Desensitizing Children's Emotional Reactions to the Mass Media

Barbara J. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This experiment assesses the effectiveness of two desensitization strategies for reducing emotional reactions to mass media. Children from two grade levels (kindergarten and first vs. second through fourth grade) were assigned to one of three conditions before watching a frightening movie scene involving lizards: passive exposure to a live lizard, modeled exposure during which the experimenter touched the live lizard, or no exposure. Results revealed that modeled exposure decreased emotional reactions and negative interpretations of lizards for both age groups, whereas passive exposure had a more limited effect on emotional reactions and did not influence interpretations. The findings are consistent with current theories of desensitization and observational learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-745
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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