The media you consume might indicate how you feel about the poor and programs to support them, a new study says, and it could even alter your opinions on the topic.
Researchers from the London School of Economics reached those conclusions after they quizzed 487 people about the types of television they watched and how they view poor people, wealth and support provided by the government.
They split the subjects up into two groups: One was shown tabloid images of celebrities, advertisements for expensive items and newspaper stories about people pulling themselves out of poverty and into wealth; a second group saw newspaper stories about dinosaurs, pictures of nature and advertisements about London.
Both groups viewed 12 pieces of media for five seconds each, the study said, and were then asked about their opinions on the poor and welfare.
Those who were in the first group — which viewed more materialistic media — were more likely to have “anti-welfare attitudes and support for anti-welfare policies” than the second group, the study says. The difference between the two groups was described as “significant.”
“This suggests that just 1 intermittent minute of attention to common and typical materialistic media messages caused a significant increase in anti-welfare sentiments,” the study’s authors wrote.
There are some caveats in the study for those in the United States. All the subjects were British, and researchers asked about welfare programs that “were modelled after actual UK government tax cuts, austerity measures, and welfare reforms that according to extensive policy research, have had detrimental effects on welfare institutions and beneficiaries.”
Also, the subjects were aged between 18 to 49.
But Dr. Rodolfo Leyva, the study’s author, told Newsweek that the study’s findings likely would hold up in the United States.
“Particularly because the media environments are very similar, we view pretty much the same types of television shows,” he said. “There’s a good chance that there would be similar findings if I were to run the study in the U.S.”
The study also found that anti-welfare sentiments are higher among those who watch shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “X-Factor” and “The Apprentice.”
The study offered a potential reason for that finding, as well as the conclusion that materialistic news can change a person’s opinion on how much help the government should extend to those in poverty.
“Humans are inherently materialistic but also very social and communal,” the study reports, according to Newsweek. “The way this is expressed depends on our culture.
“If there is more emphasis on materialism as a way to be happy, this makes us more inclined to be selfish and anti-social, and therefore unsympathetic to people less fortunate.”
The study has been published in the journal Media Psychology.