"Vamonos Means Go, But That's Made Up for the Show": Reality Confusions and Learning From Educational TV

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DOI: 10.1037/a0038041 · Source: PubMed
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Abstract
Educational television for young children often combines factual content with fantasy. In 2 experiments, we examined 3- to 5-year-olds' reality judgments and the implications for their learning. In the 1st study, 145 children watched 3 clips featuring (respectively) a Hispanic, a Chinese American, and an Anglo character. Responses indicated age differences in character-reality judgments (e.g., "X can hear me"), acceptance of fantasy (e.g., talking backpacks), rejection of factual content (i.e., Spanish and Chinese words are "just pretend") but not perceived learning. Perceived reality of Chinese and Spanish words used by the characters partially mediated age differences in word comprehension, controlling for viewer ethnicity. In the 2nd study, 114 children were randomly assigned to see clips featuring either Hispanic or Chinese traditions and words. Age differences in reality judgments were replicated and were partially mediated by children's use of evidence or arguments to justify reality judgments and (to a lesser extent) by their cognitive flexibility. Further, children's reality judgments partially mediated age differences in learning of the educational content. Results suggest that reality distinctions improve with age, contributing to children's learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
“Vámonos Means Go, But That’s Made Up for the Show”:
Reality Confusions and Learning From Educational TV
Marie-Louise Mares
University of Wisconsin–Madison Gayathri Sivakumar
Colorado State University
Educational television for young children often combines factual content with fantasy. In 2 experiments,
we examined 3- to 5-year-olds’ reality judgments and the implications for their learning. In the 1st study,
145 children watched 3 clips featuring (respectively) a Hispanic, a Chinese American, and an Anglo
character. Responses indicated age differences in character-reality judgments (e.g., “Xcan hear me”),
acceptance of fantasy (e.g., talking backpacks), rejection of factual content (i.e., Spanish and Chinese
words are “just pretend”) but not perceived learning. Perceived reality of Chinese and Spanish words
used by the characters partially mediated age differences in word comprehension, controlling for viewer
ethnicity. In the 2nd study, 114 children were randomly assigned to see clips featuring either Hispanic
or Chinese traditions and words. Age differences in reality judgments were replicated and were partially
mediated by children’s use of evidence or arguments to justify reality judgments and (to a lesser extent)
by their cognitive flexibility. Further, children’s reality judgments partially mediated age differences in
learning of the educational content. Results suggest that reality distinctions improve with age, contrib-
uting to children’s learning.
Keywords: children, ethnicity, fantasy–reality, race, video deficit
Consider a 4-year-old who watches a popular television pro-
gram featuring a Latina character. On the show, the character uses
some Spanish words intermingled with English and partakes in
various celebrations related to her ethnicity, such as a cousin’s
quinceañera, or Three Kings’ Day. However, the character and her
surroundings are animated rather than live action, leaving the
physical cues of her ethnicity and location subject to the judgments
of the illustrators. She interacts with a singing map, a talking
backpack, and a fox who tries to steal her belongings. What might
the viewer, within the target age group for this show, conclude
about Hispanics?
This question lies at the intersection of several lines of research.
One focuses on early learning and theorizing about social catego-
ries such as ethnicity. A second examines children’s developing
ability to distinguish fantasy and reality. A third, related line looks
at beliefs about the nature of television viewing.
In two studies, we examined 3- to 5-year-olds’ judgments about
TV content featuring various ethnic groups. Study 1 focused on
their perceptions of what was real and what was “pretend” in
programs featuring (respectively) a Hispanic, a Chinese American,
and an Anglo protagonist. In Study 2, we attempted to replicate
age differences, evaluate explanations for age differences, and
examine the relationships between realism judgments and learning
of cultural content.
Complicated Depictions and Developing
Understanding of Ethnicity
We focused on children’s responses to depictions of Hispanics
and Chinese Americans. Both are sizable ethnic groups in the
United States and are understudied with regard to children’s
knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about them. We acknowledge
that Asians are considered a multiethnic racial group and Hispan-
ics a multiracial ethnic group, but because our emphasis is on
cultural material, we use the term ethnicity with its connotations of
learned differences.
