AQA psychology media revision notes

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Media Influences on Prosocial Behaviour
Studies of media look mainly at the relationship between media violence and aggression and often
prosocial behaviour is overlooked. Most research in this area has studied media influences on
altruism (helping someone at the cost to the helper), as well as the development of empathy and
the reversal of gender and cultural stereotyping.
Explanations for Media Influences on Prosocial Behaviour
1. Exposure to pro-social behaviour
2. Acquisition of pro-social behaviours and norms
3. Developmental factors
4. Parental mediation
1. Exposure to prosocial behaviour
Kunkel et al- A commonly reported statistic is the high prevalence of violent acts shown on
television. In one content analysis two thirds of the children's programmes sampled contained at
least one act of violence.
Evaluation: subjective and biased / dated study
Woodard found that US programmes for preschool children did have high levels of prosocial
content; 77% of programmes surveyed contained at least one prosocial lesson. However, the
survey also found that only 4 of the top 20 most watched TV programmes for under 17s contained
any prosocial lessons.
Evaluation: Ethnocentric, subjective, views of certain TV shows change over time / differences in
age of participants
2. Acquisition of prosocial behaviours and norms:
Bandura's Social Learning Theory suggests that we learn by observation how to do things and when
it is acceptable to do so. We may then imitate those behaviours, and the consequence of our
behaviour will determine the likelihood of us repeating the behaviours. Unlike antisocial acts on TV,
prosocial acts are more likely to represent established social norms (e.g. helping others). Such
prosocial acts are likely to reinforce our social norms rather than contrast them. This means we are
more likely to be rewarded for imitating prosocial acts than for anti-social acts.
Evaluation: OBSERVE, IMITATE, MODEL. deterministic- may not always copy what you see.
Some studies of pro social effects look at one shot- exposures to a prosocial model. In general the
findings are that children are most affected when they are shown the exact steps for positive
behaviour, such as being shown someone donating tokens (Mares and Woodard 2001). This may be
because they can remember concrete acts better than abstract ones.
Learning prosocial norms, rather than specific behaviours, from the media may be less common,
except possibly when viewing is accompanied by a follow up discussion. Very often the largest
effects are found when a programme is viewed in a classroom accompanied by teacher-led
This doesn't always work ­ Rubenstein and Sprafkin, in a study of adolescents hospitalised for
psychiatric problems, found that post viewing discussion led to decreased altruism. This possibly
happened because adolescents have a tendency to take up a view counter to that held by adults.

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Evaluation: population validity- adolescents are already in a psychiatric ward which might affect
their behaviour, not representative.
3. Developmental Factors:
Eisenberg- Research suggests that many of the skills that are associated with prosocial behaviour
(e.g. perspective taking, empathy, moral reasoning) develop throughout childhood and in to
adolescence. Because of this we might expect strong developmental differences in the degree to
which children of different ages are influenced by the prosocial content they view on television (or in
other media).…read more

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However, it seems that mixing prosocial and antisocial messages somehow reduces the
effectiveness of prosocial messages.
Mares and Woodards' meta-analysis, found that children who watched mixed messages behaved
more aggressively than children who watched aggression only! Meta-analysis- subjective
Research Studies of Prosocial Media:
Mares examined research published between 1966 and 1995 considering four main behavioural
effects of prosocial TV. Evaluation: Meta analysis- subjective/ bias, no details of individual studies/
dated research.
Research Studies of Prosocial Media:
1. Altruism (e.g.…read more

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Prosocial Effects of Other Media
Research focuses almost exclusively on the effects of TV; however, Mares and Woodard
considered how other media could have important prosocial effects. Children's stories have
traditionally carried prosocial messages (such as Snow White, who looked after the dwarves and
triumphed over the bad stepmother). Young children are especially fond of reading such stories over
and over again which reinforces the messages (Mares).…read more

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Much research has been carried out to investigate how media violence might influence viewer
aggression. Many studies have demonstrated an association between television viewing and
subsequent aggression, yet no clear cut answers have yet emerged about HOW television has such
an influence.
Paik and Comstock- Meta Analysis A substantial number of laboratory and field experiments over
the past half century have examined whether children exposed to violent behaviour on film or TV
behave more aggressively immediately afterwards.…read more

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The children were guided to start playing with the picture sticker sets. An adult `model'
entered the room and started assembling the tinker toys. In the non-aggressive condition the
model continued to assemble the tinker toys in a quiet manner and ignored the bobo doll.
In the aggressive condition, after a minute, the model started acting aggressively towards the bobo
doll. The model performed aggressive behaviours that may not have been expected of children
unless they were influenced by the models behaviour.…read more

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Presumably the walkie talkie acted as a
cue for aggression. Evaluation: gender biased
3. Desensitisation:
This argument assumes that under normal conditions, anxiety about violence inhibits its use. Media
violence, however, may stimulate aggressive behaviour by desensitising children to the effects of
violence. The more televised violence a child watches, the more acceptable aggressive behaviour
becomes to that child.
Frequent viewing of TV violence may cause children to be less anxious about violence.…read more

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The Anti-Effects Lobby
There is growing concern that the media are unreasonably the focus of blame for violent behaviour.
The evidence, however, does not universally support the hypothesis that media violence leads to
violent behaviour.
Belson interviewed over 1500 adolescent boys, and found that those who watched least TV when
they were younger were least aggressive in adolescence.
However, boys who watched most TV were less aggressive (by about 50%) than boys who watched
moderate amounts.…read more

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Effects of Video Games and Computers on Young People
Violent games have raised concerns in the media among regulatory bodies about the
possible link between excessive game play and violent or antisocial behaviour in real life.
Few studies suggest that playing violent video games can lead to an increase in violent
behaviour. Psychologists are yet to establish whether such links are as consistent as are
led to believe by the scaremongering of the tabloids.…read more

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Controls extraneous variables
Cannot measure `real life' aggression
Individual differences- personalities and other factors involved
Demand characteristics
Difficult to generalise- lacks ecological validity
Correlational Studies
Correlational studies use surveys that identify patterns of video game use and of aggressive feelings
and behaviour. Genie and Anderson- conducted a study involving over 600 adolescents, found that
time spent playing violent computer games was associated with aggressive feelings, arguments with
teachers and a greater incidence of physical fights.…read more


Premila Patel

Excellent notes. Thanks for sharing.



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