Who said TV was bad for you?
A small-scale study — solely made up of female participants, natch — found that "People who watch inspirational clips from the Oprah Winfrey Show are more likely to commit to helping others, and spend more time doing a 'good deed.'"
Thirty students in England watched videos of musicians thanking their former mentors on Oprah, while another thirty watched a neutral clip — a nature documentary. The Oprah watchers were more likely to help the administrator of the study with various less-than-appealing tasks.
Okay, so maybe it's not the most definitive story in the world. But Salon reports on further evidence of television's suggestive powers:
The Ohio State University study surveyed 353 undergraduates before and after they watched one of two half-hour programs that painted an unglamorous portrait of teen pregnancy. Half the 18- to 25-year-olds watched a relevant episode of a little show, perhaps you remember it, called "The O.C." The other half watched a news program produced by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which interviewed teen parents about the difficulty of their predicament.
The clips from The O.C. were more likely to have an effect on young women's stated intentions to use birth control, although their male counterparts actually were less concerned after the O.C. clip and unaffected by the news clip. The theory is that narrative is a more powerful way of imparting social messages; maybe the lack of resonance with the men had to do with their inability to relate to the story.
What both studies suggest is that entirely compartmentalizing entertainment and social values is futile. Waiting for the one that tells us what watching the Super Bowl commercials does to behavior.