Media Representation and Its Effect on Self-Esteem

Modified: 8th Feb 2020
Wordcount: 3058 words

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Self-esteem is defined as one’s own confidence, along with their own self-respect, and self-respect. Modern society has increasingly become aware of damaging images that are portrayed as tasteless and hurtful. Everyone is susceptible to having feelings of low self-esteem, which can stem from any number of reasons. The self-esteem of a person is often influenced by what people are constantly exposed. There can be an increased feeling of self-worth and pride when people are shown positive representations of themselves. This study will show a correlation between the decrease and increase of a person’s feelings of self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Exposure to different information, including information about one’s own culture or others can cause others to feel either empowered or embarrassed. Media is said to be strictly entertainment and should not be taken seriously, but it is important to be responsible when portraying any different culture. An easily impressionable group are high schoolers, who will be the participants in this study.


People are exposed to a multitude of media in recent years due to the advancement of technology. “Accidental learning can explain the influence shown in others because of the exposure to a model.” (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961).  It is very important to be aware of people consume.  Art is said to be an imitation of life, and can be reflective of facts, or opinions that can cause some type of change in somebody’s life. These changes can be how they feel about the people around them, or even about themselves.

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The information that a person is exposed to can have an effect on their attitude. Attitudes are a required part of a person’s self-esteem, which is defined as a peoples’ own perception of themselves. The way a person experiences life, along with the emotional attachment that comes with the experience can change the attitude regarding a situation, thus affecting their cognitive behavior. Cognitive behavior is defined as the way individuals perceive a situation. Western culture has access to different types of media, which includes television, internet Facebook, and Instagram. Some people tie their self-worth to the attention that they receive from their social media accounts.

As of late during the last decade, cellphones and internet usage has skyrocketed. Thousands of people have their own cellphones when just fifty years ago, people’s only access to communicating with one another was with landlines. Often times, people are not aware of the residual effects of the information that they are exposed to. The subconscious opinions that people have about themselves can be influenced by an outside source. These effects can be damaging in large or small ways. It can be as little and somebody saying that they dislike their nose, or as detrimental as hating their skin color and culture.  In order to be aware the effects of media in our lives we have to pay attention to what we watch and consume. Avoiding material that can cause upsetting feelings or programs that encourage negative behavior can be very important.

Media has become an increasingly popular outlet that is integrated into the lives of a majority of western civilization.  “We use media to organize the social world: coordinate societies, interact with each other, build communities, create and maintain trust, and convey and legitimize ideas, people and values.” (Carah and Louw, 2015) The amount of “likes” on sites like Facebook or Instagram that are received on a photo can make people feel good about themselves. Finding the connection between media and self-esteem can be done through a variety of experiments. Furthermore, self-esteem can be measured through a variety of valid tests.

Anonymous testing in a school setting is very possible because it gives the participants immunity to their answers to each question given. The importance of a study that regards the link between media representation and self- esteem is the high relevance of media in today’s time. The amount of time that people are exposed to radio, television and movies is vast and the amount of representation in any program that reflects a person’s culture is internalized and can make a person feel included or rejected. Knowing the effects that representation of media has on a person’s self-esteem is important in a time where media use is so rampant. Being aware of what is being shown to a majority of society can help eliminate having negative stereotypical material being shown and having a negative impact on people in society. According to previously conducted experiments colloquially  known as  the “Doll Test” in the 1940s, people are susceptible to having unconscious negative views of themselves because of what they are exposed to. (Clark & Clark, 1950)

Television and other outlets of media were made in the last fifty years essentially changing how we receive information and the power they have over the perception over the majority of the population. This study will be able to show the connection between the overall self-esteem and their exposure to media that has a positive representation of their culture, race, or overall appearance. The perception of media in today’s time is often that we are consumed in its subculture. Progression of technology is amazing because of the new opportunities and convenience through communicating with others and discovering new information. Each following generation is increasingly exposed to media, through computers, television, social media, and similar devices. It has greatly shifted comparably to a few decades ago when technology was not easily assessable.


The research will be extremely beneficial to large populations across the world because it will show how influential media is on groups of people. This research will show the importance of proper representation of a person’s culture, ethnicity. The method is this research may require a test-retest reliability with different groups of people in order to have very high external validity. Conducting this test in a school can help show how easily manipulated people can be in regards to their view of self and others, based on information that was shown to them over time. The effect of media on the enforcement of stereotypical ideas show how powerful media is. Showing the direct link of self-esteem elevation or depletion from the observation of a show or clip can further explain how easily media effects a group of people.



The participants of the study are diverse in both age, cultural backgrounds, as well as social economic status. Philadelphia is a large city that is a mixing pot of cultures, socioeconomic status and ethnic background. The high schools are spread across north, west and south Philadelphia. Participants will range from age 15 to 18.  Due to the fact that minors will be participating in the study, consent was required from their parents prior to the study. The study requires a diverse group of participants who have access to internet, television and other media outlets throughout the day. The participants have to be familiar with culture influence in America. This allows the study to have an increased external and internal validity. Gathering enough data will require a large amount a participants, as this will increase internal validity.  The study will require a minimum of approximately 300 student and a maximum of 500 students. This study does not target any specific gender, which will allow women and men to participate. Students to be any sex with the goal of 250 women and 250 men. The participants who are the target of this study will be able to have any ethic background and race.  The study is exempt from participants who have a history of suicidal attempts.

