Always on My Mind: Exploring How Frequent, Recent, and Vivid Television Portrayals Are Used in the Formation of Social Reality Judgments
Prior research has found consistent support for the heuristic processing model of cultivation effects, which argues that cultivation effects can be explained by the availability heuristic. The present study represents an experimental test of the heuristic processing model and tests the impact of frequency, recency, and vividness on construct accessibility and social reality beliefs. 213 students participated in a 2 × 2 × 2 prolonged exposure experimental design varying the frequency of exposure to violent television programs, the level of vividness in the programs, and recency of exposure. Dependent measures were accessibility and social reality beliefs. Results showed that reaction times were largely unresponsive to the independent variables. Although there were no main effects for frequency on social reality beliefs, there was a significant interaction between frequency and vividness on beliefs: People watching vivid violent media gave higher estimates of the prevalence of crime and police immorality in the real world in the 3× viewing condition than those in the 1× viewing condition. In concluding, it is argued that this study has important implications for the heuristic processing model, cultivation theory, and research into vividness effects.