Examination of educational TV programs for young viewers
(produced in the United States and aired internationally) indicates
that our opening description of Dora the Explorer is typical of
other depictions of Hispanics and Chinese Americans (e.g., Go,
Diego, Go!; Handy Manny;, and Ni Hao, Kai Lan). Such programs
sporadically offer information about Chinese or Hispanic culture,
make references to relevant countries and places, and present
Spanish or Chinese words. However, all but one (Sesame Street)
are animated rather than live action. As is typical in educational
shows for this age group (Mares & Acosta, 2008), the characters
interact with anthropomorphic creatures: talking animals (Ni, Hao,
Kai Lan; Go, Diego, Go!), talking tools (Handy Manny), a magic
rocket ship (Little Einsteins), or a Hispanic Muppet (Sesame
Street).
Marie-Louise Mares, Department of Communication Arts, University of
Wisconsin–Madison; Gayathri Sivakumar, Department of Journalism and
Technical Communication, Colorado State University.
Preparation of this article was supported in part by a fellowship to the
first author from the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the
Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) and by grants to the first author
from the Hamel Family Research Fund administered by the Department of
Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marie-
Louise Mares, Department of Communication Arts, University of
Wisconsin–Madison, 821 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706. E-mail:
mares@wisc.edu
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2498
What background knowledge might young viewers bring to bear
upon such depictions? Comprehension of references to other coun-
tries, for example, requires both factual information (names, rela-
tive locations) and knowledge of hierarchical relationships (e.g.,
towns are within countries). Piaget and Weil (1951) interviewed
Swiss children and concluded that the majority of those under the
age of 5 years had no concept of country; 5- to 8-year-olds knew
the name of their country but had difficulty representing their town
as existing within their country. More recently, Barrett (2007)
reported that children across Europe showed simple knowledge of
their own country’s geography at age 5 but knowledge of foreign
countries only developed around age 8.
Similarly, understanding the cultural significance of characters
shifting from one language to another requires information about
what languages are spoken where and by whom, as well as an
understanding of what drives linguistic differences. Barrett and
Short (1992) found that most of the British 5- to 7-year-olds in
their sample could not identify the languages spoken in France,
Germany, Spain, or Italy, giving (unspecified) wrong answers.
Moreover, children’s theorizing about linguistic difference appears
to be a work in progress over the course of the preschool years.
Hirschfeld and Gelman (1997) found that U.S. 3- to 5-year-olds,
like college students, thought that phrases in an unfamiliar lan-
guage (Portuguese) were uttered by people depicted in unfamiliar
rather than familiar clothing or housing or by Blacks rather than by
Whites. However, 3-year-olds also picked pictures of adults facing
backward as the Portuguese speakers and adults facing forward as
the English speakers, suggesting confusion over what forms of
novelty are relevant to linguistic difference.
Finally, for children to understand that characters represent a
specific ethnic and cultural heritage requires at least rudimentary
knowledge of those categories. Lam, Guerrero, Damree, and
Enesco (2011) studied White, Black, and Asian 3- to 5-year olds in
London and reported that younger children and those less cogni-
tively developed were less likely to know racial labels and to use
racial categories in sorting photos of children (see also Kowalski &
Lo, 2001).
In sum, young viewers probably lack knowledge relevant to
televised depictions of other cultures. How do they distinguish the
realistic content (e.g., it is a tradition to give money in red
envelopes on Chinese New Year) from the surrounding fantasy
(e.g., a monkey gets money too)?
Developing Understanding of
Fantasy–Reality Distinctions
The accumulation of evidence suggests that children age 5 and
younger regularly distinguish between fantasy and reality but also
that they make mistakes. In a recent review, Woolley and Ghos-
sainey (2013) noted that although most attention has focused on
children’s erroneous credulity (e.g., believing in magical or im-
possible events), there is also considerable evidence of erroneous
skepticism (e.g., not believing that unfamiliar events can actually
occur).
