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Effects of prosocial portrayals on television on social behavior.

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Presentation on theme: "Effects of prosocial portrayals on television on social behavior."— Presentation transcript:

1 Effects of prosocial portrayals on television on social behavior

2 Meta-analysis of studies of prosocial portrayals Marie-Louise Mares (1996) Sponsored by Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania

3 “It is commonly held that television viewing does more harm than good, especially to young audiences.”

4 “Prosocial” “it is not as easy as it first seems to sort out which behaviors are positive and which are negative. This is more than a hazy relativism. It is naïve to assume that all groups in society place equal value on cooperation (rather than rugged individualism), tolerance of others (rather than willingness to stick up for one’s own group), nonviolent conflict resolution (rather than heroism), or ability to resist temptation (rather than ability to seize the moment). Nonetheless, all these have been used as prosocial outcomes in research.”

5 “Effects are strongest when the behavior that is modeled is salient, clearly portrayed, and can be easily incorporated into a child’s everyday interactions” –Kotler, p. 817

6 Altruism Children who were given tokens, then shown portrayals of a model acting generously, (donating prize money to charity) were more likely to donate tokens to charity compared to children who watched a model behave selfishly (cashing in winnings for a big prize) or in a neutral manner

7 Positive interactions Lynette Friedrich and Aletha Huston-Stein found that children who had viewed Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibited more friendly behavior in the school playground compared to those who viewed neutral content. Studies of Barney and Friends indicate that children learn about cooperation and friendship through viewing the show.

8 Self-control and persistence Studies of self-control include programs that focus on resistance to temptation, obedience to rules, and persistence at a task. The self-control studies are often set up as lab experiments similar to the studies on altruism. Many studies conducted in the 1970s indicated that children who view models who are able to resist temptation (e.g., resisting playing with a forbidden toy, eating forbidden food) are more likely to demonstrate self-control compared to children who view models who indulge in forbidden activities.

9 In a more recent study, children who viewed 20 episodes of Dragon Tales, a show designed to encourage children to pursue challenges, more frequently chose to pursue challenging tasks, compared to those who were not exposed to the series.

10 Reduction of stereotypes Early evaluations of Sesame Street found that Caucasian preschoolers had more positive attitudes toward African Americans and Latino Americans after viewing Sesame Street over the course of the 2-year study. A more recent study of the Israeli-Palestinian production of Sesame Street showed that viewing led to an increase in prosocial problem solving and more positive attitudes toward children of the other group.

11 Content characteristics Portrayals can be transferred to children’s lives –Likely to occur in their own lives (including other kids v. comfort for loss) –Reality v. fictional story

12 Combining prosocial and violent content may backfire –Linda Silverman found that 3-year olds who saw a Sesame Street segment with conflict followed by resolution were less cooperative –Marsha Liss and Lauri Reinhardt found that combinations of prosocial and antisocial acts in the cartoon series Superfriends led to more aggressive behavior than either prosocial or antisocial depictions alone

13 Viewer characteristics Prosocial depictions have similar effect on –Boys and girls –Kids of different races or ethnicity May be more effective for kids from middle- or upper-class homes Effect of prosocial content appears to increase between ages of 3 and 7, and then decline

14 Context The effect of prosocial content is enhanced by adult coviewing –Parents in the home –Teachers in school Supplementary materials enhance impact

15 Prosocial content Greenberg and colleagues analyzed the favorite programs of a sample of fourth, sixth, and eighth graders. They found that these programs contained an average of 44.2 acts of prosocial behavior in an average hour. The prosocial behavior included displays of altruism and empathy and discussion of feelings. The researchers also found that the violence was just as frequent, however. A recent study conducted by Deborah Weber and Dorothy Singer analyzed the favorite programs and videos viewed by children age 2 and under. They found many occurrences of prosocial behavior, including sharing, helping, and manners. For example, in the video Sesame Street: Learning to Share, there were 45 instances of positive social behaviors.

