Media Influences on Pro-social and Anti-Social Behaviour.
This considers the relationship between what we watch and how we behave.
Media influences on behavior
For this you are required to understand the basic principles of Social Learning Theory.
There are three terms to describe the processes that make up SLT, these being:
Observation means to pay attention to someone. Not just to see but to attend to them, to learn from them when they do or say something. This is the first step in children’s learning to be helpful to others.
Imitation means to copy what someone is doing. Not to necessarily do this perfectly If imitation benefits the child then the behaviour is likely to be replicated. Therefore parents praise their children attempts to be helpful will encourage the repetition of this behaviour.
Modelling means to develop a mental presentation of the appropriate behaviour for the context in which the child is observing and imitating.
Modelling is how social learning theorists regard the actual learning process. Children will be more likely to model beneficial behaviour. Therefore knowing when and how to be helpful at appropriate times enables a child to develop rewarding relationships and, on them, model pro-social behaviour.
Media Influences on Pro-Social Behaviour
Children who watch TV behave more pro-socially than anti-socially but research into this area has been inconclusive. Correlation does not mean causation here.
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Summary of contributions that children’s television can make to children’s pro-social development:
Can promote shared interest by doing things together in order to achieve a common end;
Can promote co-operation and caring by providing altruistic characters who are rewarded for their kindness.
Various well known charity appeals promote active involvement in helping others.
Can provide ideas for play and recreation as well as promoting health and fitness.
Lovelace and Huston (1988) describe strategies used by researchers in children’s modelling of pro-social behaviour as looking for:
Pro-social only images;
Pro-social conflict resolution (Between scenes involving pro-social and anti-social alternative behaviour.)
Images of conflict without resolution but where personal solutions are suggested
Explanations of media influences on pro-social behaviour
Exposure to pro-social messages:
An early content analysis of US broadcasting found that on average there were eleven altruistic acts and six sympathetic behaviours per hour of programming. (Liebert and Poulos – 1975)
pro social acts frequently appear in the form of anti-social behaviour. One study shows 8-12 year olds favourite TV programmes being 42.2% acts of antisocial behaviour and; 44.2% pro social behaviour per hour (Greenberg et al 1980)
Social Learning Theory – Bandura (1965)
Children learn by first observing behaviour then through imitation if reward for doing so exceeds punishment. Unlike antisocial behaviour pro-social acts are in line with established social norms. Therefore social reinforcement motivates repetition.
Developmental trends in pro-social influence
Many skills associated with pro-social reasoning develop with age. Developmental trends in pro-social messages may therefore occur.
Pro-social behaviours have been shown to be contingent on pro social skills e.g. perspective taking, empathy and level of moral reasoning, that continue to develop from childhood into adolescence. (Eisenberg – 1990)
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Young children are less able to recognise the emotional state of
others. (Hoffman – 1976) and especially when behaviour is more complex (Mares – 1996)
Commentary – explanations of media influences:
Exposure to pro-social messages;
e.g. sesame street – Hearold (1986) and Mares (1996)
Social Learning Theory:
Eisenberg (1983) – prolonged viewing could result in substantial and enduring increases in children’s pro-social behaviour. N.B. requires children to notice a particular act or message and remember it so that it may be recreated.
Midlarsky and Hannah (1985) suggests that younger children are more egocentric motives in that they may imitate pro-social behaviours if they believe this will yield rewards or avoid punishment.
Research into media influences on pro-social behaviour
Lovelace and Huston (1983)
Three modelling strategies used by researchers for the transmission of pro-social messages:
1. Pro-social only;
2. pro-social conflict resolution;
3. Conflict without resolution.
Sprafkin et al. (1975) show pro social or courageous behaviour Children’s willingness to help can be increased by viewing a televised example of pro social behaviour.
N.B. Limited generalization and Short lived effects. (Rushton and Owen 1975)
Pro-social conflict resolution
Rarely do TV programmes display only pro social messages.
Paulson (1974) demonstrated Sesame Street as having pro social messages. Children here recognised co-operation on sight and demonstrated higher assessment scores on this area. But no evidence of pro-social behaviour occurred during play.
N.B. Conflicting messages mean that anti-social behaviours are modelled alongside pro-social behaviours in such programmes and therefore may increase aggression etc. (Friedrich-Cofer et al 1979)
Justifying aggression – Lovelace and Huston (1983) / Liss and Reinhardt (1979) observed that negative effects might occur if the pro-social behaviours were not shown in contracts to anti-social behaviour.
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Conflict without resolution
Here unresolved conflicts are presented to children by the media Children are therefore encouraged to discuss how they would resolve the problem faced by the central character.
Research support – Rockman (1980) ‘…children do understand and learn the programme content and are able to generate pro-social rather than anti-social solutions to the problems faced in the plot.’
Meta Analyses of media on pro-social behaviour.
Meta analyses allow researchers to compare results across many different studies to establish an average ‘effect size’
Mares (1996) – conducted a meta analysis including four different categories of pro social behaviour over 39 studies. Main findings included:
Included friendly/ non aggressive interactions, expressions of affection and conflict resolution.
Size effect moderate.
Sharing, donating, offering help and comforting.
Size effect moderate to large.
Where not explicitly modelled, but required generalization from one thing to another altruism lead to a much smaller size effect.
Included the resistance to temptation, obedience to rules, ability to work independently and persistence at a task.
Moderate size effect when comparisons made with neutral content however, large effect when comparisons were made with anti-social content.
