Psychology Media Revision

Revision for Psychology Media Exam A2 AQA


Explanations for Media Influence on Anti-Social Be

Revision Notes for Media Infleuence on Anti - Social Behaviour

1) Observational Learning

        - Explanation

        - Research

2) Cognitive Priming

        - Explanation

        - Research

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Explanation 1: Observational Learning

  This explanation suggests that anti-social behaviour may be learned through observation.

Albert Bandura suggested that children will learn through observation of:



& Media

Given current social conditions, Media (especially TV) is the most likely cause of observational learning.

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Continued: Social Learning theory

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory suggests that people (and especially young children) will readily imitate models and therefore anti-social behaviour is easily learned from them.

The likely hood of behaviour being learning increased if:

·         The model is similar or attractive to the observer

·         The learner identifies with the model

·         The context of the observation is realistic

·         If the model is rewarded for their behaviour


If a child observes a model who they can relate with, then the likely hood of them producing the same observed behaviour is increased.

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Reasearch: Observational Learning

Bandura’s classic (Bobo) studies showed that when children were shown a filmed sequence of an adult hitting a bobo doll they would imitate the adults behaviour when left in a room with a range of toys including the bobo doll.

Steuer et al (1971) showed nursery school children either violent or non-violent TV programmes during their school breaks and then observed their later playground behaviour. They found more aggressiveness in the children who had viewed the violent TV.


Considering the amount of violence children witness on TV if the results of these studies were correct, we would expect far more violence from children in the real world. Luckily, this is not seen.

Noble (1975) conducted much research in this area and stated ‘in my own studies, where children watch media violence in small groups, I have rarely found more than 5% imitation after viewing’

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Explanation 2: Cognitive Priming

This explanation suggests that anti-social behaviour may be the result of cognitive priming.

Cognitive Priming is where regressive ideas in violent films can activate other aggressive thoughts in viewers through their association in memory pathways. This may explain why children observe one kind of aggression on TV but commit another type of aggressive act afterwards.

Immediately after watching a violent film, the viewer is primed to respond aggressively because a network of memories involving aggression is retrieved.

I.e :

Watch violent act > Script is stored of act > Viewer is primed to respond aggresively > Viewer acts violently

According to Huesmann (1982), if children are frequently exposed to scenes of violence they store ‘scripts’ for aggressive behaviour in their memories and these may be recalled in a later situation if any aspect of the original situation (even a superficial one) is present.

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Research: Cognitive Priming

Josephson (1987) exposed 7-9 year old boys to either a violent or non-violent film. Later, impartial observers were asked to rate the instances of aggressive behaviour in the boys during games of hockey. More aggressive behaviour was observed in those boys who had watched the violent film.

Anderson at al (2003) found that songs with violent lyrics increase aggression-related thoughts.


Studies examining the influence of violent songs have returned mixed results, with some showing a significant effect and some not. Ballard and Coates (1995) showed no measurable changes in mood including anger, after participants listened to aggressive songs.

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Explanations for Media Influence on Pro - Social B

Explanations for Media Influences on Pro - Social Behaviour

1) Social Modelling

        - Explanation

        - Research

2) Parental Mediation

        - Explanation

        - Research

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Explanation 1: Social Modelling

One explanation of how the media may influence pro-social behaviour is through social modelling

Bandura suggesed that children learn Pro - Social behaviour, then later imitate it, much like Anti - Social behaviour.


He suggested this only worked when:

- The child can relate to the model in question,

- & the model must be rewarded for their behaviour.

This works for both Pro - Social and Anti - Social behaviour.

In terms of Pro - Social behaviour this is usually reinforced by social norms, given that they are already internalised by the viewer.

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Research: Social Modelling

Sprafkin et al (1975) Showed three groups of 6 year olds different TV scenes. Group 1 saw an episode of Lassie in which there was a scene showing Lassie rescuing a puppy, group 2 saw a episode of Lassie with no rescue and group 3 saw an episode of the Brady Bunch. Afterwards, all the children played a competitive game in which they encountered some apparently distressed and whining puppies. Those who had watched the Lassie rescue scene spent more time trying to comfort the puppies than the other children, even though doing so would interfere with winning.  

Hearold (1986) performed a Meta-analysis of more than 1,000 studies of the effect of TV on social behaviour, finding that pro-social TV affected pro-social behaviour more than antisocial TV affected anti-social behaviour.