16 Commercials Commercials also contain examples of prosocial behavior. In one study, prosocial behavior appeared in 59% of all children’s commercials. Friendly behaviors were the most common forms of prosocial behavior, with 42% of all commercials containing examples of affection between characters. Helping and teaching were common altruistic behaviors, appearing in 21% of all commercials. Mary Strom Larson analyzed 595 commercials in children’s programming and found that commercials depicting only girls showed almost all cooperative interactions (i.e., 85% of the time). Mixed boy and girl commercials primarily portrayed cooperative interactions (51%), compared to boys only commercials, which contained primarily competitiverinteractions.—Jennifer A. Kotler

17 V. O. Lovelace and A. C. Huston have identified three strategies for modeling prosocial behavior for children through the media. 1.Present characters who exhibit only prosocial behavior. –Could be boring 2.Incorporate story lines in which characters resolve conflict by making prosocial choices. Positive consequences are attributed to prosocial behavior and negative consequences to antisocial behavior. –Concern over modeling of antisocial behaviors 3.Present both prosocial and antisocial behaviors without presenting a resolution within the program. Rather, the viewer is asked to offer his or her own solution to the presented conflict. –considered most effective in classroom or therapeutic settings, where an adult can supervise postviewing discussion or activity.

18 Impact of viewing prosocial behavior Just as in learning violent behavior, prosocial behavior can be learned by observation –Prosocial behavior can be induced by emotional responses to television portrayals Unlike violent portrayals (according to Rushton), there is a social norm to help one another

19 Rushton: “If we asked a stranger in the street for directions, we would expect him or her to provide the information if possible and to apologize if not. If the stranger were instead to turn to us and say ‘Yes I do know where that place is but I can’t be bothered to tell you,’ we would be rather surprised.”

20 Differences among individuals “Research on prosocial behavior finds that individuals tend to be consistent in the degree to which they display prosocial behavior, but there is some variation between individuals.” –Likely that prosocial acts receive spontaneous reward –Media effects should be at least as strong for prosocial as for violent portrayals

21 Sample of studies 1966-1995 Studies included if they: –Involved exposure to television content deemed prosocial or positive by the researchers, –Measured a relevant behavioral outcome of exposure, and –Contained enough statistical information to allow for calculation of effect sizes Different age groups and different genders were treated as separate samples Yield: 39 usable sources; 185 effect sizes

22 Overall effect sizes for prosocial content dN Prosocial v. Other.28104 Prosocial v. antisocial.4059

23 Effect of prosocial content on positive interaction dN Prosocial v. Other.2741 Prosocial v. antisocial.3014

24 Effect of prosocial content on altruism dN Prosocial v. Other.6125 Prosocial v. antisocial.5625

25 Effect of prosocial content on self-control dN Prosocial v. Other.2312 Prosocial v. antisocial.5314

26 Effect of prosocial content on antistereotyping dN Prosocial v. Other.2926 Prosocial v. antisocial--

27 Age differences in the effect of prosocial content Prosocial v. other Prosocial v. antisocial Aged (N) 5 and under.31 (40).59 (15) 6-10.43 (31).44 (22) 11+.22 (33).17 (15)

28 Susan Hearold “A synthesis of 1043 effects of television on social behavior” –1986 –Covers both prosocial and antisocial effects –230 studies –1,043 treatment comparisons

29 Outline of studies in sample 170 published, 60 unpublished 131 lab experiments, 33 field experiments, 66 surveys 9 pre-1950; 10 from 1950-1959; 36 from 1960-1969; 175 from 1970-1977

30 Antisocial treatments Mixture132 Detective/crime129 Demonstrated behavior119 Drama110 Cartoon51 News34 Western31 Consumerism26 Cartoons and comedy10 Mixed movies10 Sanford & Son/All in the Family8 Other19

31 Prosocial treatments Demonstrated behavior48 Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood42 Drama31 Public service ads and programs21 Mixture13 Lassie6 Big Blue Marble6 Comedy4 Patrik and Putrik4 Other14

32 Types of antisocial behavior Physical aggression330 Physical and verbal aggression120 Approval of aggression and indirect aggression 39 Rule breaking33 Materialism26 Verbal aggression23 Unlawful behavior14 Perception of world as violent10 Use of drugs9 Stereotyping8 Play with aggressive toys8 Other57

33 Types of prosocial behavior Altruism98 Acceptance of others/antistereotyping37 Social interaction23 Engages in activities21 Safety, health14 Mixture13 Buys books12 Follows norms/conventions11 Respects the law11 Cooperation7 Imaginative/creative play7 Affiliation6 Other46

