Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

Publication Date



The present study was designed to test the effects of various types of film content upon the subsequent aggressive and altruistic behavior of male and female nursery school children who differed in their initial tendency for performing overt aggressive behavior. A mild frustration manipulation was employed prior to exposing subjects to one of five film contents. Subjects viewed one of the following: (1) an aggressive film in which the central character (a lion) physically and verbally attacked another character (a wolf), (2) a similarly aggressive film with the same characters, but in this version the victim became the aggressor midway through the film and "justifiably" attacked his previous assailant, (3) a film in which a lion in search of a friend (affiliation) to help him perform an altruistic act at first was unable to find him, but in the end was successful, (4) a neutral film in which a lion was building a small log house or (5) the neutral film without prior frustration. All subjects were first given an opportunity to respond in an aggressive manner and then had an equal opportunity to respond in an altruistic manner. The dependent measure employed in the present study was similar to the apparatus employed by Liebert and Baron (1972). In the aggressive response set (10 trials), the child was told that he or she, in pressing the "hurt button," not only was preventing another child from winning a prize but also was causing the other child some physical discomfort. In the altruistic response set (a second 10 trials), subjects were made to believe that, in pressing the "help button," they were making it easier for the other child to win a prize. The subject's total duration of responding, in seconds, served as the measure of aggression and altruism. The child could respond for a possible 550 seconds in either the altruistic or aggressive response periods. Analyses indicated that the film depicting prosocial behavior (affiliation film) was effective in inhibiting subsequent aggressive responses, with affiliation film subjects performing significantly less aggression than frustration neutral film subjects. The affiliation film also was found to facilitate significantly more subsequent altruistic behavior than the combination of the four remaining conditions. Because the behavior depicted in the film was substantially different from the dependent measure of altruism, it appeared that generalization had taken place. A disinhibition of subsequent aggression was found with subjects who viewed a film in which an aggressor was justifiably punished for prior aggressive behavior. These subjects performed significantly more aggression than neutral film subjects. No significant difference was found between frustration neutral film and justified vicarious punishment film subjects. No significant difference in the amount of subsequent aggression was found between subjects in the vicarious punishment and aggression films. Aggression film subjects were not significantly more aggressive than either the frustration neutral or neutral film subjects. No subsequent inhibition of altruistic behavior was found for subjects viewing either the justified punishment or aggression films. It was suggested that the failure of the present study to find a subsequent inhibition of altruism following exposure to justified punishment or aggression may have resulted from prior aggressive responding interfering with subsequent altruistic responding. The affiliation film may have been effective in offsetting this interference. It was suggested that symbolic models depicting prosocial behavior may not only have inhibited subsequent aggression but also may have facilitated prosocial behaviors. Film models which employed vicarious punishment, on the other hand, may have disinhibited the subsequent aggressive performance of mildly frustrated preschool children. Initial level of subject's aggression and sex of subject did not interact with treatment conditions.

Document Type




Level of Degree


Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mary Bierman Harris

Second Committee Member

Peggy Janice Blackwell

Third Committee Member

Wayne Moellenberg

Fourth Committee Member

Gordon A. Zick

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Education Commons