Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



Entertainment media represent a primary source of health information, making it a prime area of research for wide-spread health issues such as chronic pain. Chronic pain conditions can elicit stigmatization due to pain representing a subjective experience; coming to understand the experience of a person in pain can reduce stigma for that person as well as the entire group of people with chronic pain. Entertainment media, through the use of an engaging narrative and characters, can portray an illness experience that potentially elicits empathy and reduces stigma for chronic pain conditions. This study is among the few to employ empathy and stigma measures for chronic pain. In a mixed experimental design, participants watched either a healthy or chronic pain media depiction from the television series House, M.D. and subsequently read an article about Smith, a stigmatized depiction of a man who experiences chronic pain after a vehicular accident. Empathy was divided into affective and cognitive components, and measured at baseline, post-video, and post-article times. Results from a repeated-measures ANOVA found that Gregory House was highly stigmatized and Smith moderately stigmatized. Additionally, empathy diminished for both healthy and pain depictions with no statistical difference. However, significant gender differences were found between baseline, post-video, and post-article scores for both empathy and stigma. Females experienced greater changes in empathy and stigma than males, expressing both higher baseline scores and lower post-video scores. Implications for cultivation theory are explored.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sylvester, Judith