Trialing a New Methodology for The Analysis of Public Opinion Regarding Nudge Theory (A Case Study Analysis)

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Nudge Theory 

Since its publication in 2008 Nudge theory has rapidly gained popularity (Dolan et al., 2012; Vlaev et al., 2016), leading to what could be considered overuse, sparking concerns surrounding its ethical application.

Purpose / Scope

The purpose of this research is twofold: to shed light on how media coverage effects attitude formation in regards to nudge theory and to explore the effectiveness of a different data collection methodology when considering general feelings towards nudges.

To accomplish this, previous applications of the theory will be acknowledged, along with a literature review of persuasion psychology. This is to be followed by a case study analysis pertaining to how the public responded online to news publications making them aware of Sainsbury’s and Oxfords intentions to conduct a nudge experiment in the near future. Along with how they may have been subject to unwitting participation in the experiment had it not been for this disclosure.


The literature Review

  • A Brief History of Nudge Theory
  • Nudge Ethics and Acceptability
  • How People Feel About Being Persuaded
  • Current Research
  • Gaps in Research.


  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Case Studies
  • The Selected Case Study
  • Direct Observation
  • What Is Non-Reactive/Unobtrusive: Internet-Mediated Research (IMR)
  • Thematic Analysis, Framing Analysis
  • Research Limitations
  • Ethics


  • Thematic Analysis
  • Framing analysis



The Psychology of Media Communication in Regards to The Issues associated with Animal Consumption

The Psychology of Media Communication in Regards to The Issues associated with Animal Consumption_hand in


MY BA Dissertation: Children in a media world. Are films preparing children for the adult world by painting an unrealistic world of happy endings? by charlotte lincoln

(grade: 1st)

Table of Contents

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 5

Chapter 1: Meritocracy………………………………………………………………………………… 6

Chapter 2: Conditioning…………………………………………………………………………….. 11

Chapter 3: Choice Theory………………………………………………………………………….. 19

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25

Appendix 1: The pursuit of happiness………………………………………………………. 28

Appendix 2: Helping people with low-self esteem……………………………………. 29

Appendix 3:Enjoy the fun of failure…………………………………………………………… 30

Appendix 4: Having instant trust……………………………………………………………….. 31

Appendix 5: The danger of a single story, in connection with Erik Erikson 32

Appendix 6: See Jane………………………………………………………………………………….. 33

Appendix 7: Murray and McCellend Drive…………………………………………………. 34

Appendix 8: Looking at BBFC…………………………………………………………………….. 36

Appendix 9: Sad films already available for children……………………………….. 37

Appendix 10: Sheena (2010)……………………………………………………………………… 39

Appendix 11: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs………………………………………………. 40

Appendix 12: Highly open to suggestion…………………………………………………… 41

References…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 43


Children in a media world; are films preparing children for the adult world?

Children and teenagers growing up today live in a world surrounded by screens. This essay will look into the success and failure present, in films. Alan Watts raised the idea that “happiness consist of promise, the promise is tomorrow and tomorrow never comes”, by preparing our children for the future are we actually stopping them living for today? Do children’s shows teach about what we can do today to make tomorrow better, or do they teach that life will always get better if you try hard enough thereby putting pressure on young minds to be the best and not to be the person they want to be, themselves “freedom to be one’s own person, to seize personal opportunity, to explore what works for you”- (Rogers, 2011)

To discover whether films perpetuate the idea of a promise by showing an unrealistic reality were a happy ending would always come, no matter how badly you mess up. Although the advert series of the “it gets better”. Project referring to life after bullying is true, the main reason life gets better is because you bite the bullet and stand up for your own beliefs or in the film world ‘do or die’ the moment where the main character has to face their problems, over come them and solve them, thereby becoming a better person through doing so. In the real world this does not always go so smoothly, and sometimes it can take years to solve the problem and at times the problem is never truly solved; so this brings us to the question;


Should we have more negative content and unhappy endings?

To find out the answer to this question I will look at three different areas: meritocracy, conditioning and choice theory.

