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A recently published study from the London School of Economics (LSE) has found that TV shows that glamorize wealth and fame, like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Apprentice, make viewers indifferent or even hostile towards poor people. The Kardashian study was recently published in the journal Media Psychology.
To research the phenomenon, researchers showed 487 adults materialistic media messages (MMMs) including, “four adverts for luxury products, four tabloid photos of famous celebrities showing off expensive goods, and four newspaper headlines of rags-to-riches stories,” reports The Telegraph.
Another group was shown “neutral images” like advertisements about the London subway system, “natural scenery and newspaper headlines about dinosaurs.”
Researchers also asked participants about how often they watched nine TV shows — including The Apprentice and Keeping Up With the Kardashians — five U.K. daily tabloids that regularly run features on wealthy celebrities and 10 magazines — like Vogue and Cosmo — that advertise luxury brands.
They then asked participants questions about their attitudes towards poor people, wealth, government benefits and success. Researchers found a correlation between those who were exposed to MMMs and those who had negative attitudes towards poor people and social assistance programs.
Furthermore, researchers found that avid watchers of reality shows glamorizing wealth had “stronger materialistic and anti-welfare attitudes than lighter consumers of these shows.”
The study’s author Dr. Rodolfo Leyva, a doctor with LSE’s Department of Media and Communications said, “Results suggest that momentary exposure to and regular consumption of materialistic media messages (MMMs) induces stronger materialism and anti-welfare attitudes.”
He added, “Humans are inherently materialistic but also very social and communal. The way this is expressed depends on our culture. If there is more emphasis on materialism as a way to be happy, this makes us more inclined to be selfish and anti-social, and therefore unsympathetic to people less fortunate.”