Media influence on pro-social behaviour
Prosocial messages Developmental trends Social learning theory
Greenberg et al (1980
Among popular TV of 8-12
year olds there were on
average 42.2 acts of antisocial
behaviour and 44.2 acts of
pro-social behaviour in an
Studies since then have been
sporadic making reliability and
trends impossible to discern.
Howard and Roberts (2002)
Toddlers age 14 months
Parasocial responses included:
Joining in with action (singing,
Smiling at companions
Pointing to the screen
Wilson Media helps develop
capacities for thinking
&children learn about nature,
causes of emotions, &
The skills associated with pro-social reasoning
develop with age.
Perspective-taking, empathy and level of moral
reasoning develop through childhood into
Bandura’s social learning theory: children
learn by first observing a behaviour, then
later imitating it if the expectation of a
reward is greater than the expectation of
If social norms have been internalized by
the viewer the expectation of a social
reinforcement can motivate the viewer to
repeat the actions in their own life
Research has shown it is better to learn in
person than through a model on TV.
Prosocial media does have an effect, but it
is comparably short lived and may not be
generalised to new settings.
Prolonged viewing of prosocial media can
result in a substantial and enduring
increases in children’s prosocial behaviour
Antisocial acts are ‘high impact’ and more
Prosocial acts are ‘subtle’ and less
Young children lose prosocial impact when
the message is broken into fragments by for
Children are less able to recognise the
emotional state of others (Hoffman 1976)
Less sure of how to help (Mares 1996)
Experience more difficulty understanding
abstract social messages.
Less influenced by complex pro-social messages
Prosocial influence has a greater effect on
young children than on adolescents - This is
contrary to expectation!
• When younger and older children imitate
behaviour their motives are different.
• Young children have egocentric motives
• Imitate prosocial behaviour to receive a
reward or avoid a punishment
• Adolescents are more able to understand
the underlying principle of abstract
prosocial messages & likely to act for
altruistic reasons (Roker et al 1998)
Skills of prosocial reasoning
develop with age
Reliability: A number of
studies show that pro-social
messages in programmes
influence the value and
behaviour of children.
Children fail to generalise
specific act from media
context to new situation
Children need opportunities
to rehearse behaviours they
Ethical issues – parental consent
Studying effects of pro
social has less research
than anti social
Despite this Hearold (1986)
suggests that pro social
television has a greater
effect on behaviour than
Much research is correlational
therefore no cause & effect
Content analysis may also be
flawed as it is a simple tally
of pro social acts & does not
include content or meaning of
Cole et al (2003)
Evaluated the impact of a
sesame street series of
programmes aimed at teaching
mutual respect and
understanding among Israeli
and Palestinian children.
275 four and five year olds
were interviewed before and
after the series.
Before few had strong negative
After there was an increase in
positive attributes to describe
the other group and an
increase in prosocial
resolutions to resolve conflicts.
Much of this research looks at
positive effects of media
which is purposely made to be
There are pro social acts in
mainstream TV & the
effects of this when the
purpose is pure
entertainment has not been
Media influence on antisocial behaviour
Smith & Donnerstein (1998) – analysed
the content of TV programmes in USA
Found: 61% of TV programmes contained violence
Eron 1992 “There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to
televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behaviour, crime and
violence in society”
Bandura (1986) – Bobo doll aggression study:
Participants were children 3-5 years - watched a video of an adult/ child behaving aggressively towards a Bobo doll
The acts are repeated 3x in the clip - After exposure to clip children were lead towards the lab containing the Bobo doll.
Children were frustrated by seeing other desirable toys they were not allowed to play with.
Children were left alone to play, with hidden monitors observing their play.
Children who witnessed the videos imitated the aggression. Control groups did not.
88% of pre-school children imitated the aggressive acts shown in the film clip.
1. Underlying principle:
In normal circumstances anxiety about violence prohibits its use.
• Those who are not used to violence would be more shocked by
witnessing a violent act in the real world.
• viewers would be less anxious and less sensitive to viewing violence in
the real world to due how often it is viewed.
