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Understanding the properties of televised images

Laura Jamie Claxton, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Previous studies have found that preschoolers appear confused about some of the properties of televised images, indicating that the televised image shares some of the same properties of the object it is representing. For example, 3.5-year-olds claim that a televised object will spill if the television is turned upside down and 3.5- and 4.5-year-olds claim that a character appearing on television can see and hear them. Little is known, however, about the reasoning behind these confusions regarding televised images and whether children will act on these beliefs. In this project, two novel tasks were created. One of these tasks looked at whether children's behavioral responses about a televised person matched their verbal beliefs. Three-and-one-half- to 5.5-year-olds were introduced to a live person and a televised person who provided information about the location of a hidden sticker(Study 1a and 1b). All three age groups said that the televised individual could see the hiding event and acted on this claim by searching for the sticker in the location suggested by the televised individual about as often as the information suggested by the live individual. The second task examined the rationale behind childrens' confusion about the properties of televised images by creating a task in which children made comparisons between an item presented in three different modalities (as a televised object, as a physical object, and as a photo of the object). When given this comparison task (study 2), 3.5- and 4.5- year-olds claimed that the televised objects no longer shared the properties of real objects (e.g., said that the televised object would not spill if the television was turned upside down). Having the televised object next to the real object or a photo of the object seemed to help direct children's attention to the fact that the question was being asked about the televised object itself and not the real object it was representing. Preschoolers may understand the properties of televised objects much earlier than previously believed; however, understanding the properties of televised people may be more difficult.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Claxton, Laura Jamie, "Understanding the properties of televised images" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3275753.