For example, Woolley and Cox (2007) asked 3- to 5-year-olds
about events and characters in fantasy, realistic, or religious sto-
ries. Across the three story types, 37% of 3-year-olds erroneously
said that the main character was a real person or could come play
with them, compared with 21% of 4-year-olds and 15% of 5-year
olds. The more prevalent error, though, was undue skepticism:
72% of 3-year-olds, 62% of 4-year olds, and 42% of 5-year-olds
said the focal events in realistic stories (e.g., a boy learning to
dance) could not possibly happen, and more than half of the
children denied that someone like the main character could exist in
real life. Relatedly, Tullos and Woolley (2009) found that 4-year-
olds displayed a skepticism bias when judging the reality of novel
entities and were less able than 6- or 8-year-olds to use evidence
of the creatures’ existence to inform their judgments (see also
Woolley & Van Reet, 2006).
What explains these patterns? Woolley and Ghossainy (2013)
argued that young children’s limited cognitive resources and lack
of awareness about the inadequacy of their personal experience
and knowledge lead them to overestimate the significance of
unfamiliarity and, hence, to deny the reality of novel events or
objects. They tend not to modify their default skepticism on the
basis of further information, in part because of the effort involved
(unless evidence of reality is culturally pervasive as with Santa or
the tooth fairy). Relatedly, Shtulman and Carey (2007) noted that
(unlike older children) 4-year-olds lacked principled reasons for
saying something was impossible, justifying their claims with
redundant statements (“It’s impossible”) or hypothetical state-
ments that did not address possibility (“You’d hit your head”). The
authors suggested that in the absence of principled reasons, young
children rely on the simple strategy of denying the possibility of
surprising or unfamiliar events and (conversely) are vulnerable to
persuasion that magical events may occur.
Consistent with these arguments that young children lack cog-
nitive resources for sophisticated evaluations of reality, some
research suggests that they rely on overly simplistic heuristics
about context to judge the utility of information. Richert and her
colleagues presented 3- to 5-year olds with solutions to problems,
either in fantasy or realistic stories (Richert, Robb, & Smith, 2011;
Richert & Smith, 2011). Across five experiments, children were
less likely to use a solution in an analogous situation if they heard
about it in a fantasy story rather than a realistic story. Presenting
the stories to the class in “circle time” did not increase use of
strategies presented in fantasy stories, despite Richert and Smith’s
(2011) hypothesis that doing so might signal the educational nature
of the content. Thus, as Richert and Smith (2011, p. 1106) put it,
3- to 5-year olds erroneously “quarantine” useful content in the
presence of narrative cues signaling lack of reality.
Children’s Judgments About Television Reality
Thus far, research on children’s fantasy–reality judgments has
examined their responses to pictures, sentences, brief vignettes, or
(more rarely) whole picture books. It is also worth considering
how children evaluate TV and other sources of video. Anderson
and Hanson (2010) argued that processing screen media content is
a demanding cognitive activity that requires special forms of attention,
perception, and comprehension. As we review in this article, children
form theories and learn about the nature of video at the same time
as they learn about fantasy and reality.
Barr, Muentener, and Garcia (2007) proposed three phases in
children’s early understanding of the relationship between televi-
sion and the external world. In the first phase (roughly ages 5–12
months) infants treat two-dimensional (2D) images (whether pic-
tures or TV) in the same way that they do 3D objects, reaching out
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2499
REALITY AND LEARNING FROM EDUCATIONAL TV
to grab the depicted objects. In the second phase, they are hypoth-
esized to have learned that 2D video images do not have the same
affordances as 3D objects (e.g., cannot be picked up, dropped, or
tasted) but not to understand that these images are representations
that can have relevance to the real world. Consistent with this
finding, research indicates that 1- to 2½-year-olds are much less
likely to learn actions and words presented on-screen than in live
interactions (Anderson & Hanson, 2010;Anderson & Pempek,
2005). Finally, at around age 3, children are thought to achieve
dual representation, understanding both that televisions (or other
screens) are objects separate from the images being shown but also
that video content can represent reality. Consistent with this, 3- to
5-year-olds tend to learn words, object locations, and simple action
sequences from screen depictions as well as from live interactions.
