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Saturday, November 20, 2021

Narrative media’s emphasis on distinct moral intuitions alters early adolescents’ judgments

Hahn, L., et al. (2021).
Journal of Media Psychology: 
Theories, Methods, and Applications. 
Advance online publication.


Logic from the model of intuitive morality and exemplars (MIME) suggests that narrative media emphasizing moral intuitions can increase the salience of those intuitions in audiences. To date, support for this logic has been limited to adults. Across two studies, the present research tested MIME predictions in early adolescents (ages 10–14). The salience of care, fairness, loyalty, and authority intuitions was manipulated in a pilot study with verbal prompts (N = 87) and in the main study with a comic book (N = 107). In both studies, intuition salience was measured after induction. The pilot study demonstrated that exposure to verbal prompts emphasizing care, fairness, and loyalty increased the salience of their respective intuitions. The main study showed that exposure to comic books emphasizing all four separate intuitions increased salience of their respective intuitions in early adolescents. Results are discussed in terms of relevance for the MIME and understanding narrative media’s influence on children’s moral judgments. 


Moral education is often at the forefront of parents’ concern for their children’s well-being. Although there is value in directly teaching children moral principles through instruction about what to do or not do, our results support an indirect approach to socializing children’s morality (Haidt & Bjorklund, 2008). This first step at exploring narrative media’s ability to activate moral intuitions in young audiences should be accompanied by additional work examining how “direct route” lessons, such as those contained in the
Ten Commandments, may complement narrative media’s impact on children’s morality.

Our studies provide evidence supporting the MIME’s predictions about narrative content’s influence on moral intuition salience. Future research should build on these findings to examine whether this elevated intuition salience can influence broader values, judgments, and behaviors in children. Such examinations should be especially important for researchers interested in both the mechanism responsible for media’s influence and the extent of media’s impact on malleable, developing children, who may be socialized
by media content.