More Than Social–Cultural Influences: A Research Agenda for Evolutionary Perspectives on Prosocial Media Effects

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Abstract

Prosocial media effects, short- and long-term intrapersonal changes in prosocial personality traits, values, emotions, and behavior caused by media use, have attracted much less attention than media violence research. Empirical examinations of current theories of prosocial media effects have focused on the indirect effects of prosocial media that explain why exposure to it results in prosocial behavior. However, they have neglected other types of media effects. Further, because of philosophical biases in the field of communication, only the social-cultural perspective has been used to explain the psychological antecedents and consequences of prosocial media effects. The origins and ultimate functions of prosociality in the processes of media effects are unknown. The intersection of evolutionary theories and media effects theories provides a more comprehensive explanation of prosocial media effects. Using various evolutionary perspectives on altruism, reciprocity, and cooperation, this article synthesizes 4 types of prosocial media effects: selective, indirect, conditional, and transactional, suggesting that the dramatic prosocial media learning process should be considered from a comprehensive nature-nurture interactive view. The research agenda, implications, and recent methodological advances are highlighted.

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