Despite the fading of the video deficit for word and action
learning by the end of the second year, other research suggests that
children’s knowledge of the relationship between TV and the real
world is still immature. Nikken and Peeters (1988) reported that
20% of 4- to 9-year olds said that characters on Sesame Street
could hear and see them. Similarly, Flavell, Flavell, Green, and
Korfmacher (1990) reported that 3-year-olds (and to a lesser
extent, 4-year-olds) said that objects depicted on-screen (e.g., a
bowl of popcorn) would spill if the TV were tipped over and that
people shown on-screen could hear the viewers. What do such
responses mean? On the one hand, Flavell et al. (1990) argued that
such responses merely reflected 3-year-olds’ difficulty focusing on
the affordances of TV images rather than the affordances of the
real-world objects; on the other hand, young viewers often respond
to TV character prompts (Anderson et al., 2000;Calvert, Strong,
Jacobs, & Conger, 2007) in a manner consistent with beliefs that
the character can see and hear them.
Other studies, using other types of questions, also revealed signs
of TV reality confusions. Hawkins (1977) reported that preschool
and kindergarten children, in contrast to first and third graders,
tended to say that characters on fictional programs such as The
Waltons continued their lives as depicted (e.g., together as a
family) even after each episode was over. Wright, Huston, Reitz,
and Piemyat (1994) asked 5- and 7-year olds whether the charac-
ters on their favorite show rehearsed what they said or did before
going on TV, performed their depicted job in real life, and could
help viewers with problems as depicted on the show. The 5-year-
olds were significantly more likely to say that their favorite show
was not rehearsed and were marginally more likely to say the
characters held their job in real life, but even 7-year-olds showed
substantial error rates. Thus, beyond the video deficit phase, chil-
dren still struggle with reality judgments, ascribing excessive
reality to the lives of fictional characters.
Believing that characters have ongoing lives (perhaps inside the
TV) does not necessarily mean that those lives are considered
informative or representative of life outside of TV. Hawkins
(1977) reported that although preschool and kindergarten children
scored higher than first or third graders on character reality beliefs,
they gave lower ratings of the realism and educational utility of
television depictions (e.g., “Families on TV shows are like families
in real life”; “TV shows about families help me know how to
behave at home”). Similarly, Wright et al. (1994) found that
5-year-olds were more likely than 7-year-olds to say that events
depicted in a series of clips, including news, were “just on TV, not
in real life,” and were not like people or events “around here.”
They were also more likely to misunderstand the goal of news and
documentaries, saying that such clips were “just for fun” rather
than for learning (see also Dorr, 1983).
Wright et al. (1994) considered two possible explanations for
these age differences—the amount of viewing experience and
cognitive development. In fact, prior viewing did little to predict
the accuracy of children’s realism judgments. Age and (to a lesser
extent) vocabulary were the primary predictors of judgments,
suggesting the centrality of cognitive processes. The authors con-
cluded that children gradually form schemata for familiar program
types (e.g., cartoons, Sesame Street, news) and that the cues for
distinguishing these genres are learned prior to understanding the
implications for reality. In the absence of such understanding, the
default is to be skeptical of TV realism, while granting credence to
characters’ reality.
In sum, children’s theorizing about video develops in parallel to
their general fantasy–reality judgments, with elements that are
unique to the medium. The fantasy–reality and TV reality litera-
tures together suggest a variety of outcomes to be examined—
character and fantasy reality, content realism, viewer responses to
character prompts, and knowledge of the educational goals of the
program. Although it makes sense that these would all be inter-
twined, no prior research has examined them together or examined
the trajectory of these judgments over the preschool years. Further,
no research with preschool-aged audiences has examined how
these judgments and behaviors are related to learning of the
content.
