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Altruism on American Television: Examining the Amount of, and Context Surrounding, Acts of Helping and Sharing

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Using a representative sample of television content featuring 2,227 programs across different genres and 18 different channels, the frequency and context of altruistic actions were content analyzed. A social cognitive theory approach was taken to guide the selection of contextual variables. The results showed that 73% of the programs in the sample featured instances of helping/sharing at a rate of 2.92 incidents per hour. Further, the actions were most likely to be initiated by adult White males and many acts were depicted in a humorous, realistic, and rewarding context. In terms of channel differences, shows on children’s basic cable featured not only the highest proportion of programs with one or more instances of altruism but also the highest rate per hour (4.02 acts). Differences in contextual features and channel type are discussed in terms of social cognitive theory below.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281 2: Department of Communication, University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO 63121 3: Communication Studies, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242 4: College of Communications, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801 5: Michigan Bankers Association, 222 North Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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