This is an extract of our Children’s Reactions To Television Commercials document, which we sell as part of our Children & Youth Markets Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Exeter (Business School) students.
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Children's Reactions to Television Commercials (Young)
EmulationEmulation of behaviour on television can occur and this emerges very early in life. Several psychological processes occur between watching and doing and two of the most important are how real the child finds the commercial on a range from fantasy to reality, and the extent to which the child identifies with the main character(s).Fast paced commercials with loud music increases the child's level of physiological arousal and one would predict that a fast paced commercial would result in more emulation than a slower one.There are several reasons for arguing that emulation can occur when children watch particular television commercials.
The repetition of the commercial provides several opportunities for acting out the behaviour and learning how to do the behaviour (if it's complicated). Commercials often use celebrity endorsers with whom children identify and one would expect advertisers addressing a child audience to make sure identification is high in order for product consumption (the intended emulation) to occur.Commercials for children are often fast paced with frequent cuts and driving music - one would anticipate increased arousal. Commercials for children are often designed to penetrate the child's culture so that children talk about them,
use the catchphrase, laugh about the action and so on. In this way emulation is no longer restricted to one child copying, multiplied by the number of children viewing; rather it is one child copying and other children, who may have never seen the ad, copying that child.Emulation, or imitating what's been seen on TV, occurs early in the child's development with infants imitating what they've seen on television. Two main areas were looked at, concerned with the imitation of aggressive behaviour and risk-taking behaviour. There is evidence that children when exposed to aggressive behaviour on television will behave aggressively. This statement has to be qualified however as the behaviour is short-term and it affects boys more than girls. In addition, there are many intermediate factors concerned with the child's identification with characters and ability to distinguish between degrees of fantasy and reality that will influence the emulation. There is also evidence that children who watch people taking risks on television are more likely to report their willingness to take such risks.
FearsChildren at different ages get frightened by different things. For the preschool child frightening events will be events involving strange creatures, supernatural incidents where the visual representation is odd and threatening.The fact that this event cannot occur in real-life and may be pure fantasy is not reassuring to young children whereas older children will be frightened of realistic incidents that could possibly happen to them.There is an argument used in some of the literature that makes sense. It is that young children who view a change or physical transformation of a character are frightened because they do not understand the difference between the underlying psychological identity of the character which remains unchanged and the physical or behavioural changes.Television advertisements use advanced computer graphics and changes of this sort ('morphing') should be looked at closely. However, fear is a complex social emotion that is often accompanied with other emotions such as arousal and excitement and can be very different in groups than alone.There is evidence, both from experimental studies and interviews with children at different ages, that older children feel frightened by different things on TV than younger children. For the younger child who is dominated by the appearance of things, a 'scary image' can trigger off fear and children are quite capable of reinvoking that image at will
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