Psychology - Williams et al (1981): Does TV affect children's behaviour?

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Is TV all that bad? How would we ever find out if it were? Most of us have been exposed to television from a very young age. Its effects would be difficult to measure because we would not be able to tell what we would have been like without television.

Williams et al (1981) study

What if we could prevent children from watching television, then introduce it and measure the effects? Wouldn't it be very difficult to set up an experiment like this? Tannis Williams and her colleagues had just such a unique opportunity when a small, remote town in British Columbia, Canada, applied for a television transmitter to be installed because they had no TV reception (British Columbia is very mountainous; many remote places find it difficult to pick up a TV signal).

Aim

Williams wanted to measure children's behaviour before and after television had been introduced to the town and also to compare the children's behaviour with that in other towns that did have TV.

Procedure

Williams et al carried out a natural experiment. They measured a range of behaviours before and after the town received television:

  • aggression of children in the playground and classroom
  • leisure activities the community were involved in
  • intelligence level (IQ) of children
  • creativity and reading ability of children

To measure aggression, two observers watched children in the school playground and classroom. They only started observing once the children were used to their presence. This was to make sure the children did not behave differently because of the observers watching them. They measured the number of physical acts of aggression (hitting) and…

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