WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- "Grey's Anatomy" has been captivating audiences since it premiered back in 2005. But it may be having a bigger effect than you may think.
One study suggests the ABC medical drama has an impact on viewers not just in their living room, but in the exam room, too.
In a study by Dr. Brian Quick of the University of Illinois, frequent viewers of "Grey's Anatomy" had a more positive perception of their real-world doctors.
"The more episodes viewers watched, the more likely they were to perceive the show as credible, and then the more likely they were to perceive the show as credible, the more likely they were to perceive real world doctors as their doctors to be courageous, which that led to patient satisfaction," Quick said.
In the study, Quick explains that through cultivation theory, the lines between what is shown on television and reality are distorted.
"Cultivation theory basically says the more TV you watch, the more TV reality and the more social reality blur," he said.
Quick said this is important to how people's perception of the world is created, because often viewers do not have a real life interaction in settings like hospitals or ERs. Instead TV is how they come to understand those environments.
Katie Foley and Tyler Jones have been loyal viewers of "Grey's Anatomy" since the show debuted six years ago.
Jones says he loves the show because of how the stories are put together.
"It's definitely a show that has a really healthy balance in between fiction and character storylines and plotlines and also medical field and industry alone," Jones said. "And how they weave that together is really brilliant almost because how every episode carries out, intertwines reality and fiction. So it's really cool to see how the culminates in the end."
Foley said she thinks the show is a realistic depiction of life in a hospital..
"I think they give a pretty accurate account of what goes on, or at least I would like to think they do," she said.
In terms of real life, Foley said the connection with the show does affect her feelings about doctors.
"I think that it definitely makes hospitals and doctors and everything a lot less scary, 'cause they just become less intimidating because these are real people who care about me, and I see it on the show, so I think it could transition into real life," Foley said.
Quick said because of viewers like Foley, the producers of the show have a very important job.
"It puts the ethical onus on Hollywood producers to give accurate information, particularly when audiences are not familiar with the context that's being shown on TV," Quick said. "Going back to 'Grey's Anatomy,' very few young adults have direct experience in a teaching hospital, so when they show the everyday, frontline scenes and behind the scenes of doctors, a lot of viewers use this to inform their own reality of what those contexts look like."
So the next time you're watching "Grey's Anatomy," ask yourself: is the show giving you a dose of reality, or merely a shot of drama to help make you more confident at your next check-up?
Dr. Quick said his study only focused on "Grey's Anatomy," but he finds other TV shows also help shape viewers opinion of reality for settings they don't know. For example, he said the HBO show "Entourage" makes viewers think the way the characters handle fame and fortune is the way famous people really act.