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The effects of media on prosocial behaviour Essay

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There has been substantial number of studies that has provided evidence for the potential value of the media for the development of prosocial behaviour. Prosocial behaviour can be defined as helping behaviour, altruism or generally any behaviour that is positive and calculated to promote the interests of society. Television programmes contain many examples of good behaviour acting kindly and with generosity. Studies demonstrate that children may imitate forms of prosocial behaviour such as altruism, positive interaction with others when exposed to models who display such behaviours.

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This is especially true when the model is rewarded for their behaviour. In Bryan and Bryan’s (1970) study, 6 to 9 year olds were shown a specially recorded filmof a character bowling and winning gift certificates. 3 conditions: 1. the character gave some of his certificates to charity 2. He kept them to himself 3. The charater also preached the emnrts of giving to charity. After watching the film, the children were put in a similar situation and wer observed to see if they too would give to charity. Results – those who had seen character being generous were likely to display generosity whilst

those who saw him being selfish were less generous. Interestingly, it was the actions of the character that were infuenital whilst his words made no difference. One positive effect of television might be that witnessing others behaving aggressively helps viewers to get their aggressive feelings ‘out of their systems’ and hence be less likely to behave aggressively. This claims that television can act as a form of vicarious catharsis. Singer (1989) provided evidence that shows television is only carthartic for a particular personality type or those who score high on cognitive measures of fantasy, daydreaming and imagination.

Greenfield (1984) has claimed that television literacy involves teaching childrem to be informed consumers of television. This includes distinguishing between social reality and the make-believe world of television, interpreting and assessing sex role and minority group stereotypes. Huesmann et al. (1983) allocated young children who were known to have a large amount of exposure to T. V to a control or experimental group. The experimental group received 3 training sessions designed to reduce the modelling of aggessive behaviour seen on t. v.

They were taught that t. v does not portray the world as it realkly is, that camera techniqes and special effects give theb illusion that charaters are perofrming their highly aggressive and unrealistic feats, and that most peopel use other methods to solve the problems encountered by characters in t. v programmes. Results – compared with the control group, the experimental group showed less overall aggressive behaviour and lowered identification wth televised charaters.

These effects had persisted when the participants were followed up 2 years later. O’Connor found that specially prepared t.v material can hel[ lonely, self-conscious children t make friends more readily. Children who have difficulty getting on with their peers can watch fictional scenarios in which they see how to mix with others in various social situations. Studies have shown that children’s willingness to help can be increased through viewing a televised example of a specific prosocial behaviour. Television productions such as Sesame Street are designed to enhance the social maturity and responsiblity of young viewers.

Children who watch this are able tp identify and remember the cooperative and helping behaviours are emphasised. They also showed increased abilities to learn from the exercises contained on the programme (e. g. counting, letter recognition) as well as being better prepared for school life (Lesser 1974). However this is not true for all children. Rockman (1980) found that when programmes have a character struggling with a particular problem (e. g bullying, divorce etc) but cannot make a decision, children are able to understand the content and can then generate prosocial rather than antisocial solutions to the problem faced in the plot.

The more violence we are exposed to on t. v, the more densitised we become and so we are less likely to engage in violent behaviour, “watching violence on t. v makes me less tolerant to violence in society. ” Conclusion/evaluation Research focuses too much on the influences of television and are not focusing on the benefits of the newspaper, radio, etc. According to Gunter (1998), the ordinary broadcast material can enhance a wide range of helping behaviours. It is important that people should be able to see antisocial behaviour in the media so that they can distinguish between prosocial and antisocial behaviour.

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