Monday, April 15, 2013

It Depends ...

For decades we've wrestled with explaining why some people seem to learn from TV news and some don't.  A subset of that work is trying to understand who learns from faux news programs like The Daily Show, an area of my own research.  There's a new paper out that goes a long way, I think, in explaining why some people learn from late-night comedies and some do not.  You know it's good.  It cites me.  Twice.

Anyway, the basic finding is summed up nicely in the study text:
The results suggest that viewers who orient to The Daily Show as news, or as a mix of news and entertainment, activate greater mental resources than those who orient to The Daily Show as purely entertainment.
So, to put it another way, it depends on how you approach the program.  This is not unlike a small body of work I've cited myself that argues one reason many people don't learn all that much from TV news is that they approach the medium as "easy" and relaxing, while they approach print as "hard" and requiring more mental effort.  The result is obvious.  Greater mental effort, greater learning.  As an aside, the less educated or interested do tend to learn something from TV news, in part because of the way stories there are structured as opposed to traditional print articles.

Here, this study published in Mass Communication & Society suggests much the same effect for late-night comedies.  It all depends on why you watch.

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