Understanding children's involvement with and response to television is a complex area of study. Although the subject of children and television has been the focus of public debate that in turn has both spawned and been fueled by research by psychologists, sociologists, educationalists, and communications specialists, there is still a great deal of disagreement over the impact that television has on the lives of young people. This volume attempts to provide answers to some of the most pressing questions about television's influences on children and to add usefully to the published research literature by describing a new program of investigation that uses more than one research technique to shed light on how children respond to selected categories of television material.
The research sets out to measure the comprehension, evaluation, and effects of television programs at a perceptual or cognitive level using a classic experimental psychological design. The research measured young viewers' immediate responses to programs and the subsequent cognitive impact that particular viewing experiences had on them. The key variables under investigation were knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes relating to selected subject matters. Effects on these variables of television programs whose contents either dealt directly with or were closely related to the subject matter in question were the psychological phenomena being measured. The classic design involved pretesting participants, in this case children ages between 8 and 15 years, for existing knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes on the critical subject areas, then showing them a program whose contents deal with the same subject, and finally testing participants once again for their reactions to the program and for any changes in knowledge,