According to a just-published study in the Journal of Applied
Psychology, sex and violence may not sell after all.
Or, put another way, a study paid for by Pax TV found that people pay more
attention to commercials on Pax TV than on other programming.
In the study -- which bills itself as the first to correlate TV sex with
commercial recall -- 324 paid participants, evenly divided among men and women
18 through 54, were shown a violent show, a sexual show and a 'neutral' show,
each containing nine ads. Both immediately afterward and in a next-day telephone
follow-up, the study found that recall was better for the neutral programming
than for either the sexual or violent shows.
The violent programs included Martial Law, La Femme Nikita and
Monday Night Nitro; sexual programs included Strip Poker,
X-Show and Howard Stern; and 'neutral' shows were all Pax TV
programs, including Doc, It's a Miracle and Miracle
'Violence and sex impaired memory for males and females of all ages,' the
study concluded, 'regardless of whether they liked programs containing violence
and sex. These results suggest that sponsoring violent and sexually explicit TV
programs might not be a profitable venture for advertisers.'
The study offered two explanations: 'That sex and violence impair commercial
memory because they consume attention,' and that they 'prompt sexual and violent
thoughts, thus reducing the likelihood that the commercial message is encoded
into long-term memory,'
But the study also conceded that it had not tested those suppositions.
The study was spearheaded by Iowa State University psychology professor Brad
Bushman, who has conducted numerous TV-violence studies. Bushman said the
participants were paid $25 apiece, plus cookies.