Hard-Knock Life: Exploring Prisoner Perceptions of Media's Influence on Society and Crime through In-Depth Interviews and Q-Methodology

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Carol M. Liebler


anomie, crime, media effects, prisoners, Q-methodology, violence

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication


Crime and violence are rampant across all forms of media, and audiences are increasingly exposed to this type of content. With the U.S. prison population continuously rising, it is vital to recognize the fundamental dynamics of what leads to crime and violence; past research indicates mass media are worthy of investigation in this area . The purpose of this study is to unearth and reveal the perceptions of media's influence on society and crime of incarcerated persons as well as their individual behavior and lifestyle choices. This study of perceptions uses Q-Methodology as well as in-depth interviews with 15 incarcerated persons at three correctional facilities regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. The focus is grounded in how these convicted persons perceive the effects media have had on their individual behaviors, both criminal and non-criminal in nature. From social psychology, anomie and strain theories help to contextualize the individual's position in society and their relationships; in the field of mass communications, social learning theory, social cognitive theory and cultivation theory, help to offer explanations of media effects as well as have strong influence on participant responses of their experiences. Results indicate that there are two primary factors from the Q-data sorts by the inmates: media's influence over the individual and over society. The results and themes from the in-depth interviews reveal four major themes: (1) gap between media and society, (2) familial influence and environment, (3) the dichotomy between individual choice and the third person effect, and (4) media's relationship with crime and violence.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.