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Religion, Crime, and Television

(Photo: espensorvik)

A new survey study by Amir Hetsroni (who has also studied the difference between real doctors and TV doctors) and Hila Levenstein looks at the relationship between TV viewing and crime perception. The study, to be published next year in Psychological Reports, found a difference between religious and non-religious participants. From Ynetnews:

Yet the data collected from the 778 residents of northern Israel who watched channels 2 and 10 during prime time viewing hours in 2009 revealed some unexpected information.

It soon became clear that among secular viewers there was a certain connection between television viewing and fear of falling victim to a crime. Whereas a situation called Counter-Cultivation was diagnosed among religious viewers. This means that the more they watched television, the less they feared becoming a victim of a crime.

The variance, thought small, might hint that religious and non-religious people consume TV differently. From the paper:

Watching TV associates with higher estimates of crime prevalence among non-religious viewers (ordinary cultivation), but it is correlated with lower estimates of crime prevalence and lower assessment of victimization likelihood among religious viewers (counter-cultivation). In both variants, the effect is not very large (2.5% of the variance among non-religious viewers and 4% of the variance among religious viewers at the most).

Prominent methodologists sometimes undermine the value of such small correlations, demonstrating that they can be incidentally found in almost any given database in the behavioral sciences (Meehl, 1990), but before we join that critical choir let us not forget that even though popular TV programming seldom features persuasive material, it is still capable of shaping part of the viewers’ crime related beliefs.