Potts, R., Huston, A. C., & Wright, J. C. (1986). The effects of television form and violent content on boys’ attention and social behavior. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 41 (1), 1-17.

Abstract:  Investigated the independent effects of TV content (violence) and TV formal features (action level) on children’s attention to programs and their postviewing social behavior. 32 pairs of 39-75 mo old boys participated in 2 experimental sessions in which they saw animated and live TV programs that varied in violent content (high or low) and formal features (high or low action level). They then played with toys that contained cues for either aggressive or prosocial interaction. Results show that rapid character action facilitated visual attention to the programs; violent TV content did not facilitate attention. On measures of social behavior, strong effects of toy cues were found independently of TV treatment effects. Aggressive toys produced aggressive behavior, and prosocial toys produced prosocial behavior; these patterns included some nonspecific, generalized influences in addition to direct demands of the play materials. Violent TV content led to changes in Ss’ style of interaction and was also associated with increases in some prosocial behaviors. TV action level had no systematic effects on Ss’ behavior. Results are discussed within the theoretical frameworks of observational learning and general arousal. Implications for children’s TV programming are also discussed. (31 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)