ACTION SAMPLING OF TELEVISION VIEWING:

A FAVORITE WASTE OF TIME

 

Lennart Sjöberg

Center for Risk Research

Stockholm School of Economics

Sweden

and

Department of Psychology

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Trondheim,Norway

(ljsoberg@fastmail.fm)

 

Rutger Magneberg

Datagram HB

Göteborg

Sweden

 

 

 

Online Publication Date: April  16, 2007

Journal of Media Psychology, Volume 12, No. 2, Spring 2007


 

 

Abstract

 

 

TV watching is one of the most important ways of spending leisure time, the average daily watching time in the Swedish population is about 141 minutes – about 15 % of non-sleep time. Yet, there is little research on the psychological processes taking place while watching TV. In the present study using still-relevant data from a 1985-86 data base, the cognitive and emotional functions of TV watching in everyday life were investigated by means of a random action sampling procedure. TV watching was characterized by a high level of happiness and relaxation, own initiative, a long time span, closeness to goal, commonness, and easiness. It was characterized by a low level of negative emotions, concentration, expected value of outcome, activation, level of intention and presence of others. TV watching thus emerges as an activity, which mainly provides some pleasant relaxation. It is common, easy to do and done in relative solitude. It is a somewhat interesting activity, but it stimulates little concentration and involvement. It is regarded as an obstacle to the pursuit of other goals. The relevance of the results for the present situation with regard to TV is discussed.

 

Key words: experience sampling method, action sampling, television, emotions, interest, involvement
 

Introduction

 

It is important to study action in the natural, everyday environment to understand how people spend their lives, and why they choose to do what they do. Knowledge about what people do, and how their actions influence their subjective world of emotions and thoughts, is important as a first step towards a theoretically based understanding of how they are affected by, and affect, their social and psychological ecology. Since relatively little work has been done in psychology on the naturally occurring behavior of people, there is little systematic knowledge about these matters. An exception is afforded by the work on ecological psychology (Barker, 1968; Schoggen, 1989), but it is now largely forgotten and never had any sizable influence on mainstream psychology (Georgiou, Carspecken, & Willems, 1996; Scott, 2005). More recently, there is growing interest in the experience sampling method (ESM) (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1987; Hormuth, 1986; Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1983) in very diverse fields of behavioral science, such as management (Ilies, Scott, & Judge, 2006; Miner, Glomb, & Hulin, 2005), developmental and clinical psychology (Forbes et al., 2006; Pieters et al., 2006), sport psychology (Cerin & Barnett, 2006) and, indeed, ecological psychology (Larson & von Eye, 2006). Both intra- and interindividual variability can be reliably studied with this type of method (Cranford et al., 2006). Kahneman et al. have devised a variation on the approach, which requires participants to rate experience from memory, rather than at the moment when it happens (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004).

 

In our previous work, an  action sampling method (ASM)  was developed and applied in a number of studies (Magneberg, 1995, 1998; Sjöberg, 1981; Sjöberg & Magneberg, 1987, 1990)[1]. It is different from the experience sampling method (Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1983) in its broader coverage of both emotional and cognitive aspects, and in focusing on moral aspects and depth of intention. Our previous work gave an over-all picture of the actions and emotions of people from a variety of categories and backgrounds. The basic idea of the method is to base sampling on actions that people carry out   and to investigate the momentary emotional and cognitive reactions or interpretations that people have in connection with their actions. It should be noted that actions are sampled as they happen in the ongoing stream of activity of everyday life. Action sampling diverges from the behavior setting analysis developed within ecological psychology (Schoggen, 1989) in being directly focused on behavior, as distinct from studying factors (behavior settings) influencing behavior.

 

In the present paper, interest is focused on what is possibly the most important and frequent leisure time activity: TV viewing. In the USA, in 2005, adult women watch TV on the average 5hrs and 17 minutes per day, men 4 hrs and 31 minutes[2], a level reached already in the middle of the 1980s. Comparable Swedish data is 2 hrs and 21 minutes as of May 20062  a lower level, but still very high. The average viewing time per person in Sweden was 2 hrs and 21 minutes.

