ABSTRACT: Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. 6(3), Aug 2012, 224-230.
“Research in the field of entertainment-education demonstrates that narrative forms such as TV and radio can impact prosocial behaviors and attitudes. The current study addresses whether attitudes can also be affected by musical theater. Attitudes were assessed in 171 audience members before and after a professionally produced musical comedy that used social–cognitive principles to explore the theme of deer hunting. Measures included an 8-item Hunting Attitude Scale and an instrument assessing audience engagement (captivation, intellectual stimulation, emotional resonance, spiritual value, social cohesion/insight, and specific emotional reactions). A significant change was observed in attitudes targeted by the show. Audience members' reports of emotional engagement and insight were significantly related to hunting attitude change. Participants who had complex emotional reactions to the show (e.g., feeling both happy and sad) were significantly more likely than those who had only positive reactions to score higher on multiple engagement measures. Although previous research has found a link between strength of audience emotional involvement and personal efficacy, present results suggest an important additional role for complexity of emotional reaction.”
Overall, the study indicates that musical theater may be a promising method for promoting attitudinal change.
“So what’s the relationship between attitude and behavioral change?” you may be asking.
Behaviors usually, but not always, reflect established beliefs and attitudes. For example, a man who believes strongly in abstinence before marriage may choose to remain a virgin until his wedding night. Under other circumstances, that same man may engage in premarital sex despite his convictions after being influenced by social messages that his masculinity is dependent on sexual activity. Attitude is a feeling, belief, or opinion of approval or disapproval towards something. Behavior is an action or reaction that occurs in response to an event or internal stimuli (i.e., thought). People hold complex relationships between attitudes and behavior that are further complicated by the social factors influencing both.
Behavior can be influenced by a number of factors beyond attitude, including preconceptions about self and others, monetary factors, social influences (what peers and community members are saying and doing), and convenience. Someone may have strong convictions about improving the public school system in their town, but if it means a hefty increase to their property taxes, they may vote against any improvements due to the potential for monetary loss; or they may simply not vote at all because their polling place is too far from their home, or the weather is bad on Election Day. Psychology Journal Archives