The Current Studies
In two studies, 3- to 5-year olds watched clips from educational
TV narratives. We assessed their reality/realism judgments and
learning to examine three core research questions.
Developmental Trajectories of Reality Judgments
In a small longitudinal study of three children from ages 2 to 5,
Jaglom and Gardner (1981) reported that children first ascribed
physical reality to TV images, then went to the opposite extreme
of denying the reality of any content. There is little other evidence
about the trajectory of these judgments within the preschool age
range. Thus, a primary research question of both studies concerned
age differences in judgments.
What Might Explain Age Differences
in Reality Judgments?
We considered two possible explanations—the acquisition of
relevant experience (with TV and with the depicted content) and
the acquisition of relevant cognitive skills. In Studies 1 and 2, we
considered whether prior exposure to the programs would predict
more accurate reality judgments. In doing so, we were extending
the work of Wright et al. (1994). They found little indication with
5- and 7-year olds that prior viewing predicted reality judgments,
but it is possible that effects would be observed among younger
children who have less accumulated experience. Further, we ex-
amined whether belonging to the depicted ethnic group (Study 1)
or prior contact with the depicted ethnic group (Study 2) would
improve reality judgments. Despite the intuitive appeal of this
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2500 MARES AND SIVAKUMAR
prediction, research support is scant. In a study by Wright et al.
(1995), 7- and 10-year olds were expected to have less TV-biased
schemas about the characteristics of nurses and policemen if they
knew some in real life, but there was no such effect. Greenberg and
Reeves (1976) found that 8- to 12-year olds judged stereotyped TV
depictions of African Americans to be more realistic (rather than
less) if they had real world contact with African Americans. Given
these findings, and given that children under 5 tend not to use
evidence to inform their reality judgments (e.g., Woolley & Van
Reet, 2006), it seems possible that contact with, or even member-
ship in, the depicted ethnic group might not alter judgments or alter
only those of older children.
In Study 2, we also examined possible cognitive explanations.
Based on Woolley and Ghossainy’s (2013) argument that young
children’s skepticism bias reflects overreliance on unfamiliarity,
we coded children’s open-ended answers for rejection of content
based on lack of familiarity (e.g., “I’ve never heard people use
those words”). Conversely, based on Shtulman and Carey’s (2007)
work, we coded whether children gave arguments or evidence to
support judgments of realism (e.g., “Spanish teachers speak Span-
ish, so other people do too.“). Of course, age differences in
open-ended responses can reflect multiple sources of development
(experience, reasoning, verbal ability), but the question was
whether specific forms of reasoning explained age differences in
reality judgments. Finally, we also examined whether cognitive
flexibility (multiple classification skills) helped explain age differ-
ences. This variable has been argued to reflect basic cognitive
development and was found to predict racial classification accu-
racy (Lam et al., 2011) and less biased processing of race-related
content (Bigler & Liben, 1993).
Relationships Between Reality
Judgments and Learning
The third focal research question concerned the relationships
between reality judgments and learning. Anderson and Collins
(1988) argued that if children dismiss educational content as
unrealistic, they may learn it but not incorporate it into their
knowledge base about the real world, rendering that material
“academically useless” (p. 41). Alternately, Huston, Wright, Fitch,
Wroblewski, and Piemyat (1997) hypothesized that if children
categorize content as pretend, they may invest less effort into
processing it and hence not learn it as well as they would if they
thought it was realistic.
There is some evidence with elementary-school-age children for
both patterns. Consistent with the former, Huston et al. (1997)
reported that second- and fifth-grade children incorporated more
information from documentary clips than from fictional clips in
their answers about what real world caterers and movie directors
do, even though both sets of information were, in fact, equally
accurate. Use of information from the fictional segments was
predicted, in part, by perceptions of how realistic those segments
were. Consistent with the latter, Huston et al. (1995) reported that
third- and fourth-grade children remembered more of characters’
emotions if they thought the content was factual (e.g., happened to
a real family) and more actions and events if they thought the
material realistic (e.g., characters were like people they knew in
real life).
