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The Payne Fund studies were conducted by a team led by Herbert Blumer to examine their effects of movies and children. The project which ran between 1929-1932 included more than 18 social scientists who produced eleven published reports.
Each study focused on three main areas: what was watched, who watched, and what was the effect on children. The researchers found there were influenced in a number of ways ranging from learning and attitude change to emotion stimulation and behavior influence. For example in Blumer’s fascinating study, Movies and Conduct (1933), more than fifteen hundred college and high school students wrote autobiographies of their movie-going experiences. He uncovered that movies teach kids things about life—attitudes, hairstyles, how to kiss, even how to pickpocket.
This research laid the foundations for many subsequentstudies involving the effects of movies, television and video games on children.
The methodology for each of the Payne Fund studies varied. Qualitative analysis was used to determine the categories of movie content. Census and survey data was used to determine the actual audience attending and the effects were measured using questionnaires, single case studies and personal interviews.
Overall, researchers found that movies influenced both children's attitudes and behaviors. These effects were cumulative and persistent over time.
Evidence suggested that:
- Children acquired and retained information they received in the movies. *Attitudes concerning ethnic, racial and social issues were changed by movie viewing.
- Emotions were stimulated while viewing fear and tension.
- Some movies disturbed subsequent healthy sleep.
- Children regularly attending movies were found to behave poorly in school compared to those who attended less frequently.
- Children imitated favorable behavior they saw in movies, but movies also appeared to play a direct role in delinquent careers.
Lowery and De Fleur "pointed to their lack of control groups, problems in sampling, shortcomings in measurement, and other difficulties that placed technical limitations on their conclusions" (1995, 382).
- Blumer, H (1933)Movies and Conduct
- Blumer, H (1933)Movies, Delinquency, and Crime
- Lowery, S., and M. DeFleur. 1995. Milestones in Mass Communication Research: Media Effects. 3rd ed. New York: Longman.