• Someone who is desensitized to violence will perceive it as more
• According to the theory desensitized people are more likely to engage
in violence and less likely to intervene.
2. Inconsistent effects
Fictional programs receive great
condemnation influences acts of violence.
Documentaries and news on TV does not
receive the same level of condemnation.
In fictional drama there is often negative
consequences for the perpetrator which is
often not the case for those discussed in
3. Lack of research support
Mostly due to ethical concerns
Few theories have been developed on imitation
Researchers need to be cautious of the amount of violence participants are exposed to.
Unacceptable to put people in situations were actual physical violence may be elicited as a result of participation in a study.
Studies that are more naturalistic in their approach rarely find imitation an issue. Noble (1975), “in my own studies where
children watched media violence in small groups I have rarely found more than 5% imitation after viewing.”
heard one child
whisper to their
the doll we have
Is this what you
want me to do?
Children may have
• Experiment designed to show
behaviours not normally
• Learning was maximised by
repeating the act three time
• Aggression or rough-and-
Boys who are heavy watchers of
television violence show lower than
average physiological arousal to new
scenes of violence.
I.e. they are less shocked by violence…
• Still one of the most rigorous, largest and comprehensive studies on media violence.
• Studied 1565 male participants age 13-17 living in London
• The boys were interviewed on several occasions about their exposure to a variety of violent television
• Level and type of violence were rated by members of a BBC viewing panel .
• This provided qualitative and quantitative data on the violence viewed through media.
• To assess violent behavior Belson assessed how often the participants had been involved in any of 53
categories of violence over the previous 6 months.
• Belson compared the behaviour of boys who had higher exposure to televised violence with those who
had lower exposure.
• Individual differences such as social differences between the groups were controlled by matched pairs
• He found that boys who had enjoyed high levels of exposure to television violence when younger
committed 49% more acts of serious violence compared to those who had enjoyed little television
violence. (Known as a sleeper effect)
• Results also show a curvilinear relationship between exposure to violence on TV and violent behaviour.
• Exposure to very high levels of TV violence was associated with 50% less violent behaviour
compared to moderate or high levels.
• Only systematic study it controlled 236 variables effecting both media consumption and aggression.
• The boys were asked about their viewing habits when they were younger
• Belson argues the data is valid as the boys were asked the same question twice and had the same
answer on two different occasions.
• However, this only shows that the boys have given a reliable answer -which could be inaccurate on both
attempts and therefore not be a valid measure.
• More recently though Belson’s methodology has been vindicated (Potts et al. 2008)
BUT – what about a natural experiment
Charlton et al (2000) – TV intro’d in 1995 in St Helena
Little change in antisocial behaviour – actually lower
after its introduction In pro social behaviour also little change
Most research assumes children are extremely vulnerable to negative media influences.
Young media users are “the inept victims of products, which can trick children into all kinds of ill-
advised behaviour” (Gauntlett 1998)
Children’s views are seldom heard.
Those who have listened to the perspectives of children have arrived at far more optimist
Children as young as 7 can talk intelligently and cynically about the media (Buckingham 1996)
Inconclusive case for media violence
• One of the most fiercely contested
debates within Psychology.
• Most recent meta-analyses do not
support concerns that media violence
is associated with criminal aggression
(Savage and Yancey 2008)
• FOR – Huesmann and Moise (1996)
• AGAINST – Freedman (2002)
Nature of the audience
• Hagell and Newburn (1994) Young
offenders watched less television and
video than their non-offending
• Did they have less access
and no interest in specifically
Methodological problems with media violence research
• Tend not to examine real-world influences that might
mitigate the aggressive reaction observed in experiments.
• Participants may react differently in a lab setting when
they realize that their aggression will not be punished.
• Demand characteristics are particularly problematic.
• The more naturalistic the setting (linked with high
ecological validity) the less likely any imitation effects are
• This suggests that findings from controlled lab experiments
may not be generalizable to viewers every day lives.
Negative effects of computers and video games
Anderson et al (2007)
Powerful effects of violent video games
Longitudinal study using survey at 2 points in a school year.
Sample size 430
Cursory measurement of media violence
Name 3 favourite TV shows
Name 3 favourite Video/computer games
Name 3 favourite movies.
How frequently do you watch/ or play the above
How violent do you consider yourself to be?
Effect size was high
The effect of gaming accounted for 8.8% of variance in
aggression. This percentage is supposedly higher than
substance abuse, abusive parents and poverty
Evidence suggests that exposure to violent media may
alter the activity of brain structures that regulate
Boes et al (2008)
aggressive behaviour is associated with decreased
ACC volume particularly with boys.
Weber et al (2006)
exposure to violent video games, ACC activity and
Virtual violence led to decreased activity in the ACC.
Matthews et al (2005)
Individuals with disruptive behaviour disorder and
individuals who self reported high exposure to
violent media showed reduced ACC function when
compared with clinically “normal” individuals
Gentile et al (2004 )Survey in US schools - 607 students Mean age 14
Hypothesis: Those who were most at risk of aggression would be the most influenced by violent computer games.
Survey asked questions about favourite games, time playing, parental restrictions, history of fights or arguing with teachers.
The responses were correlated against a violent video game exposure score
a) How often they played (1-rarely to 7 often)
b) Rate how violent the game was (1-little to 7 extreme)
a x b = score for
Amount of play did not correlate significantly with arguments with teachers or physical fights.
Exposure to violent video games had a very weak significant correlation to:
(+0.10) arguments with teachers
(+0.07) with having physical fights
Anderson Anterior Cingulate Cortex
Gentile et al
Positive effects of computer games on behaviour
Reasonable doses of action shooter games have powerful and positive effects
Lab studies measuring impact of computer games on the brain
1. Improved eyesight: People who don’t play much action game have normal sight.
Action gamers have better eyesight. They can read small font. They can also resolve
more colours of grey. i.e driving in fog. Training studies show after 10 hours of action
gaming over 2 weeks retested and perform better completing mental rotation tasks –
long lasting effects.
2. Improved attention: Used stroop test measure attention conflict between word and
colour. Better attention can resolve the conflict more quickly. Ability to track objects
around is improved for action gamers. Action gamers have nearly double the ability to
3. Functioning of the brain improves
• Parietal– controls the orientation of attention;
• frontal lobe – maintain attention;
• anterior cingulate – control or regulate attention and resolve conflict.
• All 3 are more efficient in people who play action games. Counter-intuitive
4. Multitasking – far better for action gamers.
Research by Anguera
and Gazzaley from the
University of California
have shown that when
old age participants play
3d driving game negative
effects of aging on the
brain are reduced.
Furthermore the game
has been shown to
attention and working
memory. The game
involves driving a car
down a road and
pressing a button when a
sign comes up.
Not all media is created equal. Different video games have a different effect on the brain.
Lab is needed to measure impact of technology on brain.
When consumed in reasonable dosages it is good for you,but should not be abused.
What are the active ingredients in games that lead to positive effects for further educational research.
Can video games be cathartic?
(Allowing people to release their aggressive feelings through video games)
Most views reject this notion
Meta analysis by Sherry (2007) concludes that this theory is well supported.
Not been adequately tested (e.g. samples normally use participants who are anger aroused) which
may have low population validity.
Evidence of harmful effects is weak.
• The validity of scientific knowledge
– For material to be judged worthy of publication, normally significant findings are
• What is the problem with publication bias?
• Means non-significant findings are lost
– Furgusson (2007) suggests when a meta analysis of research on video games is
completed on data (without publication bias) the negative effect of video games
becomes non-significant and near zero.
The content of the message
1. 1 sided / verses 2 sided argument
When the audience is fairly intelligent or hostile it is
More effective to present both sides of the argument
When the audience is less intelligent or already
favours the product - One sided argument is more
The message must be repeated several times if it is to
have an impact on the consumer to increase our
familiarity and liking. Arkes et al (1991) Mere repetition
of a statement can make it appear more true!
3. Using fear
High fear least effective at change (Janis and Feshback)
Low- moderate fear more effective. Most successful
when they include an effective way of coping with the
danger (Witte et al)
1. Self esteem
Hovland originally believed there was a negative
correlation between self esteem and persuasibility
Low SE -> More easily persuaded
High SE -> less easily persuaded
McGuire suggested it was a curvilinear relationship
People with low self esteem less attentive and less
influenced bits factual content.
Those with high self esteem are more self assured
about their beliefs and more difficult to persuade.
Visser and Krosnick (1998) believe that there is a
curvilinear relationship between age and persuasion.
High susceptibility during early and late adulthood.
Lower susceptibility during middle adulthood
Sistrunk and McDavid (1971) argued women are
more persuaded by men when the subject matter is
more “male”. Men are more easily influenced if the
subject is “female” Therefore gender differences are
the result of methodological issues.
The source: The person presenting the message
Hovland et al - experts were usually more persuasive
Attractive sources (use of celebrity) enhance consumer
demand for a particular product
Bochner and Insko (1966) - Credible (expert) sources
better influence resistant audiences. Resistant
audiences attempted to discredit and resist Non expert
In a study a highly credible witness (supposedly a Nobel
prize-winning sleep researcher) was able to convince an
audience that one hour of sleep per night was optimum
Rhodes and Wood (1992) conducted a meta-
analysis of studies on social influence and
found people lower in intelligence were
more prone to persuasion.
Keep the message simple, clear and
People of high intelligence are less likely to yield to
persuasive messages as they are more confident in
their own beliefs
The content The audience
AO2 individual differences
The key to successful persuasion was whether or not an individual is motivated to
elaborate on a particular message. Petty and Cacioppo (1986) 2 routes of persuasion:
Need for cognition
Haugtvedt et al (1992)
high NC are more influenced by central route.
Low NC are more influenced by peripheral route
Vidrene et al (2007) Real life application - Sample 227 college students were required to evaluate the effectiveness of 2
smoking risk pamphlets.
1 fact based (central route) & 1 emotion based (peripheral route)
• High NC found fact based pamphlet more effective
• Low NC found emotion based pamphlet more effective
The message Audience factors Processing approach Persuasion outcome
Central route High motivation and ability to
think about message
Deep processing focusing
on the quality of the
Lasting change that
Peripheral route Low motivation and ability to
think about the message
Superficial or surface
processing such as
attractiveness of speaker
or # of arguments
Temporary change more
susceptible to fading.
Need for Cognition
The persuasiveness of TV
Psychology and advertising
Hard and Soft selling
• Hard selling: focuses on the product
• Presented with factual information
• Soft selling: Focuses on the audience
• Suggests a lifestyle which the view may aspire
• Snyder and De bono 1985:
• High Self monitoring =soft sell
• Low self monitoring = hard sell
• Based on a parasocial relationship
• Walker 1992:
• participants rated same product differently when
endorsed by different celebrities (Madonna and
• Giles: “Where’s lucky?”
• Lack of explicit information made the posters more
memorable because they needed a higher cognitive
effort, paid off in recall and recognition (central)
• Does Celebrity endorsement
• Hume: 5000 tv ads, did not
communication of ad
• Impact of advertising
• Comstock 1999: 80% viewers
leave room when ad come on
• Bushman 1998: both violent
and humorous programmes
are associated with low levels
of recall for ad
Advertising and children
• Robinson: positive correlation between age and
trust of advertisement
– As children got older they were better able to
discriminate between advertisements and
• Evaluation of Robinson:
– Open ended questions
– Small sample size
– Individual differences
Evaluation of advertising and children
• Cause and effect is not established
• Reductionist: pine found parental influence
• Implications for real world
• Pine: positive correlation between amount of
advertisements watched by children and number of goods
on xmas list
• Stronger if the children watched tv alone
• =parents may be a mediating factor
• Compared with Sweden (no advertisements aimed at
below 12 years) = significantly fewer gift requests
Television news has increasingly come to resemble celebrity gossip.
Intimate details of celebrities has become common knowledge
Cashmore (2006) observed that media coverage of celebrities has for many replaced
Parasocial interaction was first investigated by McQuail et al (1972) who revealed
that soap opera audiences sympathised with the plight of characters.
It was concluded that parasocial relationships developed from the audiences need
for companionship and personal identity purposes.
Schiappa et al (2007)
Examined all studies (not just psychological) where the word “parasocial” appeared and selected
empirical studies where the data could allow meta analysis.
• Overall, parasocial relationships were best predicted by:
1. Perception of television characters as attractive
2. Perception of homophily (similarity) with television characters
3. Perception of TV characters as real
4. Affinity for watching television
5. Internal locus of control
6. Being female
7. Being shy/ lonely
• Support: Cole and Leets
1999 Those with an insecure
resistant attachment style
turn to tv characters as a
means of satisfying their
‘unrealistic and often unmet’
Characters who are attractive (1) and
similar in some way (2) to the viewer
were most likely to be the object of a
It is thought that those who can be
needy and clingy in relationships may
be more likely to develop PSRs.
This type of attachment style is
known as insecure-resistant (anxious
Are parasocial relationships dysfunctional?
Rubin et al (1985) cast doubt on the fact that
parasocial relationships are dysfunctional.
Loneliness is not a significant factor in parasocial
Most important factors were homophily and reality
in order to rely upon that figure for
Consistent research shows the people who are
socially active and socially motivated are
more likely to engage in such relationships
(Sood and Rogers 2000)
Are parasocial relationships real?
(NO) Relationships with media celebrities
are imagined by the viewer (often on a
(YES) They are just as real as other
relationships in the sense that they:
Can lead to attitude and behavioural
What do you think?
McCutcheon et al (2002) explained that a compromised self identity in some individuals leads
to a psychological absorption with a celebrity in an attempt to establish an identity.
• In other words “I don’t feel very good about myself, maybe if I look like and act more like
her (Miley Cyrus) I’ll be more happy with my identity.
Better explains the association between mass media and eating disorders. – how?
Maltby et al (2005) carried out a study to investigate the relationship between the AAD model
and body image within the context of parasocial relationships.
• They found that when celebrity worship was related to poorer body image it tended to be
among female adolescents between the ages of 14-16 years.
• The relationship tends to disappear at the onset of adulthood (17-20 years)
AO2: When do parasocial relationships result in negative self image?
AAD suggests that parasocial relationships with celebrities perceived as having a good body
shape leads to a poor body image in female adolescent viewers.
Research suggests this is only true for those who have an “intense-personal” relationship with
Intense personal relationship is when there is no discussion of the celebrity fascination with
friends and it is kept as a personal interaction with the celebrity
The tendency to look up to others and imitate them could have had evolutionary
Douglas: “paying attention to successful individuals is the cleverest thing our big-
brained species does”
Learning by trial and error is expensive in evolutionary terms, e.g. eating a new food
which may be poisonous
Observational learning is much less risky. But this works much better if only
successful individuals are imitated
The mating mind claims that sexual selection was important in human mental evolution.
E.g. art, humour and creativity.
• Natural selection would favour minds with survival enhancing skills
• Sexual selection favour minds prone to inventing attractive, imaginative fantasies
• This explains why most people prefer fiction to non-fiction and myth to scientific evidence.
• Celebrities represent this world of fantasy.
Attraction to creative individuals
• Human beings possess a love of novelty (neophilia).
• Mate choice in the EEA favoured creative displays.
• Musicians, artists and actors show these talents in abundance and therefore we are
drawn to them.
• Sexual selection favours minds prone to creativity and fantasy.
How can we explain the seemingly useless interest that we have in the lives of
reality show contestants, movie stars and celebrities?
Celebrities are a recent occurrence
• In the EEA any person we knew intimate details of would be an important
member of the in-group.
• De Backer et al (2007 carried out a survey of 838 participants and indepth
interviews with 103 individuals to test which of the two competing evolutionary
explanations best accounted for our fascination with celebrity gossip
2 competing evolutionary theories:
1. Attraction to creative individuals
2. Evolutionary explanations of celebrity
De Backer findings
The learning hypothesis:
Explains interest in celebrity gossip as a by-product of an evolved response to
acquire useful relevant informal for survival.
