Research shows audiences respond to the science in television fiction in diverse ways, varying with personal circumstances and beliefs. Little research, however, has examined whether regular viewers of a television series see its science content differently from people tuning in for the first time. In this small study we screened an episode of forensic drama series Bones to five focus groups comprised of regular viewers, casual viewers and/or people who had never seen Bones before. While all viewers were equally skeptical about unrealistic scientist stereotypes and unconventional scientific experiments in the episode, prior experience did influence viewers’ interpretations of science-themed moral quandaries and ideological debates.
Our study has a number of limitations in its methodology. We only used a small number of focus groups, and some of these were mixed, with regular, casual and non-viewers. This may have led to the regular viewers influencing the views of the casual and non-viewers. Further the majority of the participants were people who studied or worked in science, biasing the results. However, there is potential for future research in this area, examining the contextual nature of moral and ideological questions within science, and how TV shows and science themed fiction contribute to our engagement with these.
Thank you to all the participants for their invaluable contributions.
Lindy and Elizabeth