With digital streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime rapidly expanding their selections of original programming, there is no shortage of opportunities for television fans to “binge” their favorite dramas. But what are the effects of binge-watching behaviors, particularly when the content consumed features graphic violence?
In their recently published scholarly article, Sarah Krongard (Ph.D. candidate in the College of Communication’s Division of Emerging Media Studies) and Mina Tsay-Vogel (Associate Professor in the college’s Department of Mass Communication, Advertising & Public Relations) draw on empirical research to tackle this question.
“We have control over content, but also technology has control over us,” Tsay-Vogel told Boston 25 News in an interview about the research, which explores how exposure to certain television themes relates to individuals’ perceptions of the world. The study examined the violent nature of the most popular binge-watched programs as its focus—Krongard, Tsay-Vogel, and a team of students used quantitative methods to classify the nature and justification of the shows’ on-screen violence.
Exploring a phenomenon known as “mean-world syndrome,” the research team reports that “viewers who spend more time consuming commonly binge-watched online original programming are more likely to see others in the world as mean and less likely to perceive them as altruistic.”
In their article—which has been featured in BU Today, Pacific Standard Magazine, International Business Times and on Boston 25 News—Krongard and Tsay-Vogel also discuss how race and gender can play a role in prejudice formation. They report that the programs analyzed commonly depicted non-white individuals as sexually-threatening while white individuals were more likely to be cast as perpetrators of non-sexual violence.
“In particular, white perpetrators tended to be the ones who were morally justified in their behavior,” Krongard told BU Today. “Non-white perpetrators did not have that privilege.”
Watch the full Boston 25 News segment below: