Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


This study examined the effects of a media literacy intervention on the gender attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of a sample of 9th and 11th grade adolescents. As a time of identity development, adolescence can be especially challenging for girls, as they are faced with traditional cultural expectations about gender. It is proposed that the media, particularly television, reinforce traditional ideas about gender for both sexes, including traditional interactions with other gender peers, and may contribute to low social self-esteem in girls, with negative outcomes. A 7-session media literacy workshop, using a pretest/post-test control group design, was implemented with a group of 69 workshop participants and 67 controls from intact high school health classes. Dependent variables included attitudes toward women, traditional interactions with other-gender peers, social self-esteem, use of stereotyped descriptors, and belief in the reality of television interactions. Independent variables included the workshop, gender, and amount of media exposure.

There were positive correlations between several of the dependent variables related to traditional gender ideas and behaviors, between traditional interactions and belief in the reality of television interactions, and correlations between low self-esteem and media use. There were no significant differences in change scores between experimental/control groups at either post-test or follow-up for any dependent variable, except use of stereotyped ideal descriptors, which increased for the experimental group, indicating a reverse effect. A reverse effect was also seen with self-esteem scores, especially for boys. Classroom differences were explored, as well as gender differences, and the features of stereotyped descriptors used. Qualitative results indicated overall satisfaction with the workshop, especially for girls and those in the smaller classes.

Results were evaluated in terms of various theoretical interpretations of media effects, and the theoretical approach taken to promote attitude change. It is suggested that an inoculation approach may not be as effective with adolescents as one encouraging independent critical analysis, that identity of this workshop as an outside intervention influenced results, and that inclusion of media literacy in the regular school curriculum is warranted.



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