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How Behavior Modeled on Aggression Can Result in Frustration and Aggression in Children

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Chosen Article: Imitation of Film Mediated Aggressive Models

Topic Background/Introduction: This study looks at the effects of modeled behavior, in this case, aggression, on children’s expression of aggression and frustration. For this specific paper the modeled behavior is aggression as shown in movies and cartoons, or by a live individual, depending on the group they were placed in.

Hypothesis: The hypothesis in this paper is that in children, exposure to visual and physical examples of aggression produces imitation of the behavior by the child exposed to it.

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Method: The test subjects for this study were two groups of 48 girls and 48 boys from Stanford University Nursery School, these groups were divided into four groups. Three experimental which were each exposed to either cartoon examples of aggression, media examples featuring film of real people, or real adults. The fourth group consisted of 24 children acting as the control.

The group of children exposed to real adults exemplifying aggression were placed in a controlled environment containing a set of playthings they and the adult could interact with. Once the adult was introduced to the environment, they interacted briefly with a set of toys before moving on to a designated doll towards which they displayed verbal and physical aggression for an unspecified length of time, in a specific pattern of repetitive actions.

The two groups exposed to recorded aggression were shown approximately 10 minutes of a color show or cartoon at a distance of 3 feet from a glass screen tv. The events intended to display aggression were, for all groups, initiated in a way intended to appear natural and un-testlike.

The observation of the subjects imitating the aggression they had been shown was supervised in a different location, with consistent and controlled instigation and set placements of the toys within the observation room. The observed subject was given 20 minutes to interact with their environment, and was rated on predetermined criteria that was decided to be displays of aggression. It is unclear whether multiple children were observed at once or interacting with each other.

Results: Children exposed to any kind of aggression consistently returned higher scores than the control group counterpart, but the highest scored were consistently in non imitative aggression, which is slightly unusual in relation to the hypothesis since the expectation was imitation of media and examples leading to increased aggression. Additionally, boys were generally more aggressive than girls, which is a notable trend despite not being variable mentioned in the thesis. Sex of the exemplary figure seem to influence the outcome but not in any uniform ways across genders, and the media by which the aggression was presented seem relatively inconsequential.

Discussion/Interpretation: The results of this study do support the thesis, and there were other trends present that were not directly pertinent to the thesis. The findings show that children are likely to mimic aggression displayed to them in day to day life, regardless of how it is presented, and while they will attempt to reproduce notable scenes they witness, viewing aggression increases aggression in children in general. Aggression is displayed more in male than female subjects, and imitation while present is not as common as expected.

Expansion: In the transcript for this experiment, there are instances of discrepancy in the methods used for the different groups, and the process used to study the control group is not specified in any detail. Although these things may be recorded elsewhere, it is imperative that the children in each test group were studied in uniform and controlled environments for the same amount of time during similar times of day as children's behavior changes drastically depending on the time of day and environmental queues.

Although the study does define several controls, and states that the environment was controlled to some degree, it would likely have produced higher quality data had there been better controls, or more uniform exposure to the same kind of aggression in the same context (ie. each group seeing the same acts of aggression within the same timeline, instead of different things in animation, video, and real life).

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