A Meta-Analysis of Prosocial Media on Prosocial Behavior, Aggression, and Empathic Concern: A Multidimensional Approach

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Abstract

Studies examining the effects of exposure to prosocial media on positive outcomes are increasing in number and strength. However, existing meta-analyses use a broad definition of prosocial media that does not recognize the multidimensionality of prosocial behavior. The aim of the current study is to conduct a meta-analysis on the effects of exposure to prosocial media on prosocial behavior, aggression, and empathic concern while examining multiple moderators that the prosocial behavior literature suggests are important to our understanding of why individuals voluntarily help others (e.g., target, type, cost). Results from 72 studies involving 243 effect sizes revealed that exposure to prosocial media was related to higher levels of prosocial behavior and empathic concern and lower levels of aggressive behavior. Moderation analyses suggest that several moderators accounted for heterogeneity in the model, including age of participant, region, media type (active vs. passive), and study design. In terms of multidimensional moderators, prosocial media had stronger effects on prosocial behavior toward strangers than did any other target and on helping and prosocial thinking but not donating or volunteering. Comparisons with other meta-analyses on media effects are made and implications for parents, media producers, and researchers are discussed.

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