'As the Lesson's Learned' - an educational role for soap operas?

The No. 1 reason viewers give for watching ''soaps'' is to see how others cope with problems and to pick up some advice in the process, says University of Illinois Prof. David Swanson. He's studied the subject for 40 years. He says the majority of soap-watchers are women in the 18-to-35 age bracket from low-income families living in rural areas. Viewers also admit they turn on the soaps partly for companionship and social contact, he says.

Swanson says soaps are now probing how to educate viewers to better handle drinking, drug abuse, and abortion.

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