Can Pro-diversity Television Program Influence a Change in Preschooler’s Attitudes Towards Race?

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American children, on average, spend more time watching television programs than they do engaging with adults, siblings, or attending school (Feldman, Coats, & Spielman, 1996). This finding introduces the challenge for big networks to use television to positively guide children’s social learning while they are home from school. Studies have shown that even a brief exposure to television can produce positive effects on learning during childhood (Rice and Woodsmall, 1998), and television programming can also positively influence pro-social behaviors and gender-role concepts (Forge & Phemister, 1987, Mares & Woodward, 2001, O’Bryant & Corder-Bolz, 1978 and Signorelli, 2001). Furthermore, many of the existing educational programs directed at young children aim to influence attitudes relating to racial prejudice (Persson & Musher-Eizenman, 2003). If mainstream networks had psychological research to back up their efforts, then television for children could be as socially awakening as it is relaxing.
In fact for the past three years networks like Fox, FX, and Fox Searchlight Studios have been holding periodic “diversity sessions”, during which they pitch roles for minority characters for their upcoming shows (Deggens, 2013). The results of these sessions vary from changing an existing Caucasian character’s ethnicity to pushing for strong roles designed specially for an actor of color. This routine is rooted in their business concept that an increase in diversity will attract younger viewers and produce stronger ratings (Deggens, 2013). In the past year, some critics have been skeptical of these sessions, as this past fall Fox released a series called Dads, in which all jokes surrounding the minority-race actors are based on ...

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...e a stronger emphasis on the message that any individual can be a strong and positive character, instead of pointing out weaknesses. By not acknowledging culturally stereotyped differences, and by giving minority protagonists positive role-model-type characters, racial equality education could be more effective.
In sum, this study aims to test if an updated set of criteria will influence a change in preschooler’s racial attitudes: (a) the episode includes multiple characters of differing races, (b) positive similarities are stressed between characters of different racial backgrounds, (c) the pro-diversity message is subtle, not explicit, (d) the plot is simple, relatable and interesting, and lastly, (e) all characters should be portrayed as equal in regards to their status amongst each other, emphasizing individual character’s most positive characteristics.
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