Achieving Positive Social Identity: Women's Coping Strategies In Response To Status Inequality In Television Portrayals.
Committee ChairHarwood, Jake
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis research investigated the influence of television viewing on the social identity management or coping strategies endorsed by women. Three studies (N = 536) tested predictions formulated under the aegis of cultivation theory and social identity theory. Cultivation theory suggests that exposure to low-status mediated portrayals of female characters may lead to the internalization of low status in female heavy television viewers, possibly resulting in a negative ingroup or social identity. According to social identity theory, members of low-status groups may cope with negative social identity by adopting any of three identity management strategies: individual mobility (disassociating oneself from the ingroup), social creativity (changing the dimension of comparison with a high-status group or changing the comparison group altogether), and social competition (actively pursuing legal and/or civil means in order to obtain a higher status for the ingroup). By integrating the identity management strategies as outcome variables in a cultivation-led framework, the main predictions of this research were that television viewing would be directly related to strategies of mobility and creativity and inversely related to social competition. A model of television viewing's indirect effects on identity management via its influences on the sociostructural constructs (permeability, stability, and legitimacy) was also tested in this research. Finally, this research examined other theoretically important variables that were predicted to impact television's cultivation effects. These were (i) gender role attitudes, (ii) perceived ingroup vitality, (iii) ingroup identification, (iv) perceived ingroup efficacy, and (v) perceived realism of television programming. The findings from these three studies indicate that television viewing has both direct and indirect influences on identity management in women. Specifically, television viewing was significantly and positively related to individual mobility and significantly and inversely related to attitudes of social competition. As television viewing was not related to any of the sociostructural variables, the preliminary model testing television viewing's indirect effects on identity management was not successful. However, a revised model incorporating perceived status of women, and perceived ingroup vitality, was more successful and consistently explained the data across the three studies. In non-traditional women, television viewing and gender role attitudes interacted to predict heightened mobility and creativity scores, and dampened attitudes of social competition. Similar but weaker effects were observed for more traditional women. Perceived ingroup vitality, ingroup identification, perceived ingroup efficacy, and perceived realism of television did not moderate the relationship between television viewing and identity management. The findings from the dissertation expand and add to the growing body of work integrating media effects and intergroup communication theories. Specifically, it extends the work focusing on media's influences on low-status group members' identity cognitions.