Prior Exposure to Creatures From a Horror Film

Live Versus Photographic Representations

Authors

  • AUDREY J. WEISS,

    1. Audrey J. Weiss (M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1990) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.Dorothy J. Imrich is a doctoral student in the same department and is interested in the psychological effects of the mass media.Barbara J. Wilson (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1985) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.
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  • DOROTHY J. IMRICH,

    1. Audrey J. Weiss (M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1990) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.Dorothy J. Imrich is a doctoral student in the same department and is interested in the psychological effects of the mass media.Barbara J. Wilson (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1985) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.
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  • BARBARA J. WILSON

    1. Audrey J. Weiss (M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1990) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.Dorothy J. Imrich is a doctoral student in the same department and is interested in the psychological effects of the mass media.Barbara J. Wilson (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1985) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.
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  • Her research focuses on the impact of mass media on children's cognitive and emotional reactions.Her research focuses on developmental differences in children's reactions to mass media. This study was supported by a grant to the third author from the College of Letters & Science, University of California, Santa Barbara. The authors would like to thank the following women for allowing children to be tested at their center or school: Terry Crump, Assistant Supervisor of Youth Activity at the Santa Barbara Recreation Department; Connie Staugaard, Director of the Salvation Army Day Camp; Principal Nancy Hill at Cleveland Elementary School; and Principal Jennie Dearmin at Adams Elementary School. The authors would also like to thank Jeff Levin for serving as one of the experimenters and Kimberly Schodtler and Gabriel Gasca for coding the videotaped facial expressions.

Abstract

This experiment assesses the impact of two exposure strategies on children's emotional and cognitive reactions to a frightening movie scene. Children from two grade levels (kindergarten and first vs. second through fourth) received a desensitization treatment in which modeled exposure to a live earthworm was factorially varied with exposure to graphic photographs of worms taken from a horror film. Children then viewed a frightening scene involving worms taken from this same film. Results indicated that exposure to photographs increased children's enjoyment of the movie segment and reduced fear reactions to the scene. In contrast, the live exposure strategy was effective in reducing fear reactions to the movie only among boys. However, live exposure did alter children's affective reactions to and judgments of worms themselves. The findings are discussed in terms of current theories of desensitization and information processing.

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