February 22, 2005

RESEARCH: Teens and Movie Heroes Subject of New Georgetown Study (USA)

Teens and Movie Heroes Subject of New Georgetown Study


Research Examines Whether Teens Perceive Heroic Role Models as Violent or Worthy of Imitation

Washington, D.C. ? Violence in the media and its long-term effect on viewers is under constant observation by policymakers, parents and industry experts. In a new study from Georgetown University?s Children?s Digital Media Center (CDMC), researchers take a closer look at media heroes who commit justified acts of aggression and examine the specific character traits viewers admire and find worthy of imitation. Results indicate that viewers admire the positive qualities heroes exhibit, and the more viewers comprehend a movie?s plot the more likely they are to identify with the heroic characters in it.

?These findings suggest the importance of a mature understanding of narratives by those who view them,? said CDMC Director and Professor of Psychology Sandra Calvert. ?This is a serious policy issue when one considers the number of youth who attend action-adventure movies at theatres or who view them as DVD, videotape and eventual television fare in their homes.?

CDMC researchers led by Calvert conducted a study involving 366 high school and college age students from two cultures living with fears of external threats, the U.S. and Taiwan. Students viewed the DVD ?Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? in their native languages and then completed a questionnaire about the film. Researchers examined age, gender, cultural background and plot comprehension in relation to students? identification with media heroes. Results are published in the November-December 2004 special issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, co-edited by Calvert and University of California at Los Angeles CDMC researcher Patricia Greenfield.

Study results indicate that both U.S. and Taiwanese students identified with heroes? positive character traits rather than qualities such as aggression or vengeance. Adolescents reported perceiving media heroes as being more compassionate, as using their ?heads before their swords,? and as being in control of their lives. Teenagers did not perceive heroes as being evil or as seekers of revenge. Students who considered characters as heroic also viewed them as role models. U.S. students identified with heroic characters and heroic ideals more than Taiwanese students did.

In addition, researchers found that viewer plot comprehension influenced whether students identified more with heroic characters or villains. Students with better plot comprehension were more likely to identify with heroic characters and those who had a poor understanding of the narrative were more likely to identify with the villain.

?Heroic narratives are embedded in cultures throughout the world,? writes Calvert in the journal. ?How narratives present, modify and use this formula is integral to the socialization of our youth, to the character of our nation, and to our views about the potential for good and evil in other people as well as the moral struggles we face within ourselves.?

About the Children?s Digital Media Center

The Children?s Digital Media Center (CDMC) is a five-university consortium between Georgetown University, the University of California at Riverside, the University of California at Los Angeles, Northwestern University, and the University of Texas at Austin uniting a national community of scholars, researchers, educators, policy-makers, and industry professionals whose goal is to shed light on how children learn from the digital media environment in which they live. Funded in large part by a five-year $2.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation, CDMC is working to gain a greater understanding of how interactive digital media experiences affect children?s long-term social adjustment, academic achievement, and personal identity. For more information about CDMC, visit http://cdmc.georgetown.edu.

About Georgetown University

Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs on its three campuses. For more information about Georgetown University, visit www.georgetown.edu.

Contact: Andrea Sarubbi

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