THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF CULTURAL MYTHS: MANIPULATING BELIEFS ABOUT THE AMERICAN OLD WEST.
AuthorMORGANSTERN, DONNA RAE.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe purpose of this research was to explore how theme parks influence visitors' beliefs about the past and the emotional and attitudinal effects of such beliefs. It was based on the theory that theme parks in portraying an ideal past communicate cultural myths that have psychological impact and that faith in those myths influence current emotions and attitudes. The experiment took place at Old Tucson, an old west theme park and movie location. The independent variables were designed to manipulate subjects' beliefs about what was true in the actual old west, as well as their motivation to reaffirm old west myths. Before entering Old Tucson, subjects were given either "no cue" or a "famous movie location cue." Earlier findings indicated "no cue" allowed reaffirmation of old west myths, while the "movie location cue" caused decreased mythic beliefs. Subjects also received either a culture boost or threat before entry, in the form of a trivia quiz. The boost was intended to leave subjects unmotivated to reaffirm old west myths; the threat was intended to motivate them to seek myth-affirmation at Old Tucson. Upon exit, subjects were surveyed about personal mood, the old west, Old Tucson, and social attitudes and beliefs. No-cue (allowed affirmation), culture-threat (motivation) subjects expressed significantly greater belief in the myth of the old west than their movie-cue (prevented affirmation), culture-threat (motivation) counterparts. Subjects who expressed great belief in the old west had significantly higher optimism about the future than those with lower beliefs. Primary dependent measures included mood (anxiety, depression, hostility, positive affect, and sensation seeking) enjoyment of Old Tucson and desire to return dogmatism, authoritarianism, alienation, attitudes toward technology, death, politics and the environment. Enjoyment of Old Tucson, desire to return, dogmatism, and optimism were positively correlated with strength of old west beliefs among subjects motivated, and able, to reaffirm them.