Date of Award

Spring 1995

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Schrank, Carl

Third Advisor

Carl Schrank

Abstract

This research addressed the social construction of attitudes toward the mentally ill. Three theoretical perspectives, cultivation analysis, uses and gratifications, and social support were utilized to determine how people may acquire negative attitudes about this group. Findings from a survey of 154 college students indicated that negative attitudes about the mentally ill are not acquired simply from increased television exposure, but from the interaction of viewing motives, patterns, and grades. It was found that students who considered television content to be realistic, who had a greater affinity for the medium, who used television as an informational tool, and who had lower average grades were the most apt to have negative attitudes about the mentally ill. Neither television viewing level or subjective appraisal of social support were statistically significant in determining attitudes about the mentally ill. Future research needs to address the refinement of the social support index to make it more sensitive to not only the reception of support, but also the giving of support.

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