Age is a strong predictor of interest in celebrities
The parasocial hypothesis:
Celebrity gossip is a diversion of this mechanism leading individuals to misperceive
celebrities as people who are part of their social network .
Media exposure is a strong predictor of interest in celebrities.
Practical research difficulties –
Psychology strives to be scientific, if it
can’t be studied in a laboratory, the
topic tends to be ignored.
There is little research in this area
and thus it does not (as yet) form part
of mainstream academic psychology.
Researchers such as Giles (at
Winchester University) and Maltby (at
Leicester University) are doing their
best to address this.
Stalking might be something such as:
- Compiling information about the victim in order to harass them
- Repeated unsolicited messaging
Fisher and Cullen (2000)
Over 4000 participants
13% reported being stalked
And 25% of these received emails.
Advantages such as anonymity and
the opportunities for disinhibited
behaviour can promote greater risk-
taking and antisocial behaviour
Eytan and Borras (2005)
Texting is attractive to stalkers as there is no direct
contact so any stalker apprehension is reduced
Evaluation of cyber-stalking
o Tolerance to cyber stalking
Sheridan and Grant
‘Offline’ stalking may be more reinforcing than
online due to stalkers being able to observe the
impact of their activities.
Research suggests that cyber stalkers may
develop a tolerance to internet based
harassment so they need to increase the
extremity of their activities to feel the same
level of arousal.
o Perceptions of stalking
Research suggests that cyber stalking may not
be taken as seriously as offline stalking.
Presented students with a vignette based on a
real life case study of cyber stalking.
The case presented resulted in prosecution but
only 30% of participants considered this to be
1. Entertainment - Social
2. Intense - Personal
3. Borderline - Pathological
Giles and Maltby, 2006,
found that there a
three types of celebrity
worship from an
analysis conducted on
1723 UK participants.
Fans are attracted
to a favourite
of their perceived
ability to entertain
their peers (social
Fans are attracted to
a favourite celebrity
because they feel an
they can often
understand that it is
Fans are attracted
to a favourite
said celebrity has
over their mind-set
cannot get them
out of their head.
Maltby et al, 2001:
Tested the assumption that celebrity
worship is accompanied by poorer
Opportunity sample of 126
male and 181 female young
adults from workplaces and
community groups in South
Administered the Celebrity
Attitude Scale (CAS)
intense-personal and borderline-
Also administered the General
Health Questionnaire (GHQ)
Measures symptoms of poor
psychological health, somatic
symptoms, anxiety, social
dysfunction and severe depression.
Ethical issues: Confidentiality could have been breached
Integrity and Competence - if someone had a mental health issue, are they
competent enough to deal with it?
The sample would be biased - people would be paranoid about their results
Informed consent is therefore an issue, but to solve it would cause deception
They were told the purpose of the study was to "examine a number of
psychological factors that may be related to an individuals' interest in famous
Findings: Positive correlation of scores between the Entertainment-Social subscale of CAS
and Dysfunction, Anxiety and Depression.
Positive and significant correlation with intense-personal / borderline-
pathological CAS and Anxiety and Depression scores.
Conclusion: Significant relationship between high levels of celebrity worship and poorer
psychological wellbeing is the result of failed attempts to escape, cope or
enhance daily life. This is also true for the initial stages of Entertainment-Social
Maltby et al, 2004:
Sampled 372 people aged
Less than 2%
Over 5% intense
May be the result of fan’s confusion between celebrities’ fictional roles
and their real lives
McCutcheon et al:
Evidence of a hierarchy of celebrity worship with over-identification with
the celebrity (and obsession with details of the celebrity’s life) at the top
of the hierarchy.
Negative correlation between celebrity worship and psychological
If the individual is participating in a social network of fans sharing
information and experiences with friends may promote productive and
social relationships which serve as buffer against everyday stressors.
When people only
discover how much they
worshipped a celebrity
after their death.