Background Research

Despite over 50 years of research there are still many gaps in our understanding of how exposure to television affects young children (Pecora, Murry & Wartella, 2007). Debates around harmful effect of the amount of television that children watch often focus on pace, with faster pace programmes being linked to more negative outcomes (e.g. Ennemoser & Schneider, 2007; Sigman 2007). Lillaird and Peterson (2011) recently investigated the short-term effects of watching fast paced television on executive functioning. Their design was novel in this area as it was experimental (much of the previous research has been correlational). They assigned 60 4-year-olds to three groups. One group watched fast-paced television, one group slow-paced television and a control group engaged in free drawing. All children then completed four tasks involving executive functioning. Results indicated that even when controlling for children’s attention, age and television exposure those who watched the fast-paced television performed significantly worse on the executive function tasks compared to those in the other two groups. Therefore, Lilliard and Peterson’s findings suggest that watching fast-paced television may result in immediate negative effects in executive functioning among 4-year-old children.

It has been hypothesised that watching fast-paced television may result in negative consequences for creativity (Singer & Singer, 1990). The proposed project aims to experimentally investigate the short-term consequences of TV watching on creativity.  The assessment of creativity is complex. Assessments which involve multiple tasks and consider different factors of creativity are usually necessary (Fryer, 2012). Furthermore, many tests of creativity are not suitable to use with young children due to the verbal demands of the task (Bijvoet-van den Berg & Hoickaand, 2014). Taking these issues into account four tasks have been selected to assess creativity in the proposed study. These are from the ‘Thinking Creatively in Action and Movement’ test (TCAM; Torrance, 1981) which is suitable for preschool children. Three of the tasks are assessed for fluency and originality and one for imagination.


Bijvoet-van den Berg, S., & Hoicka, E. (2014). Individual differences and age-related changes in divergent thinking in toddlers and preschoolers. Developmental Psychology, 50, 1629–1639. doi:10.1037/a0036131

Ennemoser, M., & Schneider, W. (2007). Relations of television viewing and reading: Findings from a 4-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 349–368. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.99.2.349

Fryer, M. (2012). Some Key Issues in Creativity Research and Evaluation as Seen From a Psychological Perspective. Creativity Research Journal, 24, 21–28. doi:10.1080/10400419.2012.649236

Lillard, A. S., & Peterson, J. (2011). The immediate impact of different types of television on young children’s executive function. Pediatrics, 128, 644–9. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1919

Pecora, M., Murray, J. P., & Wartella, E. (Eds.). (2007). Children and television: Fifty fears of research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Sigman, A. (2007). Visual voodoo: the biological impact of watching TV. Biologist, 54, 12–18.

Singer, D. G. & Singer, J. L. (1990).  The house of make believe:  Children’s play and the developing imagination.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press. –

Torrance, E.P. (1981). Thinking creatively in action and movement. Benesville, IL: ScholasticTesting Service