Are people vicariously seduced by romantic television relationships undermining the development of real-world romantic relationships?
Maybe so, finds a new study which suggests the threat is real for frequent television watchers.
Investigators from Albion College found that the more an individual believed in television portrayals of romance, the less likely they were to be committed to their relationships.
Investigators noted that many of the most-watched television shows (“Burn Notice,” “True Blood,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “Two and a Half Men”) feature romantic relationships prominently throughout their episodes.
Investigators believe this research will help individuals understand the impact that television viewing can have on their relationships.
“In this study I found that people who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV are actually less committed to their spouses and think their alternatives to their spouse are relatively attractive,” said study author Jeremy Osborn, Ph.D.
“My hope would be that people would read this article and take a look at their own relationships and the relationships of those around them. How realistic are your expectations for your partner and where did those expectations come from?”
Researchers followed over 390 married couples with participants asked to respond to questions about their satisfaction with their current romantic relationship, relationship expectations, relationship commitment, belief in television portrayals of romantic relationships, viewing frequency, and several others that focused on their spousal relationship.
Investigators discovered that the more an individual believed in the television romance, the higher people believed their relationship costs were. Relationship “costs” include a person’s loss of personal freedom, loss of time, or their partner’s unattractive qualities.
In other words, belief in television romance was associated with setting a higher bar for real romantic relationships.
“We live in a society that perpetually immerses itself in media images from both TV and the web, but most people have no sense of the ways those images are impacting them,” Osborn said.
Researchers believe the misperceptions may be a factor for relationship failure.
“The rate of marriage failure in the U. S. is not dropping, and it is important for people to have a sense of what factors are leading to the failure of so many relationships.”
The study will be published in the journal Mass Communication and Society.
Source: Taylor & Francis