 

There is a wealth of knowledge about which programs are chosen and by whom (Condry, 1989; McIlwraith, Jacobvitz, Kubey, & Alexander, 1991). There is also some knowledge of how the introduction of TV changes beliefs and habits (Bandura, 1994; Jeffres, 1994), e.g. with regard to their beliefs concerning threats and risks (af Wåhlberg & Sjöberg, 2000), and the effects of TV on daydreaming and creativity (Valkenburg & Vandervoort, 1994). There is work on personality and TV watching, see e.g. Finn (Finn, 1997), McIlwraith (McIlwraith, 1998) and Pierce (Pierce, 2005). Heavy TV users appeared to be psychologically maladjusted (Oliver & Armstrong, 1995). According to Wiebe (1970), TV watching has the function of relieving stress. Sensation seeking was unrelated to the amount of TV watching (Potts, Dedmon, & Halford, 1996). There also seems to be an association between heavy TV viewing and prejudice (Shrum, 1999). Children to parents with a low level of education watched more TV than others (Truglio, Murphy, Oppenheimer, Huston, & Wright, 1996). This work, however, is insufficient to answer the question why people watch TV[3] and what psychological effects TV watching have. The present study had the purpose of contributing to the analysis of this problem.

 

The study utilized a technique of random sampling of action described by Sjöberg and Magneberg (Sjöberg, 1981; Sjöberg & Magneberg, 1990). Using this technique, participants carried a pager for 7 consecutive days and were paged 5 times a day (between 8 am and 10 pm), at randomly chosen points in time. When paged, they were instructed to fill out a questionnaire asking them about what they did at that particular moment, the reasons for their action(s), and a number of mood and emotion related questions. 

 

The technique allows for the mapping of everyday behavior. It was found by Sjöberg and Magneberg that it gave data in good accordance with other data collected by means of retrospective diaries from a representative sample. The present approach differs from sociological and economic attempts at the description of everyday behavior in being much more data rich with respect to the details of each particular action.

 

Csikszentmihalyi and Kubey reported a study of TV watching (Csikszentmihalyi & Kubey, 1981; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). They found that television viewing in the USA "was consistently tied to relaxation, to weaker cognitive investments, and to lower feelings of potency when compared to other activities" (pp. 325-326). They likened television viewing to the consumption of alcohol. Our own previous work on the psychological antecedents and effects of drinking alcohol in everyday life (Magneberg & Sjöberg, 1995) partly support their suggestion in this respect.

 

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the antecedents and effects of TV watching in time samples of ordinary, everyday behavior. We use a methodology, which differs in some important respects from that used by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi (Csikszentmihalyi & Kubey, 1981; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)., as explained below in the methods section. In addition, our study concerned a quite different TV system from the U.S. system studied by them.

 

The data analyzed here were collected between October 1983 and May 1985. The current Swedish TV system is still dominated by the same two state controlled channels as in 1983-85. These channels conduct a similar program policy, i.e. a combination of American entertainment (mostly movies), quiz programs and their own "debate" programs about political problems. The two main news programs are the same and aired at the same times. There is one main change, though, in the sense that there is now also a commercial channel which is widely available. It policies are somewhat more oriented towards entertainment. There are also cable channels (pay-TV), which reach a limited fraction of the public. The total time spent watching TV is not much different now, although some young people spend much time surfing on the Internet, chatting or playing computer games.

 

Methods

 

Participants

 

There were 152 participants who took part in the project for a small fee. They reported data from 4839 actions. Forty-nine percent were women and 51 were men. Age varied between 18 and 65 with a median of 35. Further details are given elsewhere (Sjöberg & Magneberg, 1990).

 

Procedure

 

Each participant was given 35 copies of the questionnaire, a pocket size pager and written instructions regarding five points of time each day for seven subsequent days. The pager made it possible to reach all participants simultaneously anywhere in Sweden by means of the FM broadcasting network. Transmitting times for the signals were selected at random, after having divided the day into five time periods. Every signal sent to the participants was initiated by the investigator. Participants did not know in advance when to expect a signal.

 

The participants were instructed to carry the pager from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed, with the qualification that no signals were to be transmitted before 8 a.m. or after 10 p.m. When the signal was received, the participants were to register and evaluate what they were doing at that very moment, preferably immediately, but otherwise as soon as it was convenient. They were to use the questionnaire and answer all of the questions. Filling out the questionnaire took about 10 minutes. The participants were instructed to try to ignore the fact that they were carrying the pager and to carry on with everyday life as normal.

