"How Fantasy Becomes Reality" by Karen E. Dill

Karen E. Dill. How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence. Oxford University Press, 2009. 320 pgs. 

This is a book about the massive impact that TV, Movies, Video Games, and Music has on all of us, whether we know it or not. 

Karen Dill begins by explaining the psychology of media. Most importantly, she shows that it does affect us, despite the fact that most people believe they are immune. This is called the "third person effect."  The 'third person effect' is the phenomenon that almost all people believe that other people are influenced and affected by media exposure, but they personally are not. Clearly, this is logically impossible and nonsense, but we convince ourselves anyway. 

With this established, Dill spends a chapter each exploring the following issues, relating serious scholarly studies in each instance: media violence, race and gender, social learning (focused on beauty and domestic violence), advertising and health, self-image and self-esteem, and politics. In every chapter you will be surprised at just how much of an impact media really has; I was certainly surprised. 

Dill concludes with a chapter containing a series of recommendations on how we can be more in control of our media diet and how it affects us. These range from the common sense (limit your exposure) to much more through provoking (approach your media diet as you would your food diet). 

This book was intensely interesting and a little bit dry. Yes, a book can be both simultaneously. Dill is a decent writer and, more importantly, she has some very important arguments to make. Further, she makes them well and backs them up with compelling evidence. 

The dryness comes in that this book was highly reminiscent of a textbook. Perhaps that is inevitable given the amount of evidence Dill piles into this relatively small book. Either way, it is more than worth working through just to gain the information. 

Did you know that it has been proven that playing violent video games does all the following, both immediately and in the long term: Increases physical arousal, increases aggressive thoughts, increases aggressive feelings, increases aggressive behavior, and decreases willingness to help or sacrifice for others? This is just one of the many interesting, and disturbing, facts I learned. 

A friend lent me this book and, thanks to him, I now have to contend with a deeper understanding of the impact of media violence on behavior. Newly informed, and thus newly responsible, I sit and I ponder what this must mean for not only my own behavior, but also what I teach and advise to the youth I work with. 

Conclusion: 3.5 of 5 Stars. Recommended. Though not the most exciting book in the world, it is incredibly important. Unless you are a media hermit, or maybe a Luddite, (either way, you are not reading this!) you should read this book. 

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