“Mean World Syndrome” …. is this our world??


~~July 10, 2014~~ 

I came this graphic on Facebook this morning and shared it. I found it to be very interesting and educational. Hence, my reason for sharing. In doing so, a dear FB friend (JAN) responded to it and educated me about “the mean world syndrome”. I knew I had to research about it and this is what I found. 


  Mean World Syndrome is a phenomenon where the violence-related content of mass media convinces viewers that the world is more dangerous than it actually is, and prompts a desire for more protection than is warranted by any actual threat. Mean World Syndrome is one of the main conclusions of cultivation theory. The term “Mean World Syndrome” was coined by George Gerbner, a pioneer researcher on the effects of television on society, when he noted that people who watched a lot of TV tended to think of the world as an unforgiving and scary place.

     Individuals who watch television infrequently and adolescents who talk to their parents about reality are said to have a more accurate view of the real world than those who do not, and they are able to more accurately assess their vulnerability to violence and tend to have a wider variety of beliefs and attitudes.


Gerbner, a pioneer researcher on the effects of television on society, argued that people who watched a large amount of television tended to think of the world as an intimidating and unforgiving place. A direct correlation between the amount of television one watches and the amount of fear one harbors about the world has been proven.

The number of opinions, images, and attitudes that viewers tend to form when watching television will have a direct influence on how the viewer perceives the real world. They will reflect and refer to the most common images or recurrent messages thought to have an impact on their own real lives. Gerbner once said: “You know, who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behavior. It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it’s a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell.”

Gerbner says that the spread of the syndrome has become more intense over time. He describes how newer technologies such as VCR, DVD, and cable do not disturb the cultivation theory, but actually allow more complete access and spread of recurrent messages, although widening access to the Internet world of information can counteract that. The 1930s behaviorism models, the Payne Fund Studies, show that the effect that mass media has on our behavior is considerable.

This is called the hypodermic model theory: people are injected with appropriate messages and ideas constructed by the mass media. Individuals who watch television infrequently and adolescents who talk to their parents about reality are claimed to have a more accurate view of the real world than those who do not, and they may be able to more accurately assess their vulnerability to violence. They may also tend to have a wider variety of beliefs and attitudes.


Mean world syndrome can result in counter-productive behavior. In the words of Dr. Mark Warr, “What makes fear of crime so important as a social problem is its consequences for our society. When people take precautions based on fear that restrict their life and their children’s lives, we restrict our freedom and we do so unnecessarily. Fear also undermines the civility and trust in our communities that make civic life possible, and that’s a terrible consequence for a democratic society.”

A study done on male adolescents found a correlation between more frequent exposure to violence in TV and movies and lower grey matter density in the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex. 

This area of the brain plays a fundamental role in handling social conflict and in adjusting to new social environments. Damage to this area results in an inability to suppress certain negative emotions, such as fear of social reprisal. Therefore, this study may provide a biological basis for mean world syndrome.






~~The Mean World Syndrome Preview~~

~~Uploaded on Sep 24, 2010~~

The Mean World Syndrome
Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear

A new film based on the late George Gerbner’s groundbreaking analysis of media influence and media violence.

Featuring George Gerbner and Michael Morgan

For years, debates have raged among scholars, politicians, and concerned parents about the effects of media violence on viewers. Too often these debates have descended into simplistic battles between those who claim that media messages directly cause violence and those who argue that activists exaggerate the impact of media exposure altogether. The Mean World Syndrome, based on the groundbreaking work of media scholar George Gerbner, urges us to think about media effects in more nuanced ways.

Ranging from Hollywood movies and prime-time dramas to reality programming and the local news, the film examines how media violence forms a pervasive cultural environment that cultivates in heavy viewers, especially, a heightened state of insecurity, exaggerated perceptions of risk and danger, and a fear-driven propensity for hard-line political solutions to social problems.

A provocative and accessible introduction to cultivation analysis, media effects research, and the subject of media influence and media violence more generally.


We ALL are connected through TECHNOLOGY!!


We ALL are ONE!! 



7 thoughts on ““Mean World Syndrome” …. is this our world??

  1. One of the many dangers of media and the influence it has on our lives is the way media portrays different ethnic groups. For instance, look at how people of Arab or Middle Eastern heritage are portrayed, even is Disney films. They are virtually always seen as the villain. Now consider how Latinos are often portrayed. As a culture, most people of Latino background are actually NOT likely to be criminals, nor into drugs, crime, or even gangs. Yet movies, television, and yes, the news, shows otherwise. The same can be said for African Americans. Not only does media help to breed a culture of fear through something such as the mean world syndrome, but it also fosters and promotes xenophobia, and it is, in my considered (and actually educated) opinion, what is responsible for a great deal of the division and polarization we have in the United States today. When will we learn that we really ARE all in this life together? We are all so much more alike than we are different?


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