 

Questionnaire

 

The questionnaire, reproduced in Appendix 1, contained 30 questions, some of which had sub-questions. There were two main types of questions - open questions and rating scales using 5 categories (see Appendix). In the former category, the participants were first asked to state what they were doing when the signal arrived, and if they were doing something else simultaneously. Then they were asked about their location and what the goal of their action was. The final open question at the beginning of the questionnaire was to which consequences they believed the main action would lead. At the end of the questionnaire, they were asked to state, if possible at four levels of abstraction, the reasons they had for performing the action stated. The answers to the open questions were coded according to a constructed schedule with a large number of categories for each question.

 

For each of the four questions in the last part of the questionnaire where the participants were asked to give a "deeper" explanation of each action, they were asked to rate to what extent the action was carried out:

 

 

-  For what it might lead to (instrumental action - goal orientation)

 

-  For its own sake (consummatory action - value orientation)

 

-  Because of external circumstances (situational causation -situational orientation)

 

The actions were coded by two persons. The actions were categorized into 34 categories, the reasons into 99 and the expected consequences into 76. In our earlier study (Sjöberg & Magneberg, 1990) a reliability test of the answers to the open questions was performed. Both coders then recoded a sample of 30 actions five months later. They had formerly coded half of these themselves and half had been coded by the other coder. The within judge reliability was .76 and .60 respectively, and the between judges reliability was .81 and .61 respectively.

 

            The data was collected in 1983-85, a time with a different TV system as compared to the present one. The possible importance of the differences between the earlier and current TV systems is commented upon in the concluding discussion section.

 

The methodology used here was partly similar to the one devised by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), but there were some important differences, see Appendix 2 for a detailed comparison. Aspects covered by us and not by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi included:

 

1.   We probed the intentional depth of the actions, and goal-directed actions more generally.

2.      We asked about moral aspects of the action.

3.      We included items about how well liked the action was, and how difficult it was.

4.      We asked about basic emotions, not only about moods.

5.      One of our items asked about frequency of the action.

 

Items used by Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi but not by us asked about activities carried out in the time interval before the current “beep” and after the previous “beep.” Memory problems may have interfered with the data here, just as in the Kahneman et al. methodology briefly mentioned in the introduction. They also included some items about potency that we did not include, although our questionnaire did have items covering expected result of the action, and its easiness/difficulty.

 

Summing up the comparison, our methodology was clearly much more oriented towards understanding and describing action while the approach of Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi was to sample and describe experience in terms of mood (but not emotions).

 

 

                                                              Results

 

The data consisted of information on 4839 randomly sampled actions. Of these 524 (10.8 percent) involved watching TV, either as the primary (445) or secondary (79) action[4]. This number is an estimate of how much time people spend in front of the TV screen, of the time period sampled. The figure 10.8 percent is possibly somewhat smaller than the proportion of time spent by watching TV at the present in Sweden, which is about 15 percent as indicated above. One of the 8 groups of participants consisted of people sampled at random from the population in Göteborg. In that group, 12.6 percent of the actions involved TV watching.

 

TV watching was a less social activity than most others were. The mean number of others present was 1.22, as compared to 2.68 for non-TV actions (p<0.0005). TV watching was also judged as a more frequent action than other actions; mean ratings of frequency were 3.94 and 3.80, respectively, p < 0.003. The scale was defined as 1=”Very infrequent” and 5 =”Very frequent”.

 

A comparison was made between TV watching and all other actions. There were several significant differences, most of them highly significant. The mean values in the mood dimensions for TV and not TV are given in Fig. 1. Fig. 2 gives mean emotion ratings.

 

Figure 1. Mean mood ratings: TV and non TV. Scale 1-5.

 

 

Figure 2. Mean emotion ratings: TV and non TV. Scale 1-5.

 

 

The emotion scales went from 1=”Not at all” to 5 =”To a great extent.” The size of the differences, on standardized scales, as well as outcomes of t-tests of the mean differences between TV watching and non-TV related activity, are given in Table 1.

 


 

                                                                                                                                              

 

Table 1. Differences between TV and non-TV, mood and emotion scales.

Mood/emotion

t-value

         p

Mean differrenceTV – non TV

Concentrated

-2.223

.027

-.11

Secure

2.848

.005

.13

Active

-12.966

.000

-.66

Happy

2.029

.043

.09

Interested

2.703

.007

.13

Relaxed

7.907

.000

.34

Involved

-3.929

.000

-.20

Sociable

1.561

.119

.08

Hesitant

-8.425

.000

-.32

Angry

-5.112

.000

-.20

Contemptuous

-3.289

.001

-.14

Guilty

-4.085

.000

-.14

Disgusted

-2.288

.022

-.09

Surprised

-.782

.434

-.04

Frightened

-2.265

.024

-.10

Ashamed

-5.344

.000

-.16

 

The most pronounced difference was found in the scale Active; many differences were small in spite of being highly significant.

