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The Pending Hour of Doom? Essay

The role of attitude with regard to behaviour is a good tool for measuring social and psychological reasoning. Azjen’s theory of reasoned action was first introduced as a psycho-social model that measured the relationship between attitude formation and its influence on behaviours (1991). This takes into account two key variables known as the subjective norm and the attitude. These are indicators of a person’s intention, from which behaviour and response can be measured a rational explanation for our patterns of behaviour. This concept was later revised to incorporate a further third indicator of intention.

This variable was called the perceived behavioural control. These three variables are seen to inform the intention from which behaviours are the ultimate outcome according to the theory of planned behaviour (Azjen, 1991). It is from this model that an attitudinal questionnaire was constructed to answer the thesis question. One particular psychological component in our relationship with the environment is desensitisation. Desensitisation is a cognitive effect that occurs when we become so used to something that we no longer respond to it in a sensitive manner.

Many theorists have suggested that this occurs due to our growing dependency on greater narratives that take us outside of our immediate realm (Baudrillard, 1993). For instance, television, film and media are all intricate forms of such distractive social narrative. The effects of this change between what we may call the proximal and the narrative is often assumed in psychological and sociological research as human responses are often measured in relation to an assumed natural norm.

It is hardly a surprise then that many people knowing of immediate danger die due to disbelief as the learned narratives associated with the non-proximal world view are not related to such immediate and direct experiences (Searle, 1980). This line of enquiry acts as the theoretical base of this assignment. Essentially, it is with this cultural dependency in the construction of our non-proximal world that we wish to set up this piece of research. Disasters affect all stages of life from the personal to the business. We seem to be vigilant in monitoring, preparing and responding to any sign of threat to our proximal environment.

This can be seen by business plans and managerial groups being set up to address the threats geared towards everyday business survival. Similarly, this can be seen in the vigilance displayed in people in their everyday personal lives. For example, mothers often monitor their children and display protective patterns of behaviour while the child is at play. Similarly, emotional well being and bonds are often guarded to protect from hurtful forms of anxiety as well as simple gestures of physical protection in using seat belts in vehicles, taking out insurance and simply watching where one is going when crossing the road.

This has a rather obvious anthropological basis, as to survive one has to protect one’s own well being and the being of the social group (Maslow, 1971). However, with the invention of the aforementioned mediums, such threats have extended outside of our proximal range. Essentially, the social group has become much greater and the environmental threats have extended beyond that of the direct. This has meant that preparation for threats have grown in stature. Essentially, the signs of danger have extended beyond the immediate that we would be naturally inclined to respond to.

This can be seen in narratives, stories and books that speak of danger ahead, grave consequences and impending doom. This can still be seen in modern day newspapers and the rhetoric of politicians urging us of a need to go to war or prepare for economic crisis. However, in the modern domain, this has extended to images in tele-visual news footage and films indicating to us a degree of catastrophic global events. Essentially, entertainment has now inherited the medium of disaster and forewarning.

Such outside sources affect the way we prepare ourselves and form an image of our world view (Miller & Arnold, 2003). For example, television and movies have changed drastically from their emergence in the early part of the twentieth century. Early forms of film traditionally depicted images based upon entertainment and were perceived as such. However, as the contrast between film and news has blurred by becoming embroiled in each others narrative and depictions of events, this distinction between entertaining fantasy and real life catastrophe has become less distinct (Zizek, 2002).

This is in itself unsurprising, as technological change is now increasing at a fast pace and has become something of a hybrid medium in the understanding of the world we live in (Tuckle, 1997). In essence, we have become dependent on it. However, this realistic portrayal of disaster would seem to have seriously disconnected our sensitivity to danger and our perception of our lives and what our lives effect. This blur is perhaps indicative of a lack of preparation and can be seen in such stunned responses to 9/11 in which society looks to recoil itself (Chomsky, 2001).

Further, books like “Extinction” are now looked upon as science fiction rather than of warning of impending disaster. This poses the question when disaster strikes will we be ready? Disaster movies such as `Category 6 and 7` have begun to inundate and influence our cultural perspective in that the narratives of natural and progressive doom have been depicted throughout. These have also been backed by the serious narratives incorporating scientific theory and evidence. However, with a quick look at the general behaviours of society it would appear that our sensitivity to such real dangers have been dulled.

Essentially, rather than change our behaviours to protect ourselves from danger or promote safety and vigilance, we seem to be indulging such narratives as entertaining fiction whilst going about our everyday lives. This thesis will therefore attempt to look at some of the possible reasons for this. Interview For this thesis question we will analyse the responses of people in relation to watching films and news reports depicting disaster. This will be done through a quantitative interview in relation to thematic questions related to responses measured by the theory of planned behaviour.

The interviews were to be used through random samples. The participants would have to disclose their ethnicity, age and sex. They would then be asked what they thought of certain films depicting a range of past, present and future atrocities and how they perceived certain ‘real’ events. These themes were then to be measured against the findings of the attitudes, intentions and responses measured by the model of planned behaviour. The interview was designed to test the role of people’s attitudes in the outcome of particular behaviours.

The particular behaviour to be tested in this experiment was the reaction to disaster films. The interview was designed to qualitatively test the intention of the interviewees taken from a random sample of student participants against the themes deriving from their view of disaster films. The intention of the participant’s behaviour was to be measured against the attitudes that the participant had towards disaster. In accordance to Azjen’s (1991) theory of planned behaviour, a questionnaire was drawn up to test the attitudinal beliefs towards disaster and to compare the findings with their intention to act.

The questionnaire was broken down into two sections. The first section asked four main questions regarding the participant’s intention towards responding to disaster. This was to be answered by the participants on a scale ranging from one, most negative, to seven, most positive. The second section asked three sets of attitudinal questions. These were also to be answered on a scale of one to seven. The questions used were based upon the three attitudinal variables in the theory of action; attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control.

These questions were divided into the three relevant groups. Each group of questions was then alternated between two types of sub question. In the attitude group these questions were alternated between outcome beliefs and outcome evaluations. In the subjective norm group these were alternated between normative beliefs and motivation to comply. In the perceived behavioural control group these were alternated between perceived capability and perceived controllability.

The answers from the attitudinal questions were then to be correlated with the results of the intention questions. This was believed to give qualitative insight into the thesis statement. Annotated Bibliography: Ajzen Isaac. ‘’The theory of planned behaviour‘’. Org. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 50, 179-211, 1997. This was included as it links people’s expectations and intentions with their attitudes, perceptions and their social norms and could be used as a methodological basis for qualitatively examining the data extracted from an interview.

Baudrillard, Jean. ‘’Symbolic Exchange and Death’’ Taken from: The Order of Simulacra (1993) London: Sage, 1976. This was included as it provides theoretical evidence of the role that television and movies play in the construction of symbolic reality and the role that this plays in constructing our responses. Chomsky, Noam. ‘’911‘’, 2003. This was included as it provides one key example as evidence of the way that visual evidence of atrocities are bound to pre-existing cultural narratives, rather than seen as real and direct events.


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