Watching TV dramas does not make us think that crime is more common than it actually is, a new study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania suggests. But rising violence on television appears to have some relationship to how intense our fear of crime is, even if we do not overstate our chances of being victims, reports the Washington Post.
It is a finding that nods to the power of such shows to create intense emotional bonds between viewers and on-screen characters. The study's authors, Patrick Jamieson and Daniel Romer, emphasize that their research is meant to inspire more work on what television actually does to our brains. At the heart of the paper is an idea that influences a great deal of cultural criticism: cultivation theory, which holds that television “cultivated a social reality that was often at odds with objective reality.” While the data are not strong enough to suggest that watching television dramas causes more intense fear of crime, fear of crime and violence on television do appear to trend together.