34 Effect sizes for antisocial behavior NEffect Size (ES) Antisocial v. other528.30 Antisocial v. prosocial40.65 Prosocial v. other48-.20

35 Effect sizes for prosocial behavior NES Antisocial v. other152-.01 Antisocial v. prosocial33-.38 Prosocial v. other108.63

36 Prosocial effect size by treatment Prosocial treatmentAvg. effect size Demonstrated behavior1.02 Simulate programs (usually drama).79 Public service ads.79 TV Programs overall.59 Lassie1.16 Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.68 Sesame Street/Electric Company.58 Big Blue Marble.57 Comedy.54 Mixed Programs.18 Patrik and Putrik-.73

37 Effect sizes for assorted prosocial behaviors Self-control.98 Altruism.83 Buy books.81 Mixture of socially desirable behaviors.78 Safety, health, conservation activism.69 Positive attitude toward work.57 Antistereotyping; acceptance of others.57 Respect for the law.23 Play without aggression.21 Socially active/communicative.17 Creative, imaginative play.02 Cooperation.00

38 What do we mean by “prosocial” Not as easy to define as one might think –Which is more important, the intent or the effect? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” “Enlightened self-interest” Without intent, any good outcome suddenly becomes evidence of moral behavior –When one group benefits and another is disadvantaged, is the act “prosocial”? –Can one benefit from “pro-social” behavior? Can one’s family?

39 “Prosocial” working definition For our use, a person will engage in prosocial behavior when she intentionally commits any act which will be likely to improve her own condition or the condition of someone else –One can (and as we see later, hopefully does) feel good about the act –If one is compelled to act in a certain way then she is not acting prosocially, though the person requiring the act may be –Contributions to Red Cross taken out of your check while the boss looks on

40 What kinds of prosocial acts have been proposed? Altruism Control of aggressive impulses Delay of gratification/task persistence Explaining feelings of self or others Reparation for bad behavior Resistance to temptation Sympathy Liebert & Sprafkin

41 Prosocial effects Minor part of effects study Most study in late 70s and early 80s Findings reviewed in a number of meta- analyses –Rushton –Hearold –Paik –Mares

42 Most common concern is the learning of prosocial behavior by children (socialization) Part of the 1960s-1970s concern over the development of television as an educational medium –Educational content –Prosocial content Often the two are combined (Sesame Street)

43 Prosocial effects Conclusions –Prosocial content can lead to positive behavioral outcomes –Effects of prosocial comparable in strength to antisocial Scholars disagree on which is stronger –Altruism most effective prosocial portrayal

44 Prosocial effects Effect of prosocial content on boys not significantly different from the effect on girls –Paik, 1995 Greater effect for family sitcoms than for educational programming Effects positive for all ages Higher effect for donation than for prosocial play or cooperation Effect of stereotyping greater than effect of anti- stereotyping content

45 Hearold, 1986 Synthesis of 1043studies of effects of television on social behavior –“Effect sizes for prosocial treatments and behavior, of course, were consistently greater than for antisocial treatments on behavior.” –“The implication is that if subjects watched the antisocial treatments, usually violent programs or episodes, they would be elevated from the 50 th to the 62 nd percentile in antisocial behavior, typically physical aggression, and if they watched the prosocial treatment, they would be elevated from the 50 th to the 74 th percentile in prosocial behavior, typically altruism.”

46 Critique of studies Stimulus materials usually either: 1.depictions of prosocial behavior developed specifically to elicit the behavior, or 2.Either Mister Rogers Neighborhood or Sesame Street Normal tv fare sends mixed messages –prosocial violence –characters exhibiting good and bad behaviors

47 Prosocial content research Liebert, Sprafkin, Rubinstein and others –mid 70s Greenberg et al. –late 70s Baxter & Kaplan –early 80s Lee Potter & Ware –late 80s

48 Behaviors chosen Positive interaction –Friendly/nonagressive interactions –Expressions of affection –Peaceable conflict resolution Altruism –Sharing –Donating –Offering help –Comforting

49 Behaviors chosen (cont’d) Self-control –Resistance to temptation –Obedience to rules –Ability to work independently –Persistence at a task Anti-stereotyping –Attitudes –Beliefs

