'Alcohol use in movies drive young adults to drink more'
Moreover, exposure to alcohol portrayals in advertisements and digital media such as Facebook can also attract young adults towards drinking.
According to researchers, since movie characters can be regarded as role models by young people, the manner in which these characters portray alcohol use might have an impact on the beliefs and attitudes toward alcohol use by youngsters themselves.
"Viewers are often not aware of alcohol portrayals in movies. Product placement is more subtle than general ads, occurring when a company pays movie makers to portray its brand in a movie," explained Renske Koordeman from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Alcohol use is widespread in contemporary movies, often portrayed positively or even glamourised.
The study found that positive and negative portrayals of alcohol can contribute to viewers' emotional involvement (called 'transportation') and attitude towards evaluating the movie.
"In my understanding, alcohol portrayals are depicted in the majority of movies, 80 to 95 percent, and that they are mostly framed or portrayed in a positive manner," remarked Marloes Kleinjan, an assistant professor of developmental psychopathology at Radboud University Nijmegen.
During the study, Koordeman exposed participants to eight different movie clips containing alcohol (positive or negative context), or no alcohol portrayals.
"This study provides initial evidence that alcohol and the way in which alcohol is portrayed in movies contributes to how people evaluate and become transported in movies," Koordeman noted.
Participants were more transported into movie clips with negative alcohol portrayals compared to clips with positive alcohol portrayals.
"Stronger effects of negative events over positive events are found in various aspect of life," said Koordeman.
For example in social network patterns, in learning processes and in interpersonal interactions.
"This process might also be extended to movies," Koordeman said in a paper, to be published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal.