Study Finds That Films Can Have a Measurable Impact on Audience Behavior

Norman Lear knew that film and TV could impact audience behavior 24 years ago when he co-founded EMA. EMA encourages TV shows and movies to incorporate environmental issues into story lines. Doing so increases awareness which leads to activism and eventually, change.

Researchers at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center released a study measuring a movie’s power to change the behavior of people who see it. The study of more than 20,000 people found that those who saw the 2010 Oscar® nominee Food, Inc. had significantly changed their eating and food shopping habits.

Food, Inc. viewers were significantly more likely to:

  • encourage their friends, family & colleagues to learn more about food safety
  • shop at their local farmers market
  • eat healthy food
  • consistently buy organic or sustainable food

This was compared to non-viewers who were virtually identical in 17 traits, including their degree of interest in sustainable agriculture and their past efforts to improve food safety.

“Filmmakers who want their movies to impact people’s opinions or behavior now have a way to find that out,” said Johanna Blakley, managing director and director of research at the Norman Lear Center, and the principal investigator for this study. “Over half of Food, Inc. viewers said, ‘This film changed my life.’ Our research tells us exactly how those lives were changed.”

Additional findings about Food, Inc. viewers included a significantly higher likelihood to contribute time or money to support organized efforts around:

  • improving the treatment of animals in the food industry
  • improving food and drinks served in schools
  • passing legislation that improves food safety
  • passing legislation that offers fair wages and job protection to farm workers and food processors

Click here to learn more about the study.

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