Includes effects of counter stereotyping portrayals of of gender and ethnicity on attitudes and beliefs. Effect size was moderate, but much larger when exposure to counter stereotypical themes in context of a school classroom was accompanied by extra classroom activities designed to expand on the issues viewed.
N.B. Hearold (1986) is explained by Comstock (1989) in that pro social messages are generally designed to have an influence on viewers, unlike anti-social ones. At age 6 pro-social messages appear to have a stronger effect on girls than boys.
N.B. Mares (1996) results were not broken down by sex, but positive results found for girls, and greater effects on primary school than adolescents. Some contention whether generalization of anti-social behaviours is possible more readily than pro-social ones.
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Media Influences on Anti-social behaviour.
Can be argued that TV has a role as a contributory factor in aggressive behaviour (Donnerstein 1982)
Sensitivity seems to decline as they se more of the same group suffering.
In America, children watch three to four hours TV a day from 3-4 years to puberty.
Studies into the effects of exposure to television violence.
These are studies that look for a statistical relationship between two factors or variables.
Weight of evidence from correlation studies is fairly consistent.
Atkin et al (1979) – 45% violent responses to hypothetical push off a bike aged 9 – 13 years from those who watched violence on TV compared to 21% who did not.
Criticism here is that though correlation seems likely causation cannot be proven.
Also poses a chicken and egg dilemma – which comes first violence or TV preference?
Controversy exists as to origin of aggression as Social Learning or Genetic / Biological basis.
Eron et al (1972)
Sampled 800 male and female eight and nine year olds;
Established a baseline for each child so they not only observed each child but asked how aggressive the child was to others;
Discovered which TV programmes they watched;
Positive correlation found between amounts of violence watched each day and violent everyday behaviour.
Followed up half original sample 10 years later (Remainder unavailable);
Positive correlation still remained;
Correlations held for boys but not for girls.
Experimental Studies – E.g. Bandura (1963)
Bandura (Above) was criticised for the aggressive behaviour not being meaningful within the social context and stimulus not being TV programmes.
Liebert and Baron (1972):
Investigated young children’s willingness to hurt another child after viewing videotaped sections of aggressive and neutral real TV programmes.
Two age groups 5 to 6 and 8 to 9.
The untouchables Vs an athletics race
Introduction This literature report will help assist in the understanding of how violence within the media contributes to an increase in aggression. In the present, there has been a vast increase in mass media saturation in contrast from the past. This present era of twentieth century society enables television, radio, videos, movies, computer networks and video games to assume central roles in ...
Children who viewed an aggressive TV programme demonstrated a greater willingness to hurt another child.
These are conducted in the participants own natural environments e.g. ‘Subway Samaritan’ research.
Parke et al. (1977)
Take advantage of fact TV introduced at different locations at different times.
Milavsky et al. (1982) High correlation between TV viewing and exposure to TV violence.
Williams (1986) assessed impact of televised violence before and after introduction to a Canadian community on children.
These give a clearer picture of the effects of media on aggression over time.
Belson (1978) attempted to pin down which types of programme had the most impact.
Interviewed 1565 youths 13 to 17 years in London;
1959-71 boys interviewed about violence on TV exposure.
Possible to therefore assess individual impact for each boy of exposure and type of exposure categorised.
He found that those with high violence were more involved in serious violently behaviour.
He found that serious interpersonal violence was increased by long term exposure to the following:
1. Plays or films in which personal relationships are a major theme and which feature verbal or physical violence;
2. Programmes in which violence seems to be thrown in for its own sake or is not necessary for the plot;
3. Programmes featuring fictional violence of a realistic nature;
4. Programmes in which the violence is presented as being in a good cause;
5. violent westerns.
N.B. It’s notable that no significant relationships between early viewing exposure and later aggression were obtained for girls.
On balance there appears a link between violence on TV and aggressive behaviour.
BUT, is it really a major / significant influence?
Also Studies citing evidence have flaws, so findings should be viewed with caution.
Newson (1994) gives considerable evidence that watching video nasties influenced the killers of James Bulger. Victims of TV violence are thought of as almost sub human, and so no need to be pitied
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Brown and Pennell (1998) found violent offenders were more likely to prefer to watch violence and remember violent films long after other people. Therefore, it suggests that there are both viewing preferences and aggression elements and therefore its important to see the whole question of anti social behaviour in society in terms of much wider social issues.
Some possible explanations of media effects on anti-social behaviour.
Berkowitz (1984) suggests that viewing violent images triggers memories of other violent incidents and ‘sets us up’ to react aggressively. Referring here to cognitive systems.
Huesmann (1982) says that seeing lots of violent solutions to problems in the media can become part of the child’s script for problem solving. Referring here to linked ideas becoming a script by a learning process.
It’s not a question of which of the above are correct as they probably both are to some degree.
Observational Learning, Desensitisation and Justification.
Socialisation is the lifelong process by which we learn about the norms and values of our culture. If violence is used as a behavioural example in early years then its likely to be repeated as a seemingly apt behavioural response.
How Valid is the effects model of media violence?
Hagell and Newburn (1994) found that young offenders watched less television and video than non offenders.
Gauntlett (1998) maintained that people do not simply respond by copying everything they see. They can differentiate comedy / slapstick violence with that which is gratuitous.
Buckingham (1996) noticed that children of seven years can make sensible interpretations of media images
Problems with interpretation of studies of the effects of the media on people have led to contradictions.
No considerable explanation of why the media would seek to have people imitate it is known or has ever been offered.
Many research studies lack the context that would make things understandable.