Research shows that entertainment narratives have a big influence on people’s knowledge, attitudes and behavior.

We know from existing research that entertainment narratives can have a major influence on people’s knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Through our research and evaluation activities, Hollywood, Health & Society aims to better understand—and thereby enhance—the impact of accurate, informative storylines on health, safety and security in TV and film.

Since its inception in 2001, HH&S has conducted scientific research to shed light on how entertainment narratives influence the knowledge, attitudes and behavior of individuals and the larger public. By studying the storylines on which HH&S consults, this research has provided an abundance of evidence supporting our entertainment industry outreach model, and highlighting the reasons why entertainment storylines are so persuasive. In addition to our research on the impact of entertainment storylines, from 2003-2019 we conducted the TV Monitoring Project, an annual content analysis of the frequency and prominence of more than 100 health, safety, and security issues on TV.

Our research findings have been disseminated to the academic community and beyond through publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at professional conferences, guest lectures at USC and other institutions, as well as invited talks at entertainment industry events. 

In 2012, the Norman Lear Center established the Media Impact Project (MIP), expanding its research on the content and impact of media narratives beyond scripted entertainment. MIP partners with media organizations, advocacy groups, and philanthropic partners to study the ways in which a variety of media—including entertainment, documentary and feature films, journalism, and virtual reality—effect audiences. In 2019, HH&S research merged with MIP, such that MIP now oversees the entire Lear Center research portfolio—including research on HH&S-informed storylines. 

Below is research conducted by HH&S.

Can Transgender Characters Change Attitudes?
New USC Annenberg/HH&S research examines the influence of transgender TV characters and storylines on attitudes toward transgender people and policies.

Depictions of Caregiving and Person-Centered Care
Older adults continue to be underrepresented on TV. Just 25% of episodes had two or more older adult speaking characters, and 19% had two or more older adult major characters.

Greater Knowledge About Medication Abortion
An evaluation study on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy found that viewers who watched were more knowledgeable about medication abortion than those who had not seen the episode. 

How Do TV Storylines Affect Audiences? 
When a significant storyline on health, safety or security is scheduled to air, HH&S often works with the show to evaluate the impact of this storyline on viewers’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior. 

What Do We See When We Watch TV? 
Since 2003, HH&S has conducted a content analysis tracking the frequency and nature of depictions of more than 100 health issues in the most popular primetime TV shows.

Research Spotlight: How Do Images of Food in Entertainment Affect Us? 
HH&S research examining the image and impact of food in entertainment was previewed as part of the multimedia event Hollywood and Dine at Expo Milano 2015.

Publications List

A printable summary of our research and evaluation projects and publications is available here. For more information about HH&S research activities, contact Erica Rosenthal