April 23, 2009

TV, movies, computer substitute for people

Technologies such as movies, television, music or interactive video games provide the experience of belonging when none has occurred, U.S. researchers said.

Shira Gabriel and Jaye L. Derrick of the University of Buffalo and Kurt Hugenberg of Miami University in Ohio said illusory relationships with characters and personalities on favorite TV shows can provide people with feelings of belonging, even in the face of low self esteem or after being rejected by friends or family members.

The first study, of 701 undergraduate students found that subjects reported tuning to favored television programs when they felt lonely, and felt less lonely when viewing those programs.

A second study used essays to experimentally manipulate the belongingness needs of 102 undergraduate subjects and assess the importance of their favored television programs when those needs were stimulated.

A third study of 116 participants measured feelings of rejection to find that thinking about favored television programs buffered subjects against drops in self-esteem, increases in negative mood and feelings of rejection commonly elicited by threats to close relationships.

It remains an open question, whether social surrogacy suppresses belongingness needs or actually fulfills them, and they acknowledge that the kind of social surrogacy provoked by these programs can be a poor substitution for real human-to-human experience, the researchers said.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.