What about the implications of believing that characters can see
and hear audience members? One intriguing possibility is that such
beliefs may foster learning. Calvert et al. (2007) reported that
children who responded to Dora’s questions while watching Dora
the Explorer showed greater learning. However, they did not
examine whether beliefs about the character’s reality mediated this
effect.
As noted earlier, educational programming for preschool audi-
ences is almost all animated rather than live action, and fantasy
elements are ubiquitous. Given that the findings of Wright et al.
(1994) that children first learn “cartoons” as a genre and that this
genre is considered entertainment, young viewers’ reality judg-
ments seem potentially fraught. The current studies examine chil-
dren’s reality judgments about animated educational programs and
the implications of those judgments for children’s learning. In
Study 1, we examined whether perceived reality of Chinese and
Spanish words used in the clips mediated age differences in
comprehension of these words. In Study 2, we assessed learning
across more outcomes and examined whether reality judgments
and interaction with the character mediated age differences in
content learning.
Study 1
In addition to the core questions we have outlined, in Study 1 we
examined whether the prevalence of fantasy within a clip would
affect reality judgments. Children were randomly assigned to see
either clips that focused on realistic interactions with human rel-
atives or clips that focused on magical interactions with anthropo-
morphic characters. Given the prevalence of fantasy in educational
programs and the centrality of the nonhuman characters in the
programs used, all clips featured at least some fantasy interactions,
but the duration of these interactions varied.
Method
Participants. A total of 145 children participated: 50 were 3
years old, 57 were 4, and 38 were 5 (age M3.92, SD .78); 68
were girls (46.9%). Parental consent forms indicated there were 98
Anglo, 27 Chinese or Chinese American, and 20 Hispanic partic-
ipants. Hispanic participants were significantly older (M4.50,
SD .61) than Anglo participants (M3.80, SD .75), F(2,
142) 7.73, p.01, reflecting younger Hispanic children’s
difficulty completing the study in English.
Design. This was a 3 (3- vs. 4- vs. 5-year olds) 3 (program
with Anglo vs. Hispanic vs. Chinese protagonist) 2 (family-
focused vs. fantasy-focused clip) design. All children saw one clip
from each program and were randomly assigned to see either
family-focused or fantasy-focused clips.
Procedure. Clips were shown in randomized order on a laptop
computer. Each clip was followed by questions. Sessions took
approximately 35 min.
Materials. Each child saw three 4-min clips: one from Dora
the Explorer featuring a Hispanic character; one from Ni Hao, Kai
Lan featuring a Chinese American character, and one from Fran-
ny’s Feet featuring an Anglo character. All three were cartoons
rated E/I (educational and informational), meaning that they were
intended to have educational content. Each featured a young fe-
male protagonist who interacted with anthropomorphic characters
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2501
REALITY AND LEARNING FROM EDUCATIONAL TV
and addressed the audience directly. In each clip, the opening song
was left intact, followed by a segment ranging in length from 2 min
45 s to 2 min 50 s. For external validity, clips in both conditions
contained interactions with relatives and nonhuman characters, but
the proportions differed. In family-focused clips, an average of
51% of the time was spent with a relative, 23% with nonhumans,
and 26% was spent alone. In fantasy-focused clips, 17% was spent
with a relative, 57% with nonhumans, and 26% was spent alone.
Measures. For reality/realism questions, the response options
(in randomized order) were “no” (depicted on screen by a red X,
coded 1), “yes” (green check mark, coded 1) and “not sure”
(black question mark, coded 0). The interviewer read them out and
pointed to each in turn.
Character reality. Children were asked (a) “If you’re watch-
ing Xon TV, and then the show is over, and you turn off the TV,
is she still in there doing things while you’re not watching?” and
(b) “When she asks you a question, if you call out the answer, can
she hear you?” Thus, across the three clips, there were six items
that were averaged.