50 Distribution of prosocial acts on Saturday morning TV, 1970s

51 Primetime prosocial behavior Lee, 1988

52 Comparison of pro- and antisocial behavior primetime (Kaplan & Baxter, 1982) Note: 12 hours, 17 programs

53 Prosocial content Relative incidence of prosocial and antisocial acts varies widely among studies –Greenberg et al., about 42 pro and 40 anti acts per hour –Kaplan & Baxter, 46 pro and 17 anti per hour Altruism –Greenberg et al, 14 acts/hour, most common pro-social act –Potter & Ware, 2 acts/hr, 5th most common

54 Prosocial and antisocial acts per hour of primetime programming

55 Prosocial content Males engage in most prosocial acts –Potter & Ware 67% of pro, 80% of anti –Baxter & Kaplan, 69% of pro, 78% of anti –However, more male characters Great majority of both violent and prosocial acts are seen as justified Outcome of prosocial acts not reviewed

56 Proportion of prosocial and antisocial acts committed by gender ( Greenberg et al. primetime 1975-78 study)

57 Prosocial content Most analyses exclude violent content from prosocial analyses –Some evidence of a significant amount of prosocial violence Heroes commit a significant amount of violence Saturday morning tv

58 Liss and Reinhardt Regular and prosocial Saturday morning cartoons Antagonists commit more violent acts than protagonists No significant difference in amount of violence on regular and prosocial cartoons

59 Prosocial content Relationships among actors Involvement of third parties Rewards for altruism Social support

60 The method: finding and measuring altruism Primetime programs recorded for one week on ABC, NBC and Fox networks 26.5 hours of programming included in the study Only regularly scheduled series included (no movies, game shows, sports, news) Unit of analysis: the altruistic act

61 Defining altruism “social behavior carried out to achieve positive outcomes for another rather than for the self” (Rushton, 1980) –must include some nontrivial self-sacrifice –leaves open the possibility of antisocial altruism

62 Acts of altruism Risking life, health or safety Risking career or future Sacrificing money Sacrificing or giving up time Sacrificing something of personal value, a dream or satisfaction Not included: common courtesy or minimal sacrifice

63 Measuring altruistic acts on TV Relationship of benefactor and beneficiary –Friends, neighbors or coworkers –Mere acquaintances –Strangers –Superior and subordinate –Subordinate and superior –Family –Lovers or romantically involved

64 Measuring altruistic acts on TV Gender of beneficiary and benefactor Relationship to violence Involvement of a third party Outcome of the act for any third party Immediate response to the act by the benefactor and the beneficiary Long-term outcome of the act for the benefactor and the beneficiary

65 Measuring altruistic acts on TV Coding the justification of the acts –Was it part of the benefactor’s job? –Was it expected under the circumstances? –Was this above and beyond what would be expected?

66 Measuring altruistic acts on TV Coding instrument was pretested –Both authors viewed two hour long programs –(Neither program included in results) Programs were recorded on videotape and later coded Second author coded all programs No “sweeps month” programs included

67 Research questions 1: What is the rate for altruistic behavior in primetime programming? 2: Is there a relationship between the gender of the benefactor and the gender of the beneficiary of the altruistic acts? 3. What is relationship between the benefactor and the beneficiary? 4: What is the nature of the altruistic act?

68 Research questions 5: What are the consequences of the altruistic act for the benefactor and the beneficiary? –Outcome –Response

69 Results 27 acts of altruism identified in 26.5 hours of primetime programming Just over one act per hour (1.1 acts/hour) –Fewer than in previous research


71 Relationships portrayed

72 Nature of the altruistic act

73 Outcome for the actors Percent of acts (n=27)

74 Response to the altruism

75 Results Altruistic acts rarely tied to violence Most acts (63%) exceeded expectations of occupation or social norms Outcome for third parties was negative more than half the time

76 Conclusions Results of altruism are as likely to be negative as to be positive Gender is less related to TV altruistic acts than in the past Altruistic violence is uncommon

77 More conclusions Definition of altruism is critical to outcome of the analysis Larger sample is needed Multiple coders More extensive analyses are needed –Monitoring much like violence studies –Dramatic function of violence and prosocial acts

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