CHILDREN REMEMBER MORE FROM TELEVISION THAN READING
by Juliette H. Walma van der Molen, Ph.D., & Tom H.A. van der Voort, Ph.D.
The American Psychological Association
While some parents might view the frequent use
of films and videos in their children's classrooms as a sign of
laziness on the part of teachers, a new study published in the
American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Educational
Psychology suggests otherwise: such teaching materials may help
children -- unlike adults -- remember more of what they are taught.
Psychologists Juliette H. Walma van der Molen, Ph.D., and Tom
H.A. van der Voort, Ph.D., of the Center for Child and Media
Studies at Leiden University in The Netherlands wanted to see if
the results of previous studies comparing the recall of television
and print news information in educated adults would apply to
children as well. All the earlier studies (except one, which found
no difference) found that adults remembered more of what they read
than what they saw on television, possibly because adults take
advantage of the freedom to re-read printed material that they
don't usually have with television.
To do this, the researchers designed a study in which 152
fourth- and sixth-grade children (between ages 10 and 12) were
presented with five children's news stories, either in their
original televised form or in a verbatim printed version. Some of
the children were told they would be tested on what they read or
saw (to simulate the school setting) and others were not told that
they would be tested (to simulate watching or reading at home).
The television version of the five stories lasted 11 minutes and
was viewed once; the children reading the printed versions could
take as long as they needed to read them.
Across the board, children who watched the television news
reports recalled more of what they viewed than the children who
read the printed versions (which carried no photos or
illustrations). There were some differences, however: the more
proficient readers remembered more from either medium than the less
proficient readers (poor readers were excluded from the study) and
the older children who were told they would be tested expended
greater mental effort than those who were not told they would be
tested. Also, the children who watched the televised version
recalled more items of information that were presented both
verbally and visually than they did those that were presented only
verbally, without accompanying pictures. In other words, the
television items were particularly effective (compared with the
printed versions) when the children received the news via two
channels: the spoken commentary and the television pictures
conveying more or less the same information.
Noting that the superiority of television as a news medium for
children proved to be of a more general nature than they had
expected -- it was not restricted to certain subgroups of children
-- the researchers were also pleased to see that the superiority of
television was not confined to the "school situation in which
children may consume the news knowing that they will be questioned
about the information."
"The results of this study," the researchers conclude, "are
'good news' for children, because in the home situation they rely
primarily on the medium that can serve them most effectively. For
instructional settings, the study suggests that television news
that is adapted to children's level of understanding and that
effectively uses television's ability to convey news both verbally
and visually may be an effective aid to the teacher."
Reference: "Children's Recall of Television and Print News: A
Media Comparison Study" by Juliette H. Walma van der Molen, Ph.D.,
and Tom H.A. van der Voort, Ph.D., Leiden, The
Netherlands, in Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 89, No. 1.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in
Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing
psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.
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consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology
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APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means
of promoting human welfare.