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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 9 suggests that effects of television exposure can, to some extent, be explained in terms of the characteristics of the modeled behavior (Bandura, 1986; Bandura, 1989; Bandura, 1994). For this reason, continuing to investigate images of gender and age is considerably important, especially in light of the historically poor quality of portrayals of females. According to social cognitive theory, both direct and vicarious observations contribute to learning about our social environment (Bandura 1994, 2001). One form of vicarious observation is television viewing, which allows individuals to acquire knowledge about normative values and rules of conduct without physically engaging in any action. Under certain circumstances, repeated exposure to behaviors depicted on television can introduce or alter values as well as influence opinions and attitudes among viewers (Bandura, 1994, 2001). Thus, interactions with television commercials have the potential to re- formulate beliefs and expectations about social norms and the ramifications of certain behaviors. For example, research has demonstrated that exposure to the media has an influence on viewers’ beliefs about sex roles, politics, violence, and other aspects of the social world (Gross, 1984; Morgan, 1989; Morgan & Shanahan, 1995; Signorielli, 1990). The extent to which media images have an impact on viewers is tempered both by characteristics of the individual and the media content. One notable moderator is the perceived similarity between the viewer and the actor. Social cognitive theory suggests that individuals are likely to attend to and be influenced by models that are comparable to themselves (Bandura, 1994, 2001). For instance, findings from Makkar and Strube (1995) suggest that African-American women viewers will primarily compare themselves with similar others (i.e. African-American characters) in evaluating media images. Of course, individuals are not unconditionally influenced by every behavior they see modeled by a similar other. Instead, social cognitive theory further proposes that people are additionally motivated to learn observed behaviors when incentives are provided (Bandura, 1994, 2001). For example, viewers are likely to be influenced when those characters with whom they most identify are accompanied by enticements such as beauty, success, happiness, and monetary gain – common phenomena in commercial advertisements that aim to encourage product purchase. Disincentives also teach viewers about social

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials
9
suggests that effects of television exposure can, to some extent, be explained in terms of the
characteristics of the modeled behavior (Bandura, 1986; Bandura, 1989; Bandura, 1994). For this reason,
continuing to investigate images of gender and age is considerably important, especially in light of the
historically poor quality of portrayals of females.
According to social cognitive theory, both direct and vicarious observations contribute to learning
about our social environment (Bandura 1994, 2001). One form of vicarious observation is television
viewing, which allows individuals to acquire knowledge about normative values and rules of conduct
without physically engaging in any action. Under certain circumstances, repeated exposure to behaviors
depicted on television can introduce or alter values as well as influence opinions and attitudes among
viewers (Bandura, 1994, 2001). Thus, interactions with television commercials have the
potential to re-
formulate beliefs and expectations about social norms and the ramifications of certain behaviors.
For
example, research has demonstrated that exposure to the media has an influence on viewers’ beliefs about
sex roles, politics, violence, and other aspects of the social world (Gross, 1984; Morgan, 1989; Morgan &
Shanahan, 1995; Signorielli, 1990).
The extent to which media images have an impact on viewers is tempered both by characteristics
of the individual and the media content. One notable moderator is the perceived similarity between the
viewer and the actor. Social cognitive theory suggests
that individuals are likely to attend to and be
influenced by models that are comparable to themselves (Bandura, 1994, 2001). For instance, findings
from Makkar and Strube (1995) suggest that African-American women viewers will primarily compare
themselves with similar others (i.e. African-American characters) in evaluating media images.
Of course, individuals are not unconditionally influenced by every behavior they see modeled by
a similar other. Instead, social cognitive theory further proposes that people are additionally motivated to
learn observed behaviors when incentives are provided (Bandura, 1994, 2001).
For example, viewers are
likely to be influenced when those characters with whom they most identify are accompanied by
enticements such as beauty, success, happiness, and monetary gain – common phenomena in commercial
advertisements that aim to encourage product purchase. Disincentives also teach viewers about social


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