Krcmar, M., & Hight, A. (2007). The development of aggressive mental models in young children. Media Psychology, 10(2), 250-269. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from PsycINFO database.
This study was undertaken to examine why a previous study revealed that children inaccurately recalled “seeing” violence in a nonviolent cartoon clip. We used a 2 (still photo vs. video clip) × 2 (action hero vs. neutral character) repeated measure experimental design and showed preschoolers (33-60 months) two photos and two video clips. Children were asked to tell a story about what might happen next. In addition, parents filled out a brief questionnaire. Results indicate that first, children whose parents reported that they had never been exposed to violent cartoons gave fewer aggressive responses than those who had seen one. Second, character type appears to have a greater effect on children’s aggressive mental models than the narrative does. Overall, the effect of stereotypical action characters (as compared to neutral characters) is greater than it is for the video clip versus still-photo manipulation. Third, older children provided more aggressive story endings to the action character in the video sequence compared to younger children who saw the neutral character in the still photo or the neutral character in the video sequence. In sum, a single exposure to action cartoons may help very young children establish mental models for aggression. Second, both older and younger children are influenced by action cartoons, but older children are better able to incorporate story information whereas younger children focus on character appearance. Results are discussed in terms of mental models and child development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)(from the journal abstract)