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SOCA01H3 Study Guide - Traffic Collision, Copycat Suicide, Anomie

7 pages25 viewsFall 2008

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCA01H3
Professor
Sheldon Ungar

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Suicide, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, and the Mass Media: Evidence toward a Theory of Suggestion:
Key ideas this article presents:
1) Suggestion affects behaviour which was previously thought to be unaffected by it
2) Different types of publicized stories exert different types of effect
3) Publicized stories affect some types of people more than others
Previous Study about Suicide correlated to main ideas of this article
1) National level of suicides increases significantly for a brief period after a suicide story is
publicized by the newspapers
2) Increase only after suicide story is published
3) More publicity to story = increase in national suicide levels
4) Increase in suicides occur primarily in the geographic areas where the story is publicized
- The Werther Effect: phenomenon that concluding that suicides increase after a publicized
suicide story because some persons are imitating the publicized suicide
Note: Skip ahead to the Main Idea for the sections explained in simpler terms (highly
recommended!). The chart at the bottom summarizes a good chunk of the notes. Read the
bottom section about theories!
The Effect of Suggestion on Drivers in Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents linked to having a suicidal component
- If so, they should behave like suicides and increase very noticeably just after publicized
suicide stories
9 Hypothesis: publicized suicide stories help to stimulate a brief increase in motor vehicle
fatalities
Method of Analysis
- Technique used to detect increase of motor vehicle deaths:
- Experimental Period: week following a suicide death consisting of fatalities during that
period
- Used Yukio Mishima, Japanese author committing suicide as example
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increases in deaths
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- Control period matched with Experimental period through following ways:
Control periods (containing no publicized suicides) are chosen to fall on the (see below)
as the experimental period:
o Same month of the year: corrects for seasonal fluctuations
o Same day of the week: corrects for weekday fluctuations
o Presence or absence of holiday weekends: corrects for holiday weekend effects on
vehicle fatalities
9 Main Idea: experimental periods shows large increase in fatalities indicating that following
a suicide, accident deaths increase
Timing of Motor Vehicle Fatalities in Relation to the Publicized Suicide
- Data: Fatalities rise steeply immediately after the publicized suicide vs. before it
- At 3 days after publicized suicide, increase is greatest
9 Main idea: motor vehicle accidents increase sharply just after publicized suicides
Relationship between Amount of Publicity Devoted to Each Suicide Story and Increase in
Fatalities after Each Story
- 2 additional predictions should hold true for rise in fatalities due to publicized suicides:
o Newspaper publicity index devoted to a story should correlate positively with the
rise in motor vehicle fatalities after that story
o More accurate this index of publicity is, the more highly it should correlate with the
rise in motor vehicle fatalities
9 Main idea: more publicity devoted to a story = rise in fatalities. more precisely one
measure this publicity = stronger correlation with rise in these fatalities
Some Possible Alternative Explanations of the First Set of Findings
- Hypothesis that a prior change in social conditions caused both the publicized suicide and
subsequent rise in motor vehicle fatalities impossible because:
o Both events would occur at the same time rather than one before, one after
o If no link is found between the two, difficult to explain association between suicide
publicity and rise in fatality levels thereafter
Detailed Analysis of Types of Accidents Occurring just after Suicide Stories
- Do stories about suicide trigger single-car rather than multiple-car accidents?
- Do stories about suicide combined with murder trigger multiple-car accidents?
- Is the driver who dies after a suicide story similar to the person described in the story?
Selection of Accidents to Be Examined
- Determining characteristics of accidents:
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