 Rushton (1975) found that this effect was only short term. In his study, the effects of having watched pro-social TV lasted only about 2 weeks.

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Explanation 2: Parental Mediation

The media may influence pro-social behaviour in children if parents are watching programmes with their children as they have the ability to enhance the positive messages in the programmes.

The significance of parental mediation was recognised by the BBC with early children’s programmes such as Watch with Mother.

Singer (1998) suggests that parents who watch pro-social programmes with their children can enhance their understanding by explaining and discussing the moral content. This therefore reinforces the pro-social message. This is particularly important in influencing pro-social behaviour in very young children as pro-social morals in TV and film are much harder for children to understand than violent acts. This is because, pro-social situations typically have more dialogue and less action, and have plots that are more challenging to follow and understand.

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Research: Parental Mediation

McKenna and Ossoff (1998) asked 4-10 year olds about the moral messages in Power Rangers. Whilst most of the children understood that there was a lesson to be learned from the programme, only the 8-10 year olds were able to identify it. Younger children tended to focus on the fighting more than the message.



Balkenburg et al (1999) suggested that parental mediation would only enchance Pro - Social behaviour if the content was discussed and explained. Rather than the parent simply sitting with the child, they both must engage with the content and/or messages within the programme.

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Positive & Negative effects of Video Games and Com

The Positive & Negative effects of Video Games and Computers:

1) Positive Effects A01

        - Encouraging Pro - Social Behaviour

        - Tackling Obesity

2) Negative Effects A01

        - Increasing Aggression

        - Desensitisation

3) Evaluation A02

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Positive Effects: Encouraging Pro - Social Behavio

Gee (2003) sees benefits from games that empower learners, develop problem solving, and help understanding. For example, games with interactive components encourage players to actively create and customise, with their decisions impacting on all aspects of the games. He also suggests that they give the user a sense of control and allow independent thinking, perseverance and commitment.

Durkin and Barber (2002) found evidence of positive outcomes in 16 year olds playing computer games. Measures of family closeness, activity involvement, school engagement, mental health and friendship networks were all superior in game players than non-playing peers. This suggests that computers can be a positive feature of adolescence.

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Positive Effects: Tackling Obesity

In the US alone, 15 % of children aged 6 to 11 years are chronically overweight. Low activity levels and a lot of screen time are widely recognised as major contributors to this obesity. Children and their parents however are highly resistant to relinquishing screen entertainment, so the problem is not going to go away. Some video games promote physical activity so might be a way of reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle caused in part by increased time in front of a screen.

Lannigham-Foster et al (2006) found that whilst watching TV and playing traditional computer games expended similar amounts of energy, energy expenditure trebled with active video games.

However, these games cannot replace traditional forms of exercise. For example it has been estimated that whilst playing virtual tennis will burn off calories, playing the sport for real will burn of four times as many

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Negative Effects: Increasing Aggression

As already seen, according to social learning theory children will readily imitate aggression that they witness, particularly if it is rewarded. Many computer games reward aggressive behaviour by awarding points and by allowing progress throughout the game.

Anderson and Bushman (2001) conducted a meta-analysis of studies into video games and aggression and found that short-term exposure to video game violence was associated with temporary increases in aggression among all participants. This suggests a strong relationship between video games and aggression.

Additionally, Silvern and Williamson (1987) found that children playing a violent video game exhibited more verbal and physical aggression compared to children who watched a violent cartoon, suggesting that video games have a more powerful negative effect than other forms of media.

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Negative Effects: Desensitisation

Funk (1993) has suggested that people who are repeatedly exposed to violent video games become desensitised to violence and are therefore less likely to show an aversive response (eg disgust) towards violence in real life. If such aversive responses towards violence are missing, this may lead to a greater propensity to violent behaviour.

Matthews at al (2006) found that adolescents randomly assigned to play a violent video game had increased activity in the amygdala, a brain area associated with emotions, and decreased activity in the prefrontal lobe, which regulates inhibition, self-control and concentration, compared to those randomly assigned to a stimulating non-violent game. This illustrates a specific physical effect on brain functioning, seemingly indicating desensitisation and less control over aggressive tendencies.

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Evaluation A02

A major weakness of much of the research in this area is that as it uses experimental procedures, it cannot measure ‘real life’ aggression, because it would be unethical (eg allowing children to hit each other as a way of measuring aggression).

