Media can seem more or less real. News shows pictures of actual events, feature films show pictures that are contrived, and all media offer content that can be taken as reality or fantasy depending on features of the media and beliefs viewers bring to the experience. Chapter 1 reviews features of the media and individual differences that interact to influence perceived realism of media. Chapter 2 describes two experiments that manipulate perceived realism in order to examine effects on emotion, cognitive effort and memory, employing psycho-physiological indices of arousal and cognitive effort. In both experiments, video clips were framed as "Real People" or "Actors, " reversing frames for half the participants while holding content constant. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 32) viewed 40 or 80 video clips and completed a recognition memory test 15 minutes after exposure. Video clips showing highly arousing content increased skin conductance levels when labeled "Real People" versus "Actors, " indicating increased motivation activation in response to stimuli with survival significance. Video clips labeled "Actors" decreased heart rate variability levels, indicating increased cognitive effort during processing. Participants showed increased recognition memory for audiovisual details in high arousal video clips labeled "Real People" versus "Actors." In Experiment 2, participants (N = 62) viewed the 80 video clips from Experiment 1. Video clips labeled "Real People" were rated as more involving, useful for survival, and typical than "Actors." High arousal content was rated as more involving, useful, and atypical than low-arousal content. 24 hours after exposure, participants showed better free recall and recognition memory for audiovisual details in high arousal clips labeled "Real People" versus "Actors." In sum, framing highly arousing video content as "Real people" increased physiological arousal and memory for audiovisual details. Chapter 3 discusses implications of perceived realism research for information consumers. Previous research has shown that people tend to believe what they perceive (Gilbert, 1991), and to respond to media as though it were real life (Reeves & Nass, 1996). Given the prevalent role of media in daily environments, and the lack of institutional oversight to assure the veracity of mediated information, information consumers are responsible for having the skills and motivation to evaluate sources and credibility in order to avoid Reality Monitoring failures in both individual and cultural memory (e.g. Johnson, 2007). Media features that elicit automatic sensory encoding processes are more likely to produce vivid memories (e.g. Lang, 2009), which are likely to be attributed to veridical sources (Johnson, 2006) and used in informing beliefs and actions (Shrum, 2009). Media literacy generally aims to shift information consumers from habits of automatic to critical processing. Cognitive approaches to media literacy interventions may include: a) increasing awareness of media features that elicit automatic sensory encoding (e.g. arousing content, edits, large screens), and b) reminding media users to consider the constructed nature and representational aspects of media portrayals. Focusing on elements of media construction offers a form of reappraisal which may interfere with automatic sensory encoding by increasing cognitive effort and reducing arousal responses to highly arousing content.
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1 online resource.
Psychological processing of the fantasy-reality distinction in video media [electronic resource] / Vanessa Maria Vega.