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Media Influences on Prosocial Behaviour
Explanations of Media Effects
Observational Learning
Children observe the actions of media models and then may imitate these behaviours, especially if they
admire the model. Television may also show the positive consequences of prosocial behaviour e.g. receiving
praise. The more real they perceive the scenes to be, the more likely they are to imitate it.
The depiction of prosocial acts is likely to be in accord with established social norms, which means that
the imitation of these acts by children are more likely to be directly reinforced by rewards, and thus repeated.
(+) (Bryan and Walbeck,1970) children who saw a video in which a character gave winnings of a bowling
game to charity were more likely to make donations themselves, than those who saw the character behave
selfishly. However, if the character in the film preached about charity this made little difference to how the
children behaved.
(+) (Rubenstein et al.,1976) Children who saw an episode of Lassie where the boy helped rescue the
puppy were more likely to break off from playing a game to press a button to help (fictional) puppies in distress.
() (Rushton,1975) Although when young children were shown prosocial programmed their attitudes
towards social behaviour improved, changes in actual behaviour were short lived and lasted only a couple of
Age as a factor: (Mare,1996) metaanalysis found that the effect of prosocial programming found the
weakest affect was for adolescents and the strongest for primary school children. May be, because young
children have difficulty recognising and understanding prosocial messages, and may be less affected by
prosocial messages if these portrayals are more complex than simple modelling of specific behaviour.
Ethical Issues: deception
Alternative explanation: (Comstock and Paik) argue the link between 'watching' and 'acting' in only
correlational. They have suggested the 'third variable' theory which suggests that characteristics relating to
family background and personality are important factors to consider. (Sprafkin and Rubenstein et al.,1979)
found less TV watched in total the more likely children were to behave in a prosocial manner.
Parental Mediation
For many, the effect of TV is mediated by the presence of a parent (as a coviewer).
Austin (1993) argued that effective mediation involves the parent discussing the programme with the child,
explaining any ambiguous or disturbing material and following up the concepts presented in the programme.
(+) (Rosenkoetter,1999) suggested that with parental mediation, children as young as seven were able to
understand even complex moral messages contained in adult sitcoms.
(+) (Fogel,2007) Children who had experiences adult mediation showed improved scores over a control
group in measures of prosocial behaviours including tolerance and friendship.
() (Rubenstein and Sprafkin,1982) With adolescents hospitalized for psychiatric problems, postviewing
discussion lead to decreased altruism.
(Valkenburg et al.,1999) suggest that only in conditions of 'instructive mediation', which involves
discussion and explanation, can the parents be described as an effective mediator between TV and the child.
'Social coviewing', which involves no discussion of content would be ineffective.
Demand characteristics
Reallife application: (Johnston et al.) found learning prosocial behaviour was best when there were follow
up discussion. When Johnston showed students a TV programme in a classroom and accompanied by
teacherled discussion students were more willing to help.
Media Influences on Antisocial behaviour
Explanations of Media Effects
Observational Learning
Children observe the actions of media models and then may imitate these behaviours, especially if they
admire the model. TV may also inform viewers of the positive and negative consequences of violent behaviour.
Children can be expected to imitate violent behaviour that is successful in gaining the model's objectives
(vicarious reinforcement). The more real they perceive the violent scenes to be, the more likely they are to
imitate it.

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Huesmann et al.,2003) In a longitudinal study, found that the more a person had identified with
samesex violent models e.g. The Six Million Dollar Man or The Bionic Woman in childhood, the more likely
they were to be rated as aggressive by people who knew them well as an adult.
(+) (Bandura et al.,1963) children watched a film of a role model punching a bobo doll, hitting it with a
mallet and kicking it. This was interspersed with verbally aggressive responses.…read more

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The positive and negative effects of computers and behaviours
Negative Effects
Lab experiments have found shortterm increases in levels of physiological arousal, hostile feelings and
aggressive behaviour following violent game play compared to nonviolent game play.
(Anderson and Dill, 2000) found that participants blasted their opponents with white noise for longer and
rated themselves higher on the State Hostility Scale after playing a violent 'first person shooter' compared to
those who played and slowpaced puzzle game.
() Researchers cannot measure 'reallife' aggression.…read more

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Those who had interacted on their facebook page gave much more positive feedback about themselves
than the other two groups.
(+) Hyperpersonal Model (Walther, 1996) selfselection of the information we choose to represent ourselves
can have a positive influence on selfesteem. Computer mediated communication offers people such an
opportunity for positive selfesteem as feedback left on their 'wall' is invariable positive.
() (Greitemeyer and Osswald, 2010) 85% of video games involve some kind of violence.…read more

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Depends on whether the audience is likely to focus on the message itself or on other factors such as credibility
and attractiveness of source.
The central route
Taken when the audience is likely to focus on the strength of the arguments presented. Cacioppo and
Petty (1982) some people enjoy analysing arguments and thus more likely to focus on the quality of the
arguments. Attitudes changed this way are more lasting and less susceptible to change.
(Vidrine et al.…read more

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It is commonly believed that parasocial relationship with celebrities are dysfunctional. However, research
does not support this.
The 'AbsorptionAddiction model'
Argues that people pursue parasocial relationships due to deficits or lacks within their real life. These
relationships are seen as an attempt to cope or escape from reality.
the motivational forces driving this absorption may eventually come addictive, leading to extreme behaviours
in order to sustain satisfaction.…read more

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Found no relationships between insecure attachment and the tendency to form parasocial relationships with
celebs. However, They found those with insecure attachment styles were more likely to think stalking was
acceptable, and there was a relationship between pathological attachment and the tendency to stalk.
(+) Researchers used counterbalancing to control for potential order effects.
Ethical issues: Debriefing
Evolutionary explanations
Attraction to creative individuals
Human beings possess a love of novelty (neophilia).…read more

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Maltby et al., 2001) Scores on the entertainmentsocial level predicted social dysfunction and scores on
the intensepersonal level predicted depression and anxiety. Celebrity worship is a behavioural representation of
poor psychological wellbeing
(Cheung and Yue, 2003) found `Idol worship' was associated with lower levels of work or study, lower self
esteem and less successful identity achievement.…read more

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Most victims reported changing lifestyle after being stalked, and described various physical and mental
responses to being stalked.
Attachment style
(Bartholomew and Horowitz, 1991) proposed that individuals with the 'preoccupied' attachment style have a
poor selfimage and a positive image of others, because of this, such individuals actively seek approval and
personal validation from others.
(Meloy, 1996) celerity stalking could be considered to be indicative of an abnormal attachment similar to
the preoccupied attachment style.…read more



This is so useful, thanks Laura!

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