive.aspx?sectionID=39&packageID=168)
Greenbaum, D. (2009) “Is It Really Possible to Do the Kessel Run in Less than Twelve Parsecs and Should It Matter-Science and Film and Its Policy Implications?” Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 11(2): 249-333.
Harran, J., J. Kitzinger, M. McNeil & K. O’Riordan (2008) Human Cloning in the Media: From Science Fiction to Science Practice (New York: Routledge).
Howe, A., V. Owen-Smith & J. Richardson (2002) “The Impact of a Television Soap Opera on the NHS Cervical Screening Programme in the North West of England,” Journal of Public Health, 24(4): 299-304. (http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/4/299.full.pdf)
Kirby, D.A. (2011) Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). (http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=MhWWrfWmGAwC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=kirby+lab+coats&ots=Y1rpJMef4I&sig=DAKqXWpLDDos48Vn-aY2tY-AmSE#v=onepage&q=kirby%20lab%20coats&f=false)
Kirby, D.A. (2010) “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular Films in Generating Real-World Technological Development,” Social Studies of Science, 40(1): 41-70.
Kirby, D.A. (2008) “Cinematic Science: The Public Communication of Science and Technology in Popular Film,” B. Trench & M. Bucchi (eds.), Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. (New York: Routledge): 67-94. (http://www.bpatc.org.bd/elibrary/files/12713227600415386179.pdf#page=56)
Leiserowitz, A.A. (2004) “Before and After The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. Study of Climate Change Risk Perception,” Environment, 46(9): 22-37.
Losh, S.C. (2010) “Stereotypes About Scientists Over Time Among US Adults: 1983 and 2001,” Public Understanding of Science, 19(3): 372–382. (https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/rfouche/www/readings/losh.pdf)
Lowe, K. Brown, S. Dessai, M. de França Doria, K. Haynes & K. Vincent (2006) “Does Tomorrow Ever Come? Disaster Narrative and Public Perceptions of Climate Change,” Public Understanding of Science, 15: 435–457. (http://peer.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/57/10/94/PDF/PEER_stage2_10.1177%252F0963662506063796.pdf)
Mellor, F. (2007) “Asteroid Research and the Legitimization of War in Space,” Social Studies of Science, 37(4): 499-531.
Morgan,S.E., L. Movius & M.J. Cody (2009) “The Power of Narratives: The Effect of Entertainment Television Organ Donation Storylines on the Attitudes, Knowledge, and Behaviors of Donors and Nondonors,” Journal of Communication, 59(1): 135-151. (http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~semorgan/publications/MorganMoviusCody2009.pdf)
Nisbet, M. (2004) “Evaluating the Impact of The Day After Tomorrow: Can a Blockbuster Film Shape the Public’s Understanding of a Science Controversy?” Skeptical Inquirer, 16 June. (http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/evaluating_the_impact_of_the_day_after_tomorrow/)
Nisbet, M. & A. Dudo (2010) “Science, Entertainment, and Education: A Review of the Literature,” Report for the National Academy of Sciences. (http://api.ning.com/files/S0m4sIKDAjOC*cQ6RkMiZxy9Wyo7EweqcT-zzY2yvbf-2OgEnZI7LuBEsqSTH0npJLfa7EGy5hULlA1eAv5-W5-lmvC11PyT/NisbetDudo_LiteratureReview_ScienceEntertainment_FINAL.pdf)
Nisbet, M.C., D.A. Scheufele, J. Shanahan, P. Moy, D. Brossard & B.V. Lewenstein (2002) “Knowledge, Reservations, or Promise? A Media Effects Model for Public Perceptions of Science and Technology,” Communication Research, 29(5): 584-608. (http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/Nisbet_et_al_2002_MediaEffects_CR.pdf)
Reusswig, F., J. Schwarzkopf & P. Pohlenz (2004) “Double Impact: The Climate Blockbuster ‚The Day After Tomorrow’ and its Impact on the German Cinema Public,“ PIK Report, 92. (http://www.pik-potsdam.de/research/publications/pikreports/summary-report-no-92)
Schiermeier, Q. (2004) “Disaster Movie Highlights Transatlantic Divide,” Nature, 431: 4. (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v431/n7004/full/431004a.html)
Singhal, A., M.J. Cody, E.M. Rogers & M. Sabido, eds. (2004) Entertainment-education and Social Change: History, Research, and Practice (Mawwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum). (http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=uo-11h9nJk8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=entertainment+education&ots=Acuo5t845e&sig=cxxb31SBWZenJ2pUjvJO4PwlmaA#v=onepage&q=entertainment%20education&f=false)
Sjöberg, L. & E. Engelberg (2010) “Risk Perception and Movies: A Study of Availability as a Factor in Risk Perception,” Risk Analysis, 30(1): 95-106.
Sparks, G.G., T. Hansen & R. Shah (1994) “Do Televised Depictions of Paranormal Events Influence Viewers’ Beliefs?” Skeptical Inquirer, 18: 386-395.
Sparks, G.G., C.L. Nelson & R.G. Campbell (1997) “The Relationship Between Exposure to Televised Messages About Paranormal Phenomena and Paranormal Beliefs,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 41: 345-359.
Sparks, G. (1998) “Paranormal Depictions in the Media: How do They Affect What People Believe?” Skeptical Inquirer, 22: 35-9. (http://www.ravenndragon.net/montgomery/sparks.html)
Steinke, J., M. Lapinski, M. Long, C. VanDerMaas, L. Ryan, & B. Applegate (2009) “Seeing Oneself as Scientist: Media Influences and Adolescent Girls’ Science Career-Possible Selves,” Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 15: 279-301.
Tomes, N. (2000) “The Making of a Germ Panic, Then and Now,” American Journal of Public Health, 90(2): 191-198. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446148/pdf/10667179.pdf)
Vaughan, P.W., E.M. Rogers, A. Singhal, & R.M. Swalehe (2000) “Entertainment-Education and HIV/AIDS Prevention: A Field Experiment in Tanzania,” Journal of Health Communication, 5(1): 81-100. (http://utminers.utep.edu/asinghal/Articles%20and%20Chapters/Vaughan-JHC-Entertainment%20Education%20and%20HIV%20AIDS...%20%2012.12.0.pdf)