Another problem with research in this area is that the research findings may be unsubstantiated (not based on rigorous evidence). For example, the findings of the study by Anderson and Dill (2000) suggested that the participants who had played the violent game gave ‘significantly longer noise blasts’. However, Cumberbatch (2004) explains that the blasts were actually just 2% longer than those of the control group and were not even loud.

Many of the research studies rely on data from questionnaires to measure either aggressive tendencies or levels of gaming. 

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Application of the Hovland-Yale model in explainin

1) Hovland Yale Model

        - Source Factors

        - Message Factors

        - Audience Factors

2) Evaluation

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Hovland-Yale: Source Factors

Hovland et al. found that experts are far more effective at persuading others because they are more credible than non-experts. Popular and attractive sources (e.g. celebrity) are more effective than unpopular or unattractive sources.

AO1 Research

Bochner and Insko (1966) asked students to indicate how much sleep was required to maintain good health. Most said approximately 8 hours. However when exposed to two different sources of opinion (one expert and one non-expert), advocating a different position, students were swayed far more by the expert source, even when that led to a more extreme discrepancy between what their own thoughts, and those of the experts.

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Hovland-Yale: Message Factors

Hovland et al. found that messages are more effective if we think they are not intended to persuade. A message can be more effective if it creates a moderate level of fear.

AO1 Research:

McGuire (1968) found that low levels of fear do little to motivate an audience, whereas high levels (scare tactics) can also have negative effects because they create so much anxiety in the audience that it interferes with its ability to process the information in the message.

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Hovland-Yale: Audience Factors

Hovland et al. found that low and high intelligence audiences are less easily persuaded than those with moderate intelligence. With intelligence audiences, presenting both sides of an argument is more effective.

AO1 Research:

McGuire (1968) suggested that low intelligence audiences are less likely to process the content of a message and so are less likely to be influenced by it. High intelligence audiences are more confident in own view, thus making them more difficult to persuade.  Intelligent audiences will process the message in more depth, therefore would reject a simple one-sided argument; which are more effective for less intelligent audiences. Intelligent individuals prefer to hear both sides of an argument before making a decision.

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Hovland-Yale: Evaluation

  • Too optimistic. Attempts to discern general 'rules' for effective and persuasive communication. Later research also contradicted these general 'rules'
  • Concentrates on the steps in the persuasion process, yet doesnt adequately deal with how persuasion works.
  • Later research showed that persuasion was often only temporary
  • Uses mostly self-report methods and standardised measurments.
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The Elaboration-Likelihood Model (ELM)

1) ELM description

2) Central Route (CR)

3) Peripheral Route (PR)

4) Evaluation

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ELM: Description

An alternative model to the Hovland-Yale model was put forward by Petty and Cacioppo (1981) who suggested that persuasion and attitude change were the result of a more complex process.

The term elaboration refers to the extent to which people think about arguments contained in persuasive messages.

Their Elaboration-Likelihood Model (ELM) consists of two routes which vary depending on the personal interest of the message to the target audience. There are two models of thinking that can lead to attitude change.

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ELM: Central Route

The central route occurs when receivers have both motivation AND ability to think about messages.

The CR is used when listeners care about messages, can listen and comprehend them, with centrally processed messages more persuasive and resistant to subsequent counter-arguments.

CR characteristics:

  • Persuasive communication – messages are credible.
  • Motivation to process – Messages are relevant.
  • Ability to process – Messages are pitched at correct level.
  • Nature of argument – Messages are strong, clear and convincing
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ELM: Peripheral Route

The PR is used when messages fail to impact through the CR. The PR is used when receivers are uninterested or distracted and appeals to the viewers emotions.

Persuasion and attitude can still change if peripheral cues are present, though more passively.

Charecteristics of PR:

  • Consistency
  • Likeability
  • Expertise & Authority
  • Scarcity

An example of media using the PR is perfume adverts.

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ELM: Evaluation

Need for cognition. Haugtvedt et al. (1992) support the claim that high need for cognition individuals are more influenced by the central route for communications than would individuals low in need for cognition.

Peripheral route influence may only be temporaryNo university students volunteered when asked to help an AIDS victim carry out a school project. However, one week after Magic Johnson (Celebrity) announced he was a victim, the helping rate soared to 83%.

Almost five months after the announcement, helping rates were back to their initial low levels. This indicates that although peripheral route influence (in this case a celebrity role model) can be considerable. There is a strong likelihood that any changes produced by this route will only be temporary.

IDA: Gender Bias. A variety of research has concluded that women are more susceptible to persuasive communications than men are.

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