Children's perceptions of the effectiveness of techniques to reduce fear from mass media

Barbara J. Wilson, Cynthia Hoffner, Joanne Cantor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In two separate studies, children reported on their perceptions of the effectiveness of various strategies for reducing fright reactions to mass media stimuli. Three age groups were involved: preschool, 3 to 5 years; early elementary school, 6 to 7 years; and older elementary school, 9 to 11 years. The studies revealed that the perceived effectiveness of cognitive strategies, such as "tell yourself it's not real," increased with age, whereas that of noncognitive strategies, such as "get something to eat or drink," decreased with age. The differential effectiveness of the two types of strategies had been predicted on the basis of cognitive developmental differences among the groups. Specifically, developmental increases were assumed in the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, in the ability to modify one's own thought processes, and in functional cognitive capacity. Methodological differences between Study 1 and Study 2 demonstrated that younger children's "yea-saying" tendencies can be circumvented by employing forced choices between pairs of alternative strategies. Both studies also revealed that scary television shows and movies are quite popular among children and that fright reactions to such offerings are prevalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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