Can Media Affect Our Attitudes Toward Money?

By Rick Kahler via

If you watch TV shows that flash luxury products and feature rags-to-riches stories or the lives of the rich and famous, will you become more materialistic and cold-hearted toward the poor? You might, according to an August 1 story by Sarah Knapton in The Telegraph, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians may make viewers cold-hearted towards poor, study suggests.” It cites research done by the London School of Economics showing that “just 60 seconds of exposure to materialistic media is enough to significantly increase anti-welfare sentiment.”

The article mentions two studies. In the first, participants were divided into two groups. One group was shown clips of luxury products, rich and famous people, and rags-to-riches stories. The other group saw neutral images of London sights, natural scenery, and headlines about dinosaurs. Both groups were then asked questions that evaluated their attitudes toward wealth and success, government benefits, and impoverished people. The group shown the materialistic media scored more negative attitudes toward welfare and welfare policies.

In the second study, participants were asked if they regularly viewed shows like The Apprentice and X-Factor. Those who did were found more likely to hold materialistic and anti-welfare attitudes.

I have some doubts about these studies. For one thing, they mix data on two very different issues—an acute reaction to a stimulus and a chronic behavior.

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