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Drinking in movies may influence drinking behavior

Total recorded alcohol per capita consumption in liters of pure alcohol in people 15 years of age and older. Darker blue indicates higher consumption.
Total recorded alcohol per capita consumption in liters of pure alcohol in people 15 years of age and older. Darker blue indicates higher consumption.
This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Emilfaro.

The context and portrayal of the consumption of alcohol and the effects of alcohol consumption may have a relationship with drinking behavior in viewers and particularly in younger viewers. This is the conclusion of research conducted by Renske Koordeman and colleagues at Radboud University Nijmegen. The research was published in the May 20, 2014, edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. This is the first research that indicates a correlation between the way alcohol consumption in media is presented and the potential for alcohol abuse.

The researchers predicated their tests on the extent of emotional involvement that a viewer may feel toward the depiction of alcohol consumption in movies and television. The emotional involvement is called "transportation" and is a common characteristic of the escapism that movies and television have always produced in people. The researchers assert that the portrayal of alcohol consumption may also have an effect on the success of the film or television show as well as an effect on the branding campaign of alcohol producers that pay to have their brands prominently displayed in movies and television shows.

The test of the hypothesis involved 159 Dutch students between the ages of 18 and 30. The participants viewed short film clips that portrayed the consumption of alcohol in a positive manner, a glamorous manner, and a negative manner. No particular brand of alcohol was used in the experiments.

Movie clips that had a portrayal of alcohol consumption produced a higher level of "transportation" in viewers than the same clips that had no portrayal of alcohol consumption. Viewers achieved higher levels of "transportation" when viewing clips that portrayed alcohol consumption negatively. The participants in the trials had more positive attitudes about positive portrayals of alcohol than negative portrayals. The participant’s evaluation of a movie clip was greatly influenced by how alcohol was portrayed.

The research has several major implications. The movie industry may move to limit the presentation of the consumption of alcohol like it has the use of drugs and smoking in an effort to prevent alcohol abuse in younger people. Movie makers may begin to portray the bad consequences of alcohol consumption more that the glamorization of consuming alcohol because people remember the “bad” better than the good. Alcohol manufacturers may change their branding campaigns.

The multiple problems of modern life in the last decade may have produced more desire for escapism in movies, television, sex, drugs, alcohol, and the internet. The idea that drinking in movies can make a person drink more may be valid but the assumption that all people are so easily entranced by film may be an overstatement. We do not all have to lie in the middle of the road in traffic just because Beavis and Butthead did it but some few will.

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