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34 J. Broad. & Elec. Media 399 (1990)
Do Young Children Think of Television Images as Pictures or Real Objects

handle is hein.journals/jbem34 and id is 415 raw text is: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Volume 34, Number 4, Fall 1990, pp. 399-419
Do Young Children Think of Television
Images as Pictures or Real Objects?
John H. Flavell, Eleanor R. Flavell, Frances L. Green, and
Jon E. Korfmacher
Three studies investigated whether 3- and 4-year-olds interpret television im-
ages as mere pictorial representations of objects or as real, physically-present
objects. Four-year-olds gave clear evidence of making the former interpretation
whereas 3-year-olds seemed to make the latter one. However, the data suggest
that the younger children's errors reflect a failure to differentiate conceptually
between television images and their referent objects rather than a conviction
that real objects populate television sets.
There is considerable evidence that children's knowledge of the mental
world increases markedly during the preschool years (Astington, Harris, &
Olson, 1988; Harris, 1989; Perner, in press; Wellman, 1990). An important
part of this theory of mind development is the growing awareness that
people mentally represent (construe, interpret) external objects and events,
and therefore that the selfsame single object or event may be mentally
represented in several different, even contradictory-seeming ways (Flavell,
1988; Flavell, Green, & Flavell, 1990).
As examples, studies have shown that children aged 4-5 years or older
understand much better than younger children that: (1) the same thing
may give rise to different visual representations (look different) if viewed
from different perspectives (Flavell, 1978); (2) the same thing may be
represented incorrectly as well as correctly (as when someone holds a false
belief) (Wimmer & Perner, 1983); (3) when seriating things by size, the same
John H. Fla vell (Ph.D., Clark University, 1955) is Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
EleanorR. Flaveil (A.B., University of Maryland, 195 1)and Frances L. Green (Specialist's Certificate
in School Psychology, Yeshiva University, 1971) are Research Assistants in Psychology at Stanford
University. Jon E. Kormacher (A.B., Stanford University, 1988) is a graduate student in Psychology
at the University of Minnesota. The authors' research interests include children's knowledge
about the mind. This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant 40687.
The authors are grateful to the children, teachers, and parents of Bing School of Stanford whose
cooperation made these studies possible. Thanks also to three anonymous reviewers for their
helpful comments on a previous draft of this paper. This manuscript was accepted for publication
June 1990.
Q 1990 Broadcast Education Association

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