What's on, Who's Watching, and What it Means


  • George Comstock, Syracuse University, New York, U.S.A.
  • Erica Scharrer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A.

Television: What's On, Who's Watching, and What It Means presents a comprehensive examination of the role of television in one's life. The emphasis is on data collected over the past two decades pointing to an increasing and in some instances a surprising influence of the medium. Television is not only watched but its messages are attended to and well understood. There is no shame in spending hours in front of the set, in fact, people over-estimate the time they spend viewing. Television advertising no longer persuades--it sells by creating a burst of emotional liking for the commercial. The emphases of television news determine not only what voters think about but also the presidential candidate they expect to support on election day. Children and teenagers who watch a great deal of television perform poorly on standardized achievement tests, and among the reasons are the usurpation of time spent learning to read and the discouragement of book reading. Television violence frightens some children and excites others, but its foremost effect is to increase aggressive behavior that sometimes spills over into seriously harmful antisocial behavior.
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University researchers and scholars in social psychology, communication, child development, sociology, advertising, marketing, and political science; graduate and senior undergraduate courses in mass media and communications.


Book information

  • Published: March 1999
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-183580-4


"The renewed debate about media violence makes this comprehensive survey of empirical research on television viewers, content, and effect particularly timely...Highly recommended for all collections."
--CHOICE, October 1999

"This volume belongs on the bookshelf of all serious media researchers."
"George Comstock and his former graduate student, Erica Scharrer, examine an impressive array of studies (more than 1,100 are cited) in an attempt to describe the content of TV and to synthesize knowledge about people's uses of TV and the micro- and macroeffects of TV viewing. Comstock is the right person to take on this challenge. During the past quarter century, he has established himself as one of the leading scholars on the influence of TV in American life... the authors... make a significant contribution to an understanding of the role and impact of TV in our lives... the authors do a fine job of distilling and making sense out of the array of often conflicting studies about the content of TV and its effects... The book offers an excellent synthesis of social science research on TV: the essentials about TV--its content, uses, and effects. I recommend the book to all psychologists who are interested in the nature and effects of TV in contemporary America."

Table of Contents

The Industry and the Audience:Three Eras. The Main Means. Assembled to Monitor.Manufacturing the World:Decisions, Stories, and Viewers.The Political Medium.Public Thought and Action. Of Time and Content:Scholastic Performance.Antisocial Behavior.References.Author Index.Subject Index.