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The influence of television imagery on selected African-American young adults' self-perceptions

Camille Olivia Cosby, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of the study was to determine the possible influence of particular television imageries of African-Americans on the self-perceptions of selected young adult African-Americans, ages eighteen to twenty-five. The focus of the study was on specific aspects of self that are addressed by particular television imageries of African-Americans and the possible influences that particular television imageries have on self-perceptions of selected young adult African-Americans. For the design of the study, a qualitative methodology was deemed most useful. Three African-American judges participated in the study: a social psychologist, an anthropologist, and a psychiatrist. The judges were asked to identify and analyze the positive and/or negative imageries that they thought may influence the self-concept of African-American young adults. Thus, the judges provided data for the study. Additionally, in-depth interviewing was determined to be the most useful method for gathering data from ten young adult African-Americans. The interview sessions included the viewing of nineteen episodes of a popular television show featuring African-American actors/actresses. Afterwards, the interviewees were asked to express their perceptions of the African-American television imageries. Profiles of the interviewees were established from a personal history form, and data from the interviews were analyzed. The judges' data explain that the television images are likely to have negative influences on self-perceptions of the young African-American viewers. Moreover, the judges overwhelmingly agreed that degrading stereotypes are the major likely influences on self. Thirty hours of interviews with ten African-American adults revealed that the subjects differed in their perceptions of the possible influence of the television programming on their self-perceptions. Although differences in perceptions existed, only one respondent perceived all television episodes to have negative influences, except for the hybrids. Many of the episodes were viewed as having the potential for positive and negative influences. The judges perceived the television imageries to be negative. Yet the young African-Americans who were interviewed tended to see the same imagery as being positive. This difference in perception among different generations of African-Americans may be attributed to thoughts about humor and ridicule. Also, the limited life experiences of those being interviewed may influence their critical consciousness and thus contribute to the tendency to be more tolerant of the possible negative impact the images may have on their views of themselves. The television industry must join the effort to make education a more positive and powerful means for equality in our democracy.

Subject Area

Educational software|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Cosby, Camille Olivia, "The influence of television imagery on selected African-American young adults' self-perceptions" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233048.