TV has the power to shape people’s attitudes – about themselves and about people who are different from them.

This was a key finding from our new research study, Reflecting Me: Global Representation on Screen. For this project, we surveyed over 15,000 people aged 13-49 in 15 countries around the world and connected with a diverse range of people in 7 countries through video interviews and immersive digital exercises. This study explores multiple aspects of diversity, encompassing race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, disability, and more.

Here’s what we learned about the influence of representation:

Poor representation affects how people feel about themselves

When people feel like they aren’t represented well on screen, the effects are damaging. Six in ten people who feel their gender or sexual identity is poorly represented say this has affected their self-esteem and confidence. Among those with a disability that they feel is poorly represented, 44% say this has impacted their mental health – substantially higher than others who feel poorly represented. And more than a third of those who feel their race or ethnicity is poorly represented say their connection to their cultural heritage has suffered as a result.

Good representation has the power to create positive change

Personal connections are the main reason for positive shifts in attitude towards various groups and communities. For people who say they’ve become more positive towards a certain group compared to five years ago, knowing someone from that group contributed the most to this change (28%).

The next most powerful influence is media representation and celebrity acceptance (22%), which contributed to positive shifts in attitude more than news coverage (18%), laws (13%), and the opinions of friends and family (9%).

With this in mind, there is a responsibility and an urgency for representative portrayals of all groups and identities in TV shows and movies.

Click here for more blog posts from this research.