Lead author Yalda T. Uhls, a doctoral student in developmental psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues assessed the values of characters in popular television shows in each decade from 1967 to 2007, with two shows per decade evaluated, including "Andy Griffith" and "The Lucy Show" in 1967, "Laverne & Shirley" and "Happy Days" in 1977, and "American Idol" and "Hannah Montana" in 2007.
"I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years," Uhls says in a statement. "I thought fame would be important but did not expect this drastic an increase or such a dramatic decrease in other values, such as community feeling. If you believe that television reflects the culture, as I do, then American culture has changed drastically."
The study, published in the Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, found the Top 5 values in 2007 were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success, while in 1997, the Top 5 were community feeling, being kind and helping others, image, tradition and self-acceptance.
"Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism, but they also reflect the culture," Patricia M. Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology, says. "They both reflect it and serve as a powerful socialization force for the next generation."