- Dudo, A., Brossard, D., Shanahan, J., Scheufele, D. A., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2011). Science on television in the 21st century: Recent trends in portrayals and their contributions to public attitudes toward science. Communication Research, 48(6), 754-777. doi: 10.1177/0093650210384988
Monday, May 28, 2012
In many cases, our views of reality are not based on personal experience. We find politicians personable or despicable, even though we have never met them in person. And we feel intimately familiar with landmarks in foreign countries even though we have never visited them. For many of us, the same is true for scientists working in a lab. We have mental images of how they act or what they look like, even though few of us have never been in a lab watching a scientist at work. The tricky part: Many of those images may have little to do with reality.
Communication researchers have long studied this phenomenon as a "cultivation" effect of mass media i.e., the idea that many of our perceptions of reality are shaped by imagery we're exposed to in soap operas and movies. Communication researcher George Gerbner and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and later Temple University wrote extensively about how television portrayals of scientists, for example, can shape our views of them and their role in society. For some of his seminal pieces on the topic, see:
More recently, some of our own research here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (with colleagues at Boston University, Amherst and Delaware) has reported on modern-day portrayals of scientists in entertainment media and confirmed many of the basic premises of cultivation in the context of 21st century science:
Watch Barbara Kline Pope tell the full story behind the collaboration with Kenneth Branagh and give a much more in-depth overview of some of the very exciting developments surrounding the Science & Entertainment Exchange here: