A study entitled Protecting or Stimulating? The Effects of Warnings on Television Viewing by Adolescents has found that for adolescents, a warning of violent content before a program heightens the viewer’s level of interest in the program and the commercials that follow. The study was conducted by researchers at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada,
Sixty-five students, an average age of 15, watched a five-and-a-half-minute clip from the 1967 movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen (only one student knew the movie and could identify any of the actors, and his responses were removed from the study), followed by a commercial that advertised a product unfamiliar to the subjects (an ad for AT&T’s long distance service).
The students were divided into three groups. One watched the clip with no warning, one with a visual warning only and one with both an audio and a visual warning.
The study found that a program with violent scenes and a visual-only warning elicited the greatest level of attention from the students, but surprisingly their attention focused on the nonviolent segments of the movie, while the students who received no warning paid more attention to the violent scenes.
As for the commercial that followed the clip, students in the warning groups were able to recall more details of the ads than students who watched the no-warning clip.
For more information on the study, call 519-661-2172.