OMG: Gossip Girls (Perez Included) & Cultivation--WTH are the Effects?
A Study of Gossip Blogs on Material Values and Real World Perceptions
 
Student Researchers

Meghan Buonamici & Alison Cowit (Undergraduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from an undergraduate Media Effects course.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

Blogs have emerged as a growing form of communication and gossip blogs in particular are increasing as a popular genre of entertainment on the Web. Extensive research has been conducted on the effects of television exposure on cultivated attitudes and beliefs. This paper extends previous research on television to the field of gossip blogs and effects on material values and perceived reality.

Research Question & Hypotheses

Research Question
For college students, controlling for attention and need for cognition, what is the relationship between exposure to gossip blogs and material values, perceived reality of substance abuse, and perceived reality of societal statistics?

Hypotheses
H1: Exposure to gossip blog’s effects on material values.
H1a: Amount of gossip blog viewing will be positively related to level of material values.
H1b: The effect of gossip blog viewing on material values will be greater for those who pay more attention while viewing than for those who pay less attention.
H1c: The effects of gossip blog viewing on material values will be greater for those who elaborate more while viewing than for those who elaborate less.
H2: Exposure to gossip blog’s effects on perceived reality of substance abuse.
H2a: The effect of gossip blog viewing will be positively related to perceived reality of substance abuse.
H2b: The effect of gossip blog viewing on perceived reality of substance abuse will be greater for those who pay more attention while viewing than for those who pay less attention.
H2c: The effect of gossip blog viewing on perceived reality of substance abuse will be greater for those who elaborate more while viewing than those who elaborate less.
H3: Exposure to gossip blog’s effects on perceived reality of societal statistics.
H3a: The effect of gossip blog viewing will be positively related to perceived reality of societal statistics.
H3b: The effect of gossip blog viewing on perceived reality of societal statistics will be greater for those who pay more attention while viewing than for those who pay less attention.
H3c: The effect of gossip blog viewing on perceived reality of societal statistics will be greater for those who elaborate more while viewing than those who elaborate less.

Method

An online study was distributed to one hundred and fifty-two respondents using a sample obtained through communication courses at The Pennsylvania State University as well as social networking venues. Each respondent completed an online study pertaining to exposure to gossip blogs, news sites, and online shopping sites, in addition to questions regarding material values, substance abuse, societal statistics, attention, need for cognition and demographics. 

Results

The results of this study indicated that exposure to gossip blogs does affect certain beliefs regarding materialism and perceived reality. Higher exposure to gossip blogs leads to higher material values (Figure 1) and societal statistics (Figure 2). Attention acted as a significant predictor for material values when it came to exposure (figure 3). Another significant finding of this study indicated that online shopping site exposure was a strong mediating variable.


Figure 1. Bivariate Fit of material values By total gossip exposures.


Figure 2. Effect of gossip blog viewing on perceived reality of societal statistics.


Figure 3. Attention to gossip blogs x material values.

Conclusion

The results suggest that cultivation can occur through repeated exposure to gossip blogs. Gossip blog exposure can also affect certain individuals' perceived reality regarding the real world.  Although this is not true for all societal estimates, the results indicate a significant effect that should be closely examined in future research.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University