Fantasy reality. Children were asked one question per clip,
“Do you think there are real places, outside TV, where...kids can
have a talking backpack like Dora?...animals can talk like in Kai
Lan?...kids can put on special shoes and then be in a different
place like Franny?”
Comprehension and reality of Spanish and Chinese words.
Children were asked (a) “When Dora (Kai Lan) says “Vámonos”
(“Ni Hao”), what does she mean?” (b) “Great! Do you know other
things she says like that—not in English?” (c) “Do you think she’s
using real words that real people use outside TV, or are they just
made-up words for the show?” After a pause for a spontaneous
response, the interviewer continued, “Do you think, yes, they’re
real; no, they’re not real, or you’re not sure?” (d) Those who did
not say the words were real were asked, “Sometimes Dora (Kai
Lan) says she’s speaking Spanish (Chinese). Is that a real language
that people use outside TV, or is it just made up for the show?”
(same response options as for 3).
Word comprehension could range from 0 to 2: 1 point for the
target word and another for an additional word volunteered. For
language reality, children scored 1 if they said that the language
was real in response to the first question, 0 if they chose “not sure”
to either question or were inconsistent, and 1 if they answered
both questions by saying the words were made up.
Perceived learning. Children were asked, ““Do you think you
learn about other places by watching X?—no (0); yes, a little (1);
or yes, a lot (2).”
Prior and related media exposure. Children were shown pic-
tures and asked, “Have you ever seen . . . Dora the Explorer;Go,
Diego, Go!;Handy Manny;Little Einsteins; and Ni Hao, Kai
Lan?” If response was yes: once or twice (1) or more than once or
twice (2).
Results
Preliminary analyses. Initial analyses showed no main or
interaction effects of experimental condition (family-focused vs.
fantasy-focused clips). Given this, and given that the two condi-
tions contained the same characters albeit for different amounts of
time, we combined the two conditions. In addition, repeated-
measures analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) revealed no signif-
icant differences among the three programs for any of the out-
comes, and there were no interactions between program and the
child’s own ethnicity. Given this, we averaged responses to the
three clips, strengthening the measures and simplifying the anal-
yses.
Relationships between reality judgments. Table 1 shows
correlations between the reality measures. Character and fantasy
reality scores were positively correlated and (ironically) were
positively correlated with perceived learning about other places.
However, fantasy reality ratings were negatively correlated with
word-reality ratings, suggesting that responses did not simply
reflect “yay-saying.”
Predictors of reality judgments. We performed five regres-
sion analyses predicting reality judgments, summarized in Table 2.
On the first step, we entered dummy codes for the child’s ethnicity,
prior exposure to the three programs viewed in the experiment, and
prior exposure to other programs featuring Hispanic and Chinese
characters. On the second step, we entered the child’s age in years
(too few parents answered the question about birth month for us to
use age in months). We initially included gender (given female
Table 1
Bivariate Correlations: Reality Judgments and Behaviors in Studies 1 and 2
Variable 123456
Study 1
1. Character reality
2. Fantasy reality .443
ⴱⴱⴱ
3. Chinese/Spanish reality .086 .166
4. Perceived learning .400
ⴱⴱⴱ
.565
ⴱⴱⴱ
.019 —
Study 2
1. Character reality
2. Fantasy reality .463
ⴱⴱⴱ
3. Chinese/Spanish reality .200
.104 —
4. English words reality .167 .190
.558
ⴱⴱⴱ
5. Traditions reality .010 .028 .465
ⴱⴱⴱ
.407
ⴱⴱⴱ
6. Show is for learning .031 .003 .075 .151 .088 —
7. Responded to character .012 .068 .011 .003 .135 .194
Note. Chinese and Spanish reality: Study 1 word reality and Study 2 word and language reality.
p.05.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
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2502 MARES AND SIVAKUMAR
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