Media Influences on Prosocial Behaviour
The effect of prosocial media is not as widely studied as antisocial media, largely because it does not engender moral panics as violent media do.
Explanations for Media Influences on Prosocial Behaviour
Exposure to prosocial behaviour
- The high prevalance of violent acts on TV is a highly reported statistic.
- Kunkel et al., (1996) - content analysis, two-thirds of the children's programmes sampled contained at least one act of violence.
- However, the prosocial content - Greenberg (1980) analysed popular children's programmes in the US and found an equivalent number of prosocial acts in any hour.
- Are children exposed to prosocial programmes? Woodard (1999) 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.
Aquisition of prosocial behaviours and norms
- The major claim of the Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1962) is that we learn by observations how to do things and when it is acceptable to do them.
- We may imitate these behaviours, and the consequences of doing so will determine whether we repeat the act. So we are more likely to repeat prosocial acts that we are praised for.
- Some studies of prosocial effects looked 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. For example, in the study by Johnston and Ettema the largest effects were found when the programme was viewed in the classroom and accompanied by teacher-led discussions. However there are cases when this doesn't work; Rubenstein and Sprafkin (1982) in a study of adolescents hospitalised for psychiatric problems, found that post-viewing discussion led to an decreased altruism (helping someone else at some cost to the helper). This may be because adolescents have a tendency to take up a view counter to that held by adults.
- Research suggests that many of the skills that are synonymous with prosocial behaviour (e.g. empathy, moral reasoning) develop through childhood and into adolescence, (Einsberg, 1990).
- Consequently, we might expect strong developmental differences in the degree to which children of different ages are influenced by the prosocial content they view on TV.
- This means that younger children may be less affected by prosocial portrayals in the media than older children.
- Despite the expectation that younger children would be least affected by prosocial programming, the meta-analysis by Mares (1996) found that the weakest effect was for adolescents and the strongest effect for primary school children. Effects for…