 

When it came to mood, TV watching was thus found to be a relaxed and passive activity with some positive feelings attached to it. With regard to emotions, TV watching was connected with a smaller level of negative emotionality than non-TV. Note that this finding refers to the emotions experienced while watching TV. The actions were also rated on a number of evaluation scales, see Fig. 3.

 

Figure 3. Mean ratings of evaluation scales: TV and non-TV.

 

Means and outcomes of t-tests are given in Table 2. The over-all picture is quite straightforward: watching TV was seen as unimportant, with no positive results expected, easy to perform but something to regret. It was neither liked nor disliked more than the average of other actions. It hindered the achievement of other goals, yet it was due to one’s own free decision, and one could leave easily. There was little time stress while watching TV.


 

Table 2. Differences between TV and non TV, interpretation and evaluation scales

Scale

t-value

     p

Mean difference TV – non TV

Importance

13.947

0.000

-0.69

Expected result

14.978

0.000

-0.68

Moral value

1.105

0.299

-0.05

Easy/difficult to perform

12.811

0.000

0.44

Regretted action

4.406

0.000

0.24

Liked or disliked

0.224

0.823

0.01

Facilitates other goals

7.186

0.000

-0.31

Could be influenced

4.701

0.000

0.21

Free to leave

17.593

0.000

0.58

Relaxed/stressful

16.824

0.000

0.69

Prefer other

0.980

0.327

-0.68

 

Action profiles

 

The mood/emotion and cognition/interpretation variables were entered into a factor analysis. Five factors accounting for 49.8 percent of the variance were extracted and subjected to direct oblimin rotation. See Table 3 for the pattern matrix, which was the result. (Factor loadings less than 0.3 are not shown).


                                                  

 

Table 3 Factor loadings of mood/emotion and cognition ratings.

 

Rating variable

Factor

 

1

2

3

4

5

Ashamed

 0.745

 

 

 

 

Guilty

 0.731

 

 

 

 

Disgusted

 0.722

 

 

 

 

       Contemptuous

 0.645

 

 

 

 

Frightened

 0.615

 

 

 

 

Surprised

 0.444

 

 

 

 

Angry

 0.433

 

 

 

 

Regret

 

 

 

 

 

Involved

 

0.849

 

 

 

Interested

 

0.786

 

 

 

     Concentrated

 

0.692

 

 

 

Active

 

0.682

 

 

 

Duration

 

 

 

 

 

      Free to leave

 

 

0.692

 

 

Influence

 

 

0.564

 

 

Initiative

 

 

0.448

 

 

Prefer other action

 

 

 

 

 

Frequency of action

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxed

 

 

 

0.649

 

Happy

 

 

 

0.566

 

Sociable

 

 

 

0.525

 

Easiness

 

 

 

0.491

 

Secure

 

 

 

0.462

 

No stress

 

 

 

0.402

 

Hesitant

-0.327

 

 

-0.392

 

        Like-dislike

 

 

 

0.368

 0.355

Importance

 

 

 

 

 0.689

      Expected result

 

 

 

 

 0.689

Facilitation

 

 

 

 

     0.400

     Moral value

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The factor correlations were small. The factors are readily interpreted:

 

-   (1) Negative emotion (Cronbach’s alpha=0.82)

-   (2) Flow (alpha=0.83)

-   (3) Control (alpha=0.60)

-   (4) Positive mood (alpha=0.75)

-   (5) Expected result (alpha=0.63)

 

Factor scores were computed by aggregating data from the defining markers, see Fig. 4 for the results for TV and Non TV actions.

 

Figure 4. Mean ratings of action profile dimensions.

 

 

To get a measure of the size of the differences, the scales were standardized. The t-tests and mean standardized differences are given in Table 4. It is seen that the difference was substantial when it came to expected result, and substantial with regard to mood and control as well. There were only small differences in negative emotionality and flow.

 
 

Table 4. Differences between TV and non TV, action profiles

Profile dimension

t-value

     p

Mean difference TV, non-TV

 

Negative emotionality

1.926

0.000

-0.09

 

Flow

4.035

0.000

-0.20

 

Control

11.924

0.000

0.45

 

Positive mood

11.476

0.000

0.44

 

Expected result

15.062

0.000

-0.72

 

 

 

Intentional depth

 

In four questions in sequence, respondents were asked to rate the reason for their action, the reason for that reason, etc., if they could give any. Intentional depth was measured by the number of levels to which they could answer. The mean ratings of goal orientation, intrinsic value, and situational influence are given in Fig. 5.

