New UCLA Research on The Causes and Consequences of TV Shows

David Bowie and new UCLA research both focus on “Fame“. 

“The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture,” said the study’s senior author, Patricia M. Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles. “Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism, but they also reflect the culture. They both reflect it and serve as a powerful socialization force for the next generation.”

How do you propose that we disentangle cause and effect here?   An economist would say that we need an instrumental variable; so permit me to propose one.    If there are rural communities that do not have fast Internet access and Cable TV access then among these communities, we could randomly select a subset to be the treatment group and “connect” these communities to the Hollywood Network and then send in the survey researchers to conduct baseline and 5 year later surveys in the treatment and control groups and conduct a “double difference” exercise to see if the 10 year olds in 2011 who would be 15 years old in 2016 who live in the Internet access areas are increasingly locked into Paris Hilton relative to their peers in the control areas and relative to 18 year olds who lived in the same treated areas before the treatment began.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

4 thoughts on “New UCLA Research on The Causes and Consequences of TV Shows”

  1. Uh, so what will you do about their facebooks? or their cell phones? Disable their twitter?

    Disentangling cause and effect in this field of research is impossible without doing some drastic things.

  2. Hmm… introduction of cable TV as an instrumental variable. That sounds familiar. And 45 seconds of Googling later:

    Does Television Cause Autism? (

    ” …In our final set of tests we use California and Pennsylvania data on children born between 1972 and 1989 to show, again consistent with the television as trigger hypothesis, that county autism rates are also positively related to the percentage of households that subscribe to cable television. Our precipitation tests indicate that just under forty percent of autism diagnoses in the three states studied is the result of television watching due to precipitation, while our cable tests indicate that approximately seventeen percent of the growth in autism in California and Pennsylvania during the 1970s and 1980s is due to the growth of cable television.”

    (Disclaimer: This citation is not an endorsement. I have no information or opinion on whether this is a valid study.)

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