The Influence Of Television On Our Society

Some television networks cause alarming cognitive decline among viewers.

Influence of television

The influence capacity of television, both through soap operas, entertainment, advertisements, television news …, is widely recognized and has important and persistent repercussions, both at the cognitive and civic and political levels.

How does television influence us?

Based on the article “The Political Legacy of Entertainment TV By Ruben Durante, Paolo Pinotti, and Andrea Tesei”, published in the American Economic Review magazine (American Economic Review 2019, 109 (7): 2497-2530) in which it is measured the influence of accessing and viewing Mediaset content and how it affected people’s critical capacity, especially decision-making and voting intention towards Berlusconi (this being the benchmark for populism).

This chain stands out for having a so-called “trash TV” content with very little educational content, focused on more banal aspects and less sophisticated entertainment than on cultural content, and all of them in general tend to simplistic content.

Modulating our voting intention

What we see in this study, for example, is that analyzing the differences between the moment in which people had access to said chain, and therefore the time they have been exposed, is directly proportional to the intention to vote towards Berlusconi (Populism) in the different elections made.

If a person was exposed to the contents of this television when they were minors, when they reach adulthood, they will be cognitively less sophisticated and will have less commitment at the sociopolitical level than the children who were not exposed to this channel, which all can end up leading to a vulnerability to populist rhetoric, which, in this case, was the one used by Berlusconi.

This is confirmed in that the people who saw this “Telebasura” when they were young, had worse performance in numerical calculation and in literacy than the unexposed people (data measured through psychometric tests). Regarding the area of ​​least civic commitment, in addition to the ITANES questionnaire, interest in political issues and participation in voluntary associations were taken into account.

Children and the elderly, the most vulnerable groups

There are two especially important groups and where the effects are greater, both in people who were exposed to Mediaset (both being less than 10 years old and those who did so when they were older than 55). These 2 groups are, precisely, the age groups that consume the most television and, therefore, the ones with the greatest effects.

A group of special relevance, due to the concern of influence, is the group that was over 55 years old when it began to see that channel. In this case, the difference is 10 points compared to the same age group who did not see this content. A possible explanation can be given by knowing the evolution of the content broadcast by the chain. At first the programming tended to be light content and simple entertainment, little by little these people became regular viewers of the network. Up to this point, the main risk suffered was the tendency of viewers not to develop cognitively or civically.


In 1991, the channel introduced the newscasts, but these were biased in favor of Berlusconi, so that not only did the vulnerability to populist rhetoric exist due to less cognitive sophistication and civic involvement, but they were also the ones who provided it on their newscasts.

Regarding the voting trend towards the populisms of people mainly exposed to Mediaset and who were “educated” with it, the study reflects that the difference is up to eight percentage points above the people who were not “educated” ”With Mediaset.

The influence of Mediaset as soon as the populations stopped voting for Berlusconi in 2013, there was a rise of the 5 Star Movement, a more radical populism. It follows, therefore, that the vast majority of people who up to that moment had voted for Berlusconi had now come to support the 5-Star Movement. With this fact, we can reflect that what actually achieved the intention to vote was more populist rhetoric, which in both cases is shared, than politics or ideologies, also highlighting that both formations were especially popular among the less educated and socially committed population .

Important educational consequences

The results of this study are that the minors who were exposed to this type of television entertainment, as adults, are less cognitively sophisticated and have a less civic mentality, with which these factors make them more vulnerable to the populist rhetoric of , in that case that of Berlusconi, and currently that of the 5 Star Movement.

After all this, it remains to ask ourselves if this may be happening to ourselves, if it is something we want to happen and to what extent we are susceptible to suffering a negative influence on our political and civic behaviors and that our own values ​​are modified due to a poor choice in our entertainment.

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