 

 

Figure 5. Mean ratings of determinants of actions.

 

The percentage of actions rated for goal orientation at each of the four levels is given in Fig. 4, which also gives the mean rating of goal orientation of the action. Outcomes of t-tests and sizes of mean differences are given in Table 5.

  

Table 5. Differences between TV and non TV, determinants of action

Determinant

t-value

    p

Mean difference TV – non TV

Goal orientation

9.010

0.000

-0.52

Intrinsic value

5.883

0.000

-0.32

Situational

5.109

0.000

-0.27

 

 

A further analysis was done by measuring reasons for action at each of the four levels of intention. In addition, we computed the percentage of actions, which were actually rated at each level. The larger this percentage, the deeper was the level of analysis of intention used by the participants. Results are given separately for goal orientation, intrinsic value, and situational influence in Figs. 6-8.

 

 

Figure 6. Percentage of actions rated for goal orientation at four levels of depth of intention.

 

The figure shows that deeper intention levels were increasingly rare for higher values of depth, and that TV watching was, at all levels, more superficial than other actions. In a corresponding manner, TV watching was throughout rated as less goal oriented than other actions. It can also be noted that, for both TV and non-TV actions, deeper intention levels were connected with a higher level of goal orientation. The results for value and situational influence, rather than goal direction, were similar, see Figs. 7 and 8.

 

Figure 7. Percentage of actions rated for intrinsic value at four levels of depth of intention.

Figure 8. Percentage of actions rated for situational influence at four levels depth of intention.

 

Figs. 6-8 show that TV watching was less accounted for by being goal oriented, a value in itself and situationally determined, than other actions. TV watching therefore emerges as a routine, as a habit. You sit down and watch simply because you usually do so.

 

Summing up, it was found that watching TV was associated with:

- feeling more relaxed and somewhat more interested, secure, sociable and happy

- feeling less involved and concentrated

- expecting a less positive result

- judging the action to be less instrumental, less consummatory and also less controlled by

   the environment

- judging the action to take a longer time

- being more alone

- judging the action to be easy

- judging the action to be an obstacle to pursuing other goals

- judging the situation to be easy to leave

- feeling that the action was associated with less negative emotionality

 

            A summary of this profile would look like this. Watching TV is an easy, routine activity, which brings about a happy, relaxed mood. It is associated with little concentration and involvement and with little expectation of a positive result. It is rather seen as an obstacle to doing other things. It is also a rather lonesome activity. With regard to intentional level, TV watching is a superficial activity.

 

Discussion

 

Why do people watch TV so often? The reasons suggested here are that (a) it is a source of some pleasant relaxation and (b) it is readily available, and (c) it is a well-established habit (Lee & Lee, 1995; McIlwraith,  Jacobvitz, Kubey, & Alexander, 1991; Verplanken & Orbell, 2003). There were no traces here of a more active attitude to the medium, such as using it for education and the acquisition of important information, nor that it is a very interesting activity. Of course, such an active attitude to TV may well be prevalent in certain people and with certain programs but the present data were not extensive enough to allow for such a detailed analysis. We believe, however, that the present data do provide a first approximation to the most frequent psychological states connected with TV watching. It is paradoxical that TV watching really was not more liked than other kinds of action. After all, it is a major way of spending leisure time. In the present study, TV watching emerges as an indifferent way to relax and achieve some freedom from negative emotions. People were quite clear about seeing TV as leading to little in the way of positive results except from these temporary feelings.

 

There have been few recent studies of TV watching using an action or experience sampling approach. The recent study by Goodwin, Intrieri, and Papini (Goodwin, Intrieri, & Papini, 2005) measured fewer aspects of experience while watching TV and found somewhat different results than the present ones. TV seemed to be associated with a lower level of emotional response in their respondents. They were, however, much older than the present ones, having a mean age of 71.8 years. A straightforward comparison is therefore difficult.

 

It may be the case that the mood states we have observed during TV watching are not caused by it, but rather that people watch TV when they feel a certain way. We do not believe that this is generally the case. However, since TV viewing is so common that it must surely be initiated in many different mood states. Also, TV viewing is a routine behavior, which requires very little in the way of a conscious decision (Sjöberg, 1993) or mental processing (Solomon, 1984).

