1-2 page paper APA format--- Modern Popculture HMNT 3001

timer Asked: Feb 28th, 2015
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THIS IS A SECTION FROM THE TEXT BOOK : Holtzman, L., Sharpe, L.  (2014). Media messages: What film, television, and popular music teach us about race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. (2nd ed.) Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

The Processes of Selection As we investigate our informal and formal experiences and media messages about human diversity, some of the material will seem familiar and consistent with what you have already learned and “know,” and that is likely to feel fairly comfortable. At other times, the information not only may be unfamiliar but also may challenge some of your long-held beliefs and values and feel fairly uncomfortable. This discomfort is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the emotional or psychological discomfort that occurs when we receive information that is inconsistent with attitudes and beliefs we have held to be the “truth” (Baran and Davis 2009, 146). According to the theory of selection, this psychological discomfort is often so difficult that many of us seek a way to relieve the tension and return to a more comfortable consistency in our beliefs.

One of the ways people seek a more comfortable position is through selective exposure . Through this process, people frequently make choices about how they spend their time and with whom as well as the media they consume. Generally, most of us do our best to expose ourselves to information and messages that are consistent with our preexisting attitudes and beliefs (Baran and Davis 2009, 146). Leon recalls a summer job he had as a teenager working with a pair of school custodians, Mr. Chambers and Mr. Jones. The two of them always listened to the local jazz radio station as they worked. At first, Leon hated the music. He preferred rhythm and blues, pop, Motown, Stax-Volt, anything but the horrible stuff the custodians liked. But outnumbered and powerless, he became a captive audience to this unfamiliar genre. One humid afternoon toward the end of a particularly grueling day of moving furniture and cleaning floors, Leon was sent to the school library to unpack a large shipment of books. As he headed down the hall, he heard the sound of an acoustic bass thumping out the hypnotic rhythms of “A Love Supreme,” by John Coltrane. One of the custodians had left his radio in the library. Leon reached for the radio knob so he could switch to one of the R&B stations he liked, but he could not bring himself to do it. There was something so enthralling about what he was hearing that he had to keep listening. It was as though the music was speaking directly to him, calling him by name. For the rest of the afternoon, he worked to the sounds of drums, bass, piano, and saxophone played in ways that he had never heard them played before. When he got home that evening, he lay across his bed tired and a little sore, but instead of falling asleep, he tuned in to the jazz station and listened deep into the night. He continued to listen to it the next day and the day after that. By the end of the summer he had developed what would become a lifelong love of jazz. Leon did not realize it at the time, but in that brief period during his formative years he had gone through an experience that created sufficient cognitive dissonance to disrupt his pattern of selective exposure and permanently alter his musical interests—expanding his capacity to appreciate a diverse range of musical genres.

Another clear-cut example of selective exposure involves the television news programs people choose to watch. In the age of cable and satellite TV, viewers have an almost endless variety of options for news watching. During the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, it became increasingly clear that people who were politically conservative leaned in the direction of FOX News and people who were politically liberal or left were much more likely to get their news from MSNBC. The news programs they watched were likely to provide selected information and a spin on big news stories that were compatible with the viewers’ political beliefs, allowing media consumers to remain comfortable.

Another one of the selective processes is selective retention, in which what we remember the most and the longest are the things that either are consistent with our beliefs or are the most important to us (Baran and Davis 2009, 147). Most of us don’t forget breakups of major relationships in our lives, because they were significant to us. However, our brains seem to cooperate with the desire for consistency and allow us to forget things we have read, viewed, or experienced that offer a plausible, reasonable, and credible challenge to our own beliefs. Selective perception is a strategy we use to reduce the psychological discomfort when our beliefs are challenged. Through this process we actually change the meaning of the information or messages we receive so that they are compatible with our own ideas and convictions. Linda remembers quite clearly an incident of selective perception that occurred when she was teaching second grade in a school in which all the students were black and she was one of three white teachers. One of her seven-year-old students came in from recess crying. After some incoherent words in between tears, Linda pieced together what happened. Wanda said that another little girl had taunted her and teased her by saying that Linda was white and Wanda hit her, starting a fight. Linda said, “Wanda, you know I am white,” to which Wanda replied, “No, you’re not, Ms. Holtzman. You’re not white, you’re light.” Wanda preferred to think that Linda was a light-skinned African American woman. Wanda really loved her teacher, yet in her short life span most of her experiences with white people and most of the things she had been told about white people were negative or hurtful. Wanda’s selective perception was to make a translation in her own mind that allowed her to reconcile her affection for Linda and her distrust of white people—she just changed her teacher’s race.

The selective processes can be very powerful, but they are not foolproof or beyond our own conscious will. The extreme discomfort of cognitive dissonance can set off an automatic launch sequence into selective retention, perception, or exposure, or we can try something different when we feel this dissonance. We can pause. We can lean into the discomfort and allow ourselves to feel it. We can recognize that we do not need to make a choice of what to believe right in that moment. This pause can give us the chance to use analytical thinking to evaluate the discomfort and to consider the two sets of information with an open mind and an open heart. This process can move us from an automatic mode toward a process that encourages us to stay awake enough to evaluate the credibility of the contradictory information and to make a solid, independent decision about what we believe.

Cognitive dissonance is a concept and an analytical tool that is used in both human diversity theory and in media theory. If we are not aware of the process of cognitive dissonance, we will not have the consciousness to observe our resistance to new information and ideas, nor will we have the wherewithal to make independent decisions. If we are aware of our psychological discomfort and resistance to new ideas and images of diversity, we are no longer going down the highway on cruise control; we are in much more control in the driver’s seat.


  • Examine possible criteria for defining modern popular culture.
  • Reflect on how modern popular culture (and its texts) contribute to your sense of identity.For example, what elements do you accept, reject outright, or struggle to reject? (One way to address the final option is to expose one or more of your guilty pleasures - popular culture texts that you enjoy but wish you didn't for some reason.)


  • Compose a 1- to 2-page paper in which you do the following:
    • Determine a criteria for defining modern popular culture.
    • Describe how popular culture has in some way defined you, or describe how you "refuse" to be defined by popular culture.
    • Support your assertions by making at least 2 references, in proper APA format, to your course readings.

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