The Impact of American Pop Culture on Decision-Making
1. American Pop Culture: General Introduction
Nowadays, the term “pop culture” is used as a general recognition of different trends in music, art, fashion and other spheres of public life. In this essay, the focus will be made on American pop culture and its impact on decision-making process of individuals in the US.
American pop culture has a long and complicated history. It is considered to be originated from the 1920s when it started to develop rapidly under the influence of mass media and consumerism (Kanner, 2007). In his turn, Martin (2010) claims that pop culture in America is significantly influenced by immigrant experience as it has always been open for new cultures and ideas. However, nowadays American pop culture is fascinatingly eclectic and diverse. It could be described as a set of values, aspirations, commercial products and ideology which are diffused through mass media and consumed by the US citizens (Fiske, 2010).
2. American Pop Culture Impact on Decision-Making: Theoretical Aspects
As it was mentioned above, American pop culture has deeply permeated through society and occupied every little aspect of the daily life of each family in the US. It would be incorrect to underestimate its role and significance as it plays an important part in forming individual’s worldview, value system and beliefs. That is why it is not surprising that American pop culture often becomes a major factor which influences individual’s decisions on various issues throughout his life.
There are many different theories which try to explain how exactly popular culture shapes individual’s decision-making process. For instance, Blumer’s Symbolic Interactionism claims that people give meaning to symbols and interact with each other according to these meanings (Blumer, 1986). In such a way, popular culture partially defines what is considered to be ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ in society by setting up standards for social behavior. In case if an individual wants to conform to these standards he has to make corresponding choices and decisions which will help him to achieve this goal (Danesi & Turley, 2008).
Another interesting approach which can be applied in order to explain how popular culture affects individual’s decision-making is Social Learning Theory by Bandura (Bandura, 1977). This theory supposes that people learn from observing others and imitate their behavior. In such a way, they internalize both positive and negative examples from mass media which could lead them to making specific decisions concerning different areas of their life.
3. American Pop Culture Impact on Decision-Making: Empirical evidences
Numerous empirical studies have proved that indeed popular culture often becomes an important factor which defines individual’s decisions on various issues throughout his life (for example see: Jhally & Kilbourne, 2000; Tuttle & Pratto, 2001; Witt & Mossler, 2010 etc.). Below there will be given some examples of such decisions which are directly affected by American pop culture.
First of all, it should be said that nowadays popular culture dictates its own rules concerning beauty standards for both men and women. Numerous studies have showed that these standards are becoming more and more unrealistic with each passing year as they present an unattainable ideal which could lead to development of low self-esteem and destructive behavior among individuals who are trying to fit these standards (for example see: Grogan, 2007; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2002; Prideaux & bishops, 2005 etc.).
In such a way, women are under constant pressure from the media to be thin and have perfect bodies while men are expected to be muscular and successful. Consequently, many people make decisions concerning their diet, physical appearance and lifestyle choices according to these unrealistic standards in order to conform to them. Unfortunately, this often leads to development of various eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia as well as to different health problems which could be caused by extreme diets or cosmetic surgery (for example see: Biddle & Mutrie, 2001; Cusumano & Thompson, 2000; O’Dea & Abraham, 1999 etc.).
Another significant sphere where American pop culture has a great impact on individual’s decision-making is that of relationship and family life. It should be said that nowadays mass media tend to present a very distorted picture of what a ‘perfect’ relationship should look like. In such a way, many people have false expectations concerning their personal life which often leads to disappointments and failures in their real relationships. Besides that, popular culture also dictates its own rules concerning gender roles in relationships and family life. As a result, many individuals find it quite difficult to build successful and happy families as they have wrong ideas about what is ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’ in this sphere (for example see: Amato & Gilbreth, 1999; Becker & Murphy, 2000; Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983 etc.).
Last but not least, it should be said that American pop culture has a great impact on individual’s career choices. Nowadays mass media presents a very distorted picture of what a ‘successful’ career should look like. In such a way, many people have false expectations concerning their professional life which often leads to disappointment and frustration in their real careers. Besides that, popular culture also dictates its own rules concerning what is considered to be ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable’ in different spheres of professional activity. As a result, many individuals make wrong career choices and find it quite difficult to succeed in their chosen field of activity (for example see: Aronson & Glass, 1999; Hirsch & Borgatta, 2005; Kanner, 2007 etc.).
In conclusion, it should be said that American pop culture has deeply permeated through society and occupied every little aspect of the daily life of each family in the US. It plays an important part in forming individual’s worldview, value system and beliefs which often become major factors influencing his decisions on various issues throughout his life. That is why it is not surprising that American pop culture often becomes a major factor which influences individual’s decisions on various issues throughout his life.