 

Comparing to the work on TV watching by Csikszentmihalyi and Kubey (Csikszentmihalyi & Kubey, 1981; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) we find that their view of US commercial TV is in good accordance even with the present picture of a state controlled, non-commercial system. This is interesting and perhaps somewhat unexpected. Part of the reason may be that Swedish TV carried much of the same material as the US networks (Dallas, Dynasty etc). Another reason may be that Swedish TV planners had to consider viewer preferences, even if they were not directly dependent on income from commercials.

 

Still, Swedish TV was, in the time of the present study, in many respects quite different from US TV. It offered only two channels, and few programs were broadcast later than 11 pm. In addition, before 7 pm on weekdays there were few programs except for children. Many of the programs had a social ambition and feature discussions of prevalent social problems as conceived by the TV planners. These programs could, however, usually be avoided by switching to the other channel which tended to offer some lighter stuff in competition.

The most popular programs were newscasts. It is paradoxical that people should react the way they do in the present study if they watch TV news. However, it may be that news programs, too, are conceived as some kind of entertainment. It can be argued that TV creates fuzzy boundaries between reality and fiction. Further work on TV viewing with the kind of methodology used here would profit from making distinctions between program genres and viewing attitudes (Hawkins et al., 2001; Potter, Pashupati, Pekurny, Hoffman, & Davis, 2002).

 

It is interesting to speculate on the long term effects of being exposed to such a readily available, pleasant but little demanding medium as TV in its contemporary form. Some results reported by Sirgy et al. suggest that TV viewing causes life dissatisfaction (Sirgy et al., 1998), and Haferkamp found viewing to be related to dysfunctional relationship beliefs (Haferkamp, 1999). Shrum, Wyer, and O'Guinn also claimed a causal effect of TV viewing on dysfunctional social beliefs (Shrum, Wyer, & O'Guinn, 1998). Negative perception of own health, including obesity, has also been found to be related to amount of TV viewing (McCreary & Sadava, 1999), and so have low grades in school, see e.g. Cooper et al. (Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999). The heavy TV viewer also runs the risk of being negatively seen by others (Peiser & Peter, 2000). At the same time, the few who completely abstain from TV risk being looked upon as strange and different people, and especially children growing up in such families may face problems among peers (Steuer & Hustedt, 2002) The relations between TV watching and imagination/daydreaming have been found to be complex and not necessarily suggesting a negative effect of TV (Schallow & McIlwraith, 1986-1987); indeed, Winick (1988) found that life without TV is often very disliked.

 

However, the causal direction of the relationship can of course be debated. Putnam's well-known ideas about decreasing trust and its relation to TV viewing (Putnam, 1995a, 1995b) were not supported by Uslaner's (Uslaner, 1998) results, which showed generalized optimism to be the more important explanatory concept with regard to trust.

 

The futility of efforts to make TV viewing into something more involving and educational seems to be clear in the present data. The near future appears to bring about even smaller possibilities to direct the attention of viewers in desired directions, because cable TV and video are now widely available. These media expansions mainly mean that people will have more light entertainment from which they can choose. The same is true from the availability, in Sweden, of commercial channels. The more recent introduction of channels offering popular science and similar educational, political and social-cultural content, more so in some countries than in others, changes the picture somewhat but their audience is very limited. In Sweden in 2005, for example, the share of viewers’ time allotted to such channels was 18 percent.[5]

 

Computer technology, the internet and interactive video, may change the picture still further and may even bring about a more active attitude from the viewer (Ferguson & Perse, 2000), possibly interacting with user personality (Engelberg & Sjöberg, 2004). So far, there is no evidence that the media are replacing each other, but that they do interact (Coffey & Stipp, 1997). 

 

How did people spend their leisure time before TV, and radio? Surely, reading has decreased in modern times, and reading probably used to be a major way of spending time. Other social activities have also been demonstrated to decrease (Williams, 1986).  Possibly, TV is a favorite way to spend one’s leisure hours because the small effort needed, in fact none, to turn on the set and watch. The power of habit and the pleasure of being entertained seem to be irresistible (Kippax & Murray, 1977; Mundorf & Brownell, 1990; Rubin & Rubin, 1982). As one no-TV friend confided, “If I had a TV set I would be wasting so much of my time.” For some, having no TV is like being Ulysses tied to the mast in order not to fall for the temptation of the Sirens (Elster, 1983). Yet, not all TV owners are addicts. Many watch selectively and seem to have the behavior under control. Even if TV watching was found to have a low-level intention in the present study, there were cases when it was assessed at the deepest level. It would be interesting to investigate the strategies of selective and intentionally planning viewers.


