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October 2021

Form cues and content difficulty as determinants of children's cognitive processing of televised educational messages

Author(s): Wright, J. C., Huston, A. C.

Journal/Book: J Exp Child Psychol. 1987; 43: 311-27.

Abstract: An experiment was designed to assess the effects of formal production features and content difficulty on children's processing of televised messages about nutrition. Messages with identical content (the same script and visual shot sequence) were made in two forms: child program forms (animated film, second-person address, and character voice narration with sprightly music) and adult program forms (live photography, third-person address, and adult male narration with sedate background music). For each form, messages were made at three levels of content difficulty. Easier versions were longer, more redundant, and used simpler language; difficult versions presented information more quickly with less redundancy and more abstract language. Regardless of form or difficulty level, each set of bits presented the same basic information. Kindergarten children (N = 120) were assigned to view three different bits of the same form type and difficulty embedded in a miniprogram. Visual attention to child forms was significantly greater than to adult forms; free and cued recall scores were also higher for child than for adult forms. Although all recall and recognition scores were best for easy versions and worst for difficult versions, attention showed only minor variation as a function of content difficulty. Results are interpreted to indicate that formal production features, independently of content, influence the effort and level of processing that children use to understand televised educational messages.

Keyword(s): Attention. Child. Child, Preschool. Cognition. Concept Formation. Cues. Female. Human. Learning. Male. Recall. Support, Non-U.S. Gov't. Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.. Television


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