Media Exposure and Social Norms—Media Fear

Does what you view on the television or hear on the radio influence what you think, do, or say? The media plays a large role in influencing social norms and may contribute to bias in what people think. In establishing social norms, the media might portray a certain perceived set of rules or behaviors that are considered appropriate. Failure to abide by those rules or engage in such behaviors may be viewed negatively and may even result in exclusion of certain groups.
Consider, for example, the overemphasis of being thin in the media. This overexposure may result in several individuals feeling inadequate if they do not look as thin and glamourous as the individuals portrayed in the media. Some individuals might try so hard to achieve a perceived ideal that they will practice unhealthy dieting behaviors while risking the development of eating disorders.
In addition to the media creating social norms, the media also plays a role in skewing the public perception of what truly represents a pressing public health problem. For example, when you turn on the nightly news, what is the likelihood that you will see a headline such as “1,200 people have died from tobacco use today”? Tobacco is the leading cause of death worldwide and yet it rarely is covered as a hot topic in the media. Instead, you often view headlines about violence such as mass shootings, killer bees, or shark attacks. While these events are rare, they often appear more frequently in the media because they are considered more newsworthy.
This week, you examine the effect of media on health behavior. You also explore how social norming might influence health behaviors and practices.

Week 2 Learning Resources
• Yzer, M. (2012). The integrative model of behavioral prediction as a tool for designing health messages. In H. Cho (Ed.), Health communication message design: Theory and practice (pp. 21–40). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
• (Chapter 2 in the course text)
• Perkins, H. W., Linkenbach, J. W., Lewis, M. A., & Neighbors, C. (2010). Effectiveness of social norms media marketing in reducing drinking and driving: A statewide campaign. Addictive Behaviors, 35(10), 866–874.
• Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
• Berkowitz, A. D. (2010). Fostering healthy norms to prevent violence and abuse: The social norms approach. In K. Kaufman (Ed.), The prevention of sexual violence: A practitioner’s sourcebook (pp. 147–171).
• Holyoke, MA: NEARI Press. Fostering Healthy Norms to Prevent Violence and Abuse: The Social Norms Approach, by Berkowitz, A. Copyright 2010 by Neari Press. Reprinted by permission of Neari Press via the Copyright Clearance Center. e
• Hoffner, C. A., & Cohen, E. L. (2013). Media-related fear: Short-term and enduring consequences. In A. Valdivia (Ed.) The international encyclopedia of media studies (1st ed., pp. 1–28). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
• The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 1st Edition by Hoffner, C.; Cohen, E. Copyright 2013 by John Wiley & Sons – Books. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons – Books via the Copyright Clearance Center.
• National Cancer Institute. (n.d.).Pink book: Making health communication programs work. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute, Office of Communications.
• Making health communication programs work. Retrieved from:
• “Stage 3: Implementing the Program” (pp. 91–105)

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