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Developmental Differences in Younger and Older Adolescents’ Understanding of Heroism
Unformatted Document Text:  22 Figure.” Of the high school students, 60.2% perceived Chase Meridian as the heroine compared to 86.1% of the college students. Interestingly, 28.7% of high school students selected Robin as a heroine. Finally, the majority of high school students (86.1%) viewed Chase Meridian as the “Mother Figure,” in contrast to only 67.1% of college students. Interestingly, the second most frequent response by the college students was Alfred (27.8%), with far fewer (5.6%) of high school students making this choice. The latter findings suggest that with age, the biological sex of the character was less relevant for judgments of mother than was the kind of role played. Discussion The purpose of this study was to examine how viewing heroic portrayals influences our understanding of good and evil, of justice and retribution. How we come to understand complex concepts like good and evil, of how to be a hero rather than a sinister villain, are at the heart of how a civilization and a people remain moral and just, even in the face of the darkest of times, and we believe that media play an important role here. As predicted, college students better understood complex concepts about the duality of human nature, i.e., that we can be both good and evil, than did high school students. Past research about comprehension of television narratives documents an age shift about age 10 in children’s ability to understand abstract themes and character motivations (Calvert, 1999; Collins, 1970; Wartella, 1980). The present research adds to this body of research by demonstrating that comprehension of complex concepts presented in film continues to develop over time and is not totally complete during middle adolescence.

Authors: Zehnder, Sean. and Calvert, Sandra.
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Figure.” Of the high school students, 60.2% perceived Chase Meridian as the heroine
compared to 86.1% of the college students. Interestingly, 28.7% of high school students
selected Robin as a heroine. Finally, the majority of high school students (86.1%)
viewed Chase Meridian as the “Mother Figure,” in contrast to only 67.1% of college
students. Interestingly, the second most frequent response by the college students was
Alfred (27.8%), with far fewer (5.6%) of high school students making this choice. The
latter findings suggest that with age, the biological sex of the character was less relevant
for judgments of mother than was the kind of role played.
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine how viewing heroic portrayals
influences our understanding of good and evil, of justice and retribution. How we
come to understand complex concepts like good and evil, of how to be a hero rather
than a sinister villain, are at the heart of how a civilization and a people remain moral
and just, even in the face of the darkest of times, and we believe that media play an
important role here.
As predicted, college students better understood complex concepts about the
duality of human nature, i.e., that we can be both good and evil, than did high school
students. Past research about comprehension of television narratives documents an
age shift about age 10 in children’s ability to understand abstract themes and
character motivations (Calvert, 1999; Collins, 1970; Wartella, 1980). The present
research adds to this body of research by demonstrating that comprehension of
complex concepts presented in film continues to develop over time and is not totally
complete during middle adolescence.


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