Two meta-analyses of the early research on prosocial effects of TV viewing suggest the possibility for positive effects, but also reveal a lack of systematic research into how best to achieve desired outcomes. Since then, the question has gained more social relevance because of a renewed international interest in using television to reduce prejudice and foster prosocial interactions, and because of the proliferation of programs in the United States that purport to teach socioemotional lessons. Research by Narvaez and others on comprehension of written texts suggests that there are important cognitive and moral schema developments that affect how children process moral messages. It is a central argument of the chapter that the same issues of interpretation and misinterpretation arise with prosocial television content. The latter part of the chapter focuses on the challenges of using TV as a tool for promoting inclusive attitudes, and a series of recommendations about how to increase the probability of positive outcomes.
Can television content be used to foster prosocial attitudes and behaviors among young viewers? The answer suggested by forty years of research is “yes” – but it often seems to take more than unaided viewing and it can be challenging given the complexity of real world conditions. The central conclusion of this chapter is that prosocial TV ...