Steven J. Hoekstra, Ph.D.
TITLE: Associate Professor of Psychology
COMPANY: Kansas Wesleyan University
The assimilation of soap opera portrayals into viewers’ relational knowledge structures
Two studies were conducted to test the degree to which exposure to soap opera television influences individuals' relational schemas. Participants in the first study completed a series of questionnaires that measured their beliefs about romanticism, relationship fragility, the utility of conversation in relationships, and sexual attitudes. The first three of these constructs were measured in the context of a specific relationship (i.e. with reference to individuals' current romantic partner), and all four were assessed with reference to beliefs about relationships in general. Individuals in relationships also completed a measure of relationship satisfaction. All participants reported their habits for television viewing in general and soap opera viewing in particular. Results showed that general and relationship-specific beliefs predicted relationship satisfaction, but that soap opera viewing time did not appear to be a central influence in either general or specific relationship beliefs.
Participants in the second study completed a series of short relationship scenarios, as well as memory tests for that material and subjective judgments of task difficulty. As a priming manipulation, half of the participants completed television viewing measures prior to the scenario completion and the other half completed the television viewing measures after the scenarios. The scenarios were content analyzed and the memory tests scores were tallied. Across priming conditions, individuals who watch soaps were compared with individuals who do not. Neither priming nor individual differences in soap viewing appeared to affect the content of the generated stories, memory for the original story stems, or the perceived difficulty of the various experimental tasks.
Suggestions are presented both for revisions of the methodology utilized in the present study and potential directions for future research. The implications of the present studies for the media effects and romantic relationship literatures are discussed.
Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1999