One each pair of cottages was assigned

One early field-experiment was a study conducted by Stein
and Friedrich (1972) for the Surgeon General’s project. These investigators
presented 97 preschool children with a diet of either ‘antisocial’ ‘prosocial’,
or ‘neutral’ television programs during a four-week viewing period. The
antisocial diet consisted of twelve half-hour episodes of Batman and Superman
cartoons. The prosocial diet was composed of twelve episodes of Mister Roger’s
Neighborhood (a program that stresses such themes as sharing possessions and
cooperative play). The neutral diet consisted of children’s programming which
was neither violent nor prosocial. The children were observed through a nine-week
period, which consisted of three weeks of pre-viewing baseline, four weeks of
television exposure, and two weeks of post-viewing follow-up. All observations
were conducted in a naturalistic setting while the children were engaged in
daily school activities. The observers recorded various forms of behavior that
could be regarded as prosocial (i.e. helping, sharing, cooperative play) or
antisocial (i.e. pushing, arguing, breaking toys). The overall results
indicated that children who were judged to be initially somewhat aggressive
became significantly more so as a result of viewing the Batman and Superman
cartoons. Moreover, the children who had viewed the prosocial diet of Mister
Roger’s Neighborhood were less aggressive, more cooperative and more willing to
share with other children.


 In another
field-experiment, Parke and his colleagues (Parke et al., 1977) found similar
heightened aggression among both American and Belgian teenage boys following
exposure to aggressive films. In the Belgian study– which replicated the
findings of two similar studies conducted in the United States–teenage boys
residing in a minimum-security institution were presented with a diet of either
aggressive or neutral films. This study included a one-week baseline observation
period, followed by one week of film viewing, and a one-week post-viewing
observation period. There were four cottages involved. Two cottages contained
boys with high levels of aggressive behavior; two contained boys with low
levels of aggression. One of each pair of cottages was assigned to the
aggressive film condition, while the other two viewed the neutral films. Only
the two initially high-aggressive cottages were affected by the movies; those
boys who saw the aggressive movies increased their level of aggression, while
those who were exposed to the neutral films reduced their level of aggression.

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 Still, one might ask
whether such results are found when the variation in television diets occurs
naturally rather than by special arrangement. Williams and her colleagues (Joy,
Kimball & Zabrack, 1986; Williams, 1986) had the opportunity to evaluate
the impact of televised violence on the behavior of children before and after
the introduction of television in a Canadian community. They compared children living
in the before/after television town with their peers in two other towns where
television was well established. The three towns were called Notel (no
television reception), Unitel (receiving only the government-owned commercial
channel-CBC), and Multitel (receiving the CBC and three American commercial
networks-ABC, CBS and NBC). Children in all three towns were evaluated at Time
1 when Notel did not receive a television signal and again at Time 2 when Notel
had had television for two years (it had received the government channel-CBC).
Results indicated that there were no differences across the three towns at Time
1, but at Time 2 the children from the former Notel town were significantly
more aggressive, both physically and verbally, than the children in the Unitel
or Multitel towns. Moreover, only children in the Notel town manifested any
significant increase in physical and verbal aggression from Time 1 to Time 2.


 Extent of Effects:


 We get a clearer
picture about the extent of TV violence effects when we know more about the way
children watch televised violence. For example, Ekman and his associates (Ekman
et al., 1972) found that those children whose facial expressions, while viewing
televised violence, depicted the positive emotions of happiness, pleasure,
interest or involvement were more likely to hurt another child than were those
children whose facial expressions indicated disinterest or displeasure.


 The long-term
influence of television has not been extensively investigated but we do have indications
from several major studies. In an initial longitudinal study Lefkowitz and his
colleagues (Lefkowitz et al., 1972) were able to demonstrate long-term effects
in a group of children followed-up over a ten-year period. In this instance,
Eron (1963) had previously demonstrated a relationship between preference for
violent media and the aggressive behavior of these children at the age of
eight. One question now posed was, would this relationship hold at later ages?
To answer this question, the investigators obtained peer-rated measures of
aggressive behavior and preferences for various kinds of television, radio and
comic books when the children were eight years old. Ten years later, when the
members of the group were eighteen years old, the investigators again obtained
measures of aggressive behavior and television program preferences. The results
for boys indicated that preference for television violence at age eight was
significantly related to aggression at age eight (r = .21), but that preference
for television violence at age eighteen was not related to aggression at age
eighteen (r = .05). A second question posed was, could this adolescent
aggressiveness be predicted from our knowledge of their viewing habits in early
childhood? And, the answer seems to be yes. The important finding here is the
significant relationship, for boys, between preference for violent media at age
eight and aggressive behavior at age eighteen (r = .31). Equally important is
the lack of relationship in the reverse direction; that is, preference for
violent television programs at age eighteen was not produced by their
aggressive behavior in early childhood (r = .01). The most plausible
interpretation of this pattern of correlations is, that early preference for
violent television programming and other media is one factor in the production
of aggressive and antisocial behavior when the young boy becomes a young man.


 In more recent,
short- term, longitudinal studies conducted by Lefkowitz and Eron and by their
colleagues (Eron, 1982; Huesmann, Langerspetz & Eron, 1984; Sheehan, 1983),
they found some short-term effects of viewing violence on aggressive behavior
of children in the United States, Australia and Finland.


 Finally, the 22-year
longitudinal study (Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitz & Walder, 1984)–a follow-up
to the earlier Lefkowitz et al. (1972) study–has found significant
causal-correlations (r = .41) between violence viewing at age eight and serious
interpersonal criminal behavior at age 30.


 In a
different approach, a study by Belson (1978) has substantiated other long-term
effects and has helped pin down which types of programs have the most
influence. Belson interviewed 1565 youths who were a representative sample of
thirteen to seventeen-year-old boys living in London. These boys were
interviewed on several occasions concerning the extent of their exposure to a
selection of violent television programs broadcast during the period 1959-71.
The level and type of violence in these programs were rated by members of the BBC
viewing panel. It was thus possible to obtain, for each boy, a measure of both
the magnitude and type of exposure to televised violence (e.g. realistic,
fictional, etc.). Furthermore, each boy’s level of violent behavior was
determined by his own report of how often he had been involved in any of 53
categories of violence over the previous six months. The degree of seriousness
of the acts reported by the boys ranged from only slightly violent aggravation
such as taunting, to more serious and very violent behavior such as: ‘I tried
to force a girl to have sexual intercourse with me; I bashed a boy’s head
against a wall; I threatened to kill my father; I burned a boy on the chest
with a cigarette while my mates held him down’. Approximately 50 per cent of the
1565 boys were not involved in any violent acts during the six-month period.
However, of those who were involved in violence, 188 (12 per cent) were
involved in ten or more acts during the six-month period. When Belson compared
the behavior of boys who had higher exposure to televised violence to those who
had lower exposure (and had been matched on a wide variety of possible
contributing factors), he found that the high- violence viewers were more
involved in serious violent