 

References

 

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                                                     Acknowledgements

 

This study was supported by a grant from the Bank of Sweden Tercentary Fund.

 

 

APPENDIX 1.

 

 

Questionnaire

 

 

INITIALS:

DATE:

DAY:

TIME:

TIME-CODE:

 

 

01.                                        What were you doing when the signal arrived?

 

02.                                        Were you doing anything else at the same time? If so, what?

 

03.                                        Where were you?

 

04.                                        How were you feeling when carrying out the action?

                                                         not concentrated 1            2          3          4          5   concentrated

                               insecure  1        2       3        4        5   secure

                                                                        passive 1          2          3          4          5   active

                                                                             sad 1            2          3          4          5   happy

                                                                  indifferent  1            2          3          4          5   interested

                                                                          tense 1            2          3          4          5   relaxed

                                                                 uninvolved  1            2          3          4          5   involved

                                                                  unsociable 1            2          3          4          5   sociable

 

05.                                        To what extent did you feel

                                                                                   not at all           to a great extent

                                                                      hesitant  1            2          3          4          5

                                                                          angry 1            2          3          4          5

                                                             contemptuous 1            2          3          4          5

                                                                          guilty 1            2          3          4          5

                                                                   disgusted  1            2          3          4          5

                                                                   surprised  1            2          3          4          5

                                                                  frightened  1            2          3          4          5

                                                                    ashamed  1            2          3          4          5

 

06.                                        Was your mood especially due to past, present or the future?

 

07.                                        What was the direct cause of your mood?

 

 

08.                                        Did you take the initiative to the action?

                        no, not at all  1        2       3        4        5   yes, completely

 

09.                                        Were there any other people in your company? If so, how many?

 

10.                                 What is/was the duration of your action, i.e., the action itself without interruptions?

 

11.                                        Would you have chosen to do something else, had you had the possibility?

                   no, certainly not  1        2       3        4        5   yes, absolutely

 

12.                                        What was the goal of your action?

 

13.                                        How close (timewise) is/was your action to the goal?

 

14.                                        How frequent is this action for you?

                    very infrequent   1        2       3        4        5   very frequent

 

15.                                        Was your action important?

                        unimportant   1        2       3        4        5   important

 

16.                                        What significance did the surrounding situation have for your action?

                                                       hardly at all                                 to a great extent

                           facilitating   1        2       3        4        5

                             hindering  1        2       3        4        5

                               steering  1        2       3        4        5

 

17.                                        What result do you think your action will have?

                               negative  1        2       3        4        5   positive

 

18.                                        How morally justified do you consider your action?

               morally unjustified   1        2       3        4        5   morally justified

                                             Alternatively: the question is not relevant (   )

 

19.                                        How difficult or easy was it to perform your action?

                        very difficult   1        2       3        4        5   very easy

 

20.                                        Did your action hinder or facilitate other goals?

                              hindered  1        2       3        4        5   facilitated

 

21.                                        Do you think you could influence the situation you were in?

                         no, not at all 1        2       3        4        5   yes, very much

 

22.                                        How free were you to leave the situation?

        prevented from leaving   1        2       3        4        5   free to leave

 

23.                                        To what extent do you regret your action?

                              not at all  1        2       3        4        5   completely

 

24.                                        Did you like performing the action?

                             very little  1        2       3        4        5   very much

 

25.                                        Were you under stress or did you have plenty of time?

                       very stressed  1        2       3        4        5   plenty of time

 

26.                                        What was the main reason for your action?

                                             Would you characterize this reason as being

                        no, not at all                                       yes, to a great extent

a) goal-oriented                     1        2       3        4        5

b) value-oriented                   1        2       3        4        5

c) situation-oriented               1        2       3        4        5

 

                                             If any other reason, what?

 

27.                                        Was there any still deeper reason for your action?

                                             Would you characterize this reason as being

                        no, not at all                                       yes, to a great extent

a) goal-oriented                     1        2       3        4        5

b) value-oriented                   1        2       3        4        5

c) situation-oriented               1        2       3        4        5

 

                                             If any other reason, what?

