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Developmental Differences in Younger and Older Adolescents’ Understanding of Heroism
Unformatted Document Text:  23 The age changes we found in understanding the price of revenge and the importance of rising above retribution may well reflect developmental changes associated with moral development (Kohlberg, 1968; Piaget, 1932). Specifically, simple explanations of good and evil and the validity of revenge as a strategy for loss reflect an absolute rather than a relative view of morality. Only with age did participants come to understand that human nature is not nearly so simple. We all have the capacity for destructive acts; we all have the capacity for mercy. The development of these understandings is probably a general cognitive skill that is then brought to bear on experiences, including adolescents’ interpretations of filmed narratives. Triumphing over the dark side of the shadow, which is animated by revenge (Calvert et al., 1999), was thought to occur when Batman and Robin saved others. Some also thought that acceptance of oneself and love overcame the dark side of the shadow, but the rescue qualities of superheroes clearly played a constructive role in how viewers perceived these characters. In a sense, superheroes that are struggling with their own evil impulses are saving others to defeat their own dark sides. Robin, for example, chose to save Two Face, even though he wanted revenge for the death of his parents, and Batman saved others to prevent their loved ones from experiencing the victimization that befell him as a child. A central policy issue in the media violence area is the concern that viewers emulate superheroes and become aggressive themselves. There is little evidence to support that concern here. We found that participants identified with Batman primarily when they perceived him to be compassionate and to have a conscience,

Authors: Zehnder, Sean. and Calvert, Sandra.
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23
The age changes we found in understanding the price of revenge and the
importance of rising above retribution may well reflect developmental changes
associated with moral development (Kohlberg, 1968; Piaget, 1932). Specifically,
simple explanations of good and evil and the validity of revenge as a strategy for loss
reflect an absolute rather than a relative view of morality. Only with age did
participants come to understand that human nature is not nearly so simple. We all
have the capacity for destructive acts; we all have the capacity for mercy. The
development of these understandings is probably a general cognitive skill that is then
brought to bear on experiences, including adolescents’ interpretations of filmed
narratives.
Triumphing over the dark side of the shadow, which is animated by revenge
(Calvert et al., 1999), was thought to occur when Batman and Robin saved others.
Some also thought that acceptance of oneself and love overcame the dark side of the
shadow, but the rescue qualities of superheroes clearly played a constructive role in
how viewers perceived these characters. In a sense, superheroes that are struggling
with their own evil impulses are saving others to defeat their own dark sides. Robin,
for example, chose to save Two Face, even though he wanted revenge for the death
of his parents, and Batman saved others to prevent their loved ones from
experiencing the victimization that befell him as a child.
A central policy issue in the media violence area is the concern that viewers
emulate superheroes and become aggressive themselves. There is little evidence to
support that concern here. We found that participants identified with Batman
primarily when they perceived him to be compassionate and to have a conscience,


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