Materials and Measures

The study will be advertised throughout the schools, with fliers located in areas of the schools that are heavily populated: this includes the lunchroom, bathroom and school gym. Each of the fliers will include an overview of the study, as well as the researchers’ contact information if interested. The study will gain participants through self-selection sampling and convenience sampling alone. Self-selection sampling will consist of participants who choose to volunteer in the study.  Convenience sampling is an easy method in finding participants based on the students being close by. The study will be targeted towards participants who are currently enrolled in public or private education in Philadelphia.

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The focus of this study is the self-esteem of the participants who will be exposed to the media clips. The tool used to measure this will be the Rosenberg self -esteem scale. The Rosenberg Scale was created as a universal tool to measure both positive and negative feelings regarding self-esteem. The ten-question scale is a Likert format that can be used as a multidimensional.  The study will be a study repeated measures quasi-experiment that requires the participants to re evaluate their self-esteem after participating in the study. This study’s focal point is the external validity and ability to generalize this information to any general population. The effectiveness of the study will display the standard deviation of the study. All of the data that will be collected will be consolidated into a lump sum and spreads the information out over the course of terms.  This technique will show a high reliability on this study. Multivariate Analysis will be used during this study. The results of the Rosenberg Self- esteem scale is the only measuring tool that will be used in this study, but there are other factors that need to be analyzed. The study needs to be able to verify that the rise or fall of the participants’ self-esteem would due to the clips that were shown to them.


Gathering the participants included requesting consent from each of the school boards. The Institutional Review Board will approve the study. Consent must be gained from each of the schools principals as well as the parents/guardians of the students who were willing to participate. Each parent will receive a letter in the mail and email, detailing the reason behind the study, a signed letter from the school board, as well as the IRB that approved the study. The participants need to be actively enrolled in one of five schools that reside in Philadelphia. The Academy of Palumbo, Central High school, Roxborough High school, Eastern University Academy Charter School and First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School. These target schools and all either a public or a charter school.

The participants of the study will take two different evaluations that will measure their self-esteem as well as the number of hours that they are exposed to movies of different quality that may or may not reflect their individual culture, ethnicity, or background. The study will be held in two different intervals in order to do a test-post test that will increase the reliability of the entire study. This will offer construct validity, and measure the intended effect of the students’ self-esteem and if it did in fact increase based on the exposure. .

Each of the participants will be given a form to ensure their anonymous. The only information that will be used is their ethnicity, race and their individual responses. The participants will be watching a short clip throughout the study, which will take place in their respective schools. The students will be led into a room that is equipped with a large television and audio system. Each of the students will be given a Rosenberg self-esteem scale when they are sitting down. The students will be given a form that states the importance of the study.  When everyone is settled down the administrator will read the criteria of the study aloud in order to allow time for students who do not fit the criteria to leave. When the administrator is finished, the study will begin.

The participants will watch a short clip that negatively portrays a specific culture. When the clip is finished, the participants will be asked a series of questions regarding the clips and if they viewed it as a positive or negative representation of the actual culture and why. The students will be asked if the clip could be generalized to the entire culture that the clip is referencing. The students will be asked to complete the Rosenberg self-esteem scale the gauge their current level of self-esteem.  The Rosenberg’s Self- Esteem Scale is a measuring scale that is widely used to measure the emotional well-being of the participants. Following the completion, the forms will be collected by the administrator and the students will be debriefed in explicit detail about the reason of the study, and it will be finished.


The participants essentially indicate the study’s hypothesis to be correct because of the increase and decrease of self-esteem that some of the participants experienced following the clips being shown. The external validity of this study pertained to the public who have access to television and other methods of exposure to social media. This study is susceptible to a threat to its internal validity along with possible limitations.

The clips will be shown to a diverse group of students who all have different upbringing and perceptions. The principle of beneficence states that the well-being of the participants takes presidents over the research. The principle of respects for persons may be in jeopardy because of the nature of the clips may not be effective on any cultural group not shown in a stereotypically negative light. There may be a discrepancy with other students not understanding the intention of the clip to be perceived as negative or positive. Furthermore, the expected feelings of lowered self-esteem after the clip could cause emotional harm to other students. There is no physical risk to any of the participants.

Strengths of the study, is very relevant for today’s time. The external validity of this study will be strong because future researchers can repeat it. The study does not have to be an exact replication involving movie clips. There are different methods that can researchers can use to gain perspective on the influence of social media and the effects it has on a person’s self-esteem.  The scores of measures are Rosenberg self-esteem scales as well as open-ended questionnaire that allows the participants to express their opinions in the video.

There were multiple take home points of this study that needed to be addressed. One of the points was for the general public to understand the effect that media has on other people. This study could be There is potential to expand the study on how global relations can be effected by positive or negative media.


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