 

28.                                        Can you think of yet another deeper reason for your action?

                                             Would you characterize this reason as being

                        no, not at all                                       yes, to a great extent

a) goal-oriented                     1        2       3        4        5

b) value-oriented                   1        2       3        4        5

c)  situation-oriented              1        2       3        4        5

 

                                             If any other reason, what?

 

29.                                                                  Consider your last answer. Can you think of any final reason for your action?

                                             Would you characterize this reason as being

                        no, not at all                                       yes, to a great extent

a) goal-oriented                     1        2       3        4        5

b) value-oriented                   1        2       3        4        5

c) situation-oriented               1        2       3        4        5

 

                                             If any other reason, what?

 

30.   If you have any further comments on a particular question, specify the number of the question and use the space below.


 

Appendix 2

Comparison between design of the present study and the questionnaire used by Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi

Question/dimension

Present study

Rating1 or open question (R/O)

Kubey & Csikszent-mihalyi2

 

Rating or open question (R/O)

What were you doing when beeped?

*

O

*

O

Anything else at the same time? If so – what?

*

O

*

O

Location

*

O

 

 

Concentration

*

R

*

R

Secure/insecure

*

R

 

 

Passive/active

*

R

*

R

Sad/happy

*

R

*

R

Indifferent/interested

*

R

* Excited/bored

R

Tense/relaxed

*

R

*

R

Uninvolved/involved

*

R

 

 

Unsociable/sociable

*

R

* (Hostile/friendly), lonely/sociable

R

Hesitant

*

R

 

 

Angry

*

R

* Irritable/cheerful

R

Contemptuous

*

R

 

 

Guilty

*

R

 

 

Disgusted

*

R

 

 

Surprised

*

R

 

 

Frightened

*

R

 

 

Ashamed

*

R

 

 

Past, present or future as causes of mood

*

R

 

 

Direct cause of mood

*

O

 

 

Own initiative to action

*

R

 

 

How many others present?

*

R

Others present?

R

Duration of action?

*

R

 

 

Rather do something else?

*

R

*

R

Goal of action

*

O

 

 

How close to goal, in time?

*

O

 

 

Frequency of action

*

R

 

 

Importance of action

*

R

* Anything at stake?

R

Significance of the surrounding situation; facilitating, hindering or guiding (3 dimensions)

*

R

 

 

Expected result

*

R

 

 

Moral justification

*

R

 

 

Difficult/easy

*

R

 

 

Hinder or facilitate other goals?

*

R

 

 

Could you influence the situation?

*

R

* Control

R

Free to leave?

*

R

* Free/constrained

R

Regret of action

*

R

 

 

Like to do it?

*

R

 

 

Time stress?

*

R

 

 

Main reason goal-oriented, value-oriented, situation-oriented (3 dimensions)

*

R

 

 

Still deeper reason reason goal-oriented, value-oriented, situation-oriented (3 dimensions)

*

R

 

 

Main reason goal-oriented, value-oriented, situation-oriented (3 dimensions)

*

R

 

 

Ultimate, final, reason goal-oriented, value-oriented, situation-oriented (3 dimensions)

*

R

 

 

Reason for action, three options

 

 

*

R

Thoughts before being beeped

 

 

*

O

Alert/drowsy

 

 

*

R

Suspicious/trusting

 

 

*

R

Strong/weak

 

 

*

R

Creative/dull

 

 

*

R

Resentful/satisfied

 

 

*

R

Excited/bored

 

 

*

 

Headache

 

 

*

R

Body aches

 

 

*

R

Other physical symptoms

 

 

*

O/R

Challenge of the activity

 

 

*

R

Skills in the activity

 

 

*

R

Note 1. Rating or question with fixed response alternatives.

Note 2. The Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi questionnaire finished with 28 items referring to activities prior to the one the participant was involved in at the time of the beep, plus four questions about sleep the previous night. Such items were not included in the present study.


 

[1] . See http://www.dynam-it.com/lennart/  for downloadable pdf files of some of these articles.

[2] . http://www.tvb.org/nav/build_frameset.asp, accessed March 26, 2007

[3] . An interesting paper on motives for listening to the radio could serve as a basis for a similar analysis of TV motivation (Shanahan & Brown, 2002).

[4] . In the following, all TV watching actions were combined in one category, disregarding the distinction between primary and secondary action. Analyses showed that there were no large or interesting differences between primary and secondary TV watching actions.

[5] . http://www.svt.se/content/1/c6/69/84/51/SVTPSR2005_tabell4.pdf, accessed April 4, 2007.