Unit 6 - Prosocial Effects

General Purpose:  To understand how media contributes positively to
our lives.

Unit Outline

I.   Overview of Prosocial Messages

     A.   Definition - any nonviolent, social message designed to
          be helpful or beneficial

     B.   Focus Strongly On Children 

     C.   Primary Application of Modeling Theory

II.  Prosocial Effects (Rushton, 1979)

     A.   General Procedures in these Studies

          1.   All studies make use of a prosocial message.
          2.   All were experiments (randomly selected
          3.   Almost always observed behavior 

     B.   Altruism - unselfish acts 

     C.   Shyness Reduction - shy kids are shown a prosocial
          message of groups of kids playing and encouraging shy
          kids to participate.  Shy kids showed some improvement (1
          out of 3).

     D.   Self-Control - Boys and forbidden toys with three groups
          restraint, succumb, neutral.  If they saw the restraint 
          video they kept from playing with toys the longest and 
          played the least.  Succumb waited a little and played most.

     F.   Coping with Fear - Kids were shown a video tape of what
          to expect on their hospital visit.  Kids shown the video
          had shorter recovery periods, less pain relievers, etc.

III. Classic Prosocial Research

     A.   MisterRogers Neighborhood

          1.   Format - simple, unchanging, slow, easy,
               predictable with a strong Christian message
               (families, togetherness).  Kids crave consistency.
               As they get older, they get bored.  Tells a story
               about the neighborhood...the world is just a
               neighborhood (Japanese neighborhood, etc.).

          2.   Content

               a.   Develops on self esteem 

               b.   Builds sense of community 

          3.   Effects - 23 different studies have been done on
               MisterRogers Neighborhood - moderate effect

     B.   Sesame Street 

          1.   Format - Jazzy to keep kids' attention.

          2.   Content - focuses on symbolic learning (a media
               headstart). It was designed to teach disadvantaged
               kids the alphabet, numbers, etc.

          3.   Effects on Achievement - shows a moderate effect on
               disadvantaged frequent viewers - see page 63

IV.  Hearold's Summary of Prosocial Effects (Hearold, 1986)

     A.   Goals and Methods - summarized all the research studies
          in the prosocial area and found an average effect.  Found
          over 100 studies on exposure to prosocial messages.

     B.   Types of Media Messages - Lassie, Sesame Street, etc.

     C.   Types of Prosocial Outcomes - does it work with altruism,
          shyness, behaviors, etc.

     D.   Results 

          1.   Average Effect of Message on Prosocial - if you see
               a prosocial message, do you act prosocial?  yes, a
               moderate effect - see page 64

          2.   Effects for Lab, Field, and Natural Settings - no
               difference when comparing where the study was done.

          3.   Real vs "Fictional" Messages - no difference

          4.   Age and Sex Differences 

               a.   large age difference (after puberty, prosocial
                    messages have less effect)

               b.   moderate effect - girls are more responsive to
                    prosocial messages. 

V.   Conclusions about Prosocial Media

     A.   Behavioral Impact from Prosocial Messages 

     B.   Effects Strongly Related to Age and Sex - not magic

     C.   Society Reinforces Prosocial Themes 

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Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 6, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.