Glamourised drinking in movies can encourage young adults to consume more alcohol, a new study has warned.
The study of the effects of alcohol portrayals in movies has found that positive and negative portrayals of alcohol can contribute to viewers’ emotional involvement or “transportation” attitude towards, and evaluation of the movie.
“It is my understanding that alcohol portrayals are depicted in the majority of movies, 80 to 95 per cent, and that they are mostly framed or portrayed in a positive +manner,” said Marloes Kleinjan, an assistant professor of developmental psychopathology at Radboud University Nijmegen.
“Exposure to alcohol portrayals in the media – including movies, but also advertisements and digital media such as Facebook – can encourage drinking in young people.
“Since movie characters can be regarded as role models by young people, the manner in which these characters portray alcohol use in a movie might have an impact on the beliefs and attitudes towards alcohol use by youngsters themselves,” said Kleinjan.
“It is essential to test the extent to which alcohol portrayals affect engagement and transportation into a movie because emotional involvement in media content can be a significant requisite for being influenced by persuasive messages,” said Renske Koordeman, who wrote her dissertation on the topic while at Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, and is the corresponding author for the study.
Koordeman and her co-authors used a within-subjects design in which participants were exposed to eight different movie clips containing alcohol (positive or negative context), or no alcohol portrayals, in a controlled lab setting.
A total of 159 college students (84 males, 75 females), 18 to 30 years of age, participated in the experiment. Transportation and attitude towards the movie were measured for each participant after each movie clip.
“This study provides initial evidence that alcohol and the way in which alcohol is portrayed in movies contributes to how people evaluate and become transported in movies,” said Koordeman.
“Participants were more transported into and had a more positive attitude towards movie clips with alcohol portrayals compared to the same movie clips with no alcohol portrayals.
“In addition, participants were more transported into movie clips with negative alcohol portrayals compared to clips with positive alcohol portrayals. However, participants endorsed more positive attitudes towards clips with positive alcohol portrayals compared to clips with negative alcohol portrayals,” Koordeman said.
Researchers agreed that the way and context in which alcohol is portrayed might play a role in the effects of movie alcohol portrayals.
The study appears in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.