Chapter 1: Meritocracy

Do children’s films display meritocracy and what effects does meritocracy have on children? Does being taught they are responsible for whether their dreams coming true effect self-esteem and is it harmful to show negative content?

The cliché happy ending; can a positive be a negative, and what psychological messages do these really install into a developing mind?

So what is a happy ending? This is generally a story with no loose ends, all of the problems have been resolved or the main objective was achieved whether it was to save the princess, to emotionally grow as a person, or for a ‘Deus ex machina’ to come from nowhere and fix everything.

The happy ending In real life “the American dream”. (See appendix: 1) This came about through the introduction to a new age of society moving from the old traditions of an aristocracy to that of one based on democracy. ‘The dream factory’, ‘follow your dreams’, the idea that you make your own future and if you be the best you can be and try hard enough you can accomplish anything; is this too much pressure? (Gilbert); social psychologist looking into the science of happiness states- “we are the only species on this planet that has ever held it’s own fate in it’s hands, we have no significant predators we are the masters of our physical environment the things that normally cause things to become extinct are no longer any threat to us, the only thing, THE ONLY THING, that can destroy us and doom us are our own decisions.’’

Although the change to a society of democracy freed up equal opportunities for all, Alexis de Tocqueville believed that people living in the class system of aristocracy never felt anxiety and shame in regards to the people they served due to beginning born into that class, rather than ending up there as a result of their own wrong choices in life.

Meritocracy is the belief that everyone deserves where they get to in life, if you have talent, energy and skill you will get to the top – which in effect is what happy endings teach. Through harnessing your talent you can accomplish your dreams. Alain de Botton is the author of a book called status anxiety said that if you visit a bookshop you will see two kinds of self help books. The first kind tells you; you can do it, you can make it, anything is possible. The second kind tells you how to cope with low self-esteem “There is a correlation between a society that tells people that they can do anything and the existence of low self esteem”.

What is low self-esteem? Melanie Fennel was a pioneer of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression, founder of OCTO Oxford Cognitive Therapy; oxford university refer to her still as ‘The most influential female UK cognitive therapist.” on reading her book overcoming low self-esteem there are three different types of self analysis; self- image, self –concept, self perception. “All refer to the overall picture a person has of him or herself “(Fennell 1999) e.g I am black, I am English, I am a mother. Self-confidence and self-efficacy refers to ‘I am good at maths, I can catch a ball, I am a good person to turn to in a crisis.’ Where as the third set:  self-acceptance, self-respect, self-worth and self-esteem introduce a different element. They do not refer to the qualities we assign ourselves whether bad or good, nor do they reflect things we believe we can or cannot do, rather they reflect the overall opinion we have of ourselves, how we judge and evaluate ourselves. Their tone may be positive; I am good, I am meaning full, or when the tone is negative, we are talking about low self-esteem.

So how does having low self-esteem impact upon a person’s life? The following things are all influenced by this fear of judgement:

1)   Behavioural changes.

2)   Emotional impact: anxiety, guilt, shame, and frustration, anger.

3)   Body sensations: fatigue, low energy or tension.

4)   School and work, avoiding challenges, underperformance or perhaps the opposite; relentless hard work fuelled by the fear of failure.

5)   Personal relationships:  outright withdrawal from intimacy or contact or possibly the opposite “some people adopt a policy of always being the life and soul of the party, always appearing confident and in control, putting people first, no matter the cost. Their belief is that, if they do not preform in this way, people will simple not want to know them.” (Fennell 1999)

6)   Leisure activities

7)   Self care: drinking, smoking, no care of personal appearance missing hair and dental appointments or spending hours to make yourself look attractive. Helping people with low self-esteem also has side effects just as problematic as self-esteem itself (see appendix 2)

Meritocracy causes low self-esteem by telling people they are all equal, which leads people to compare their achievements and abilities to those around them. Especially those who have been give the same resources and got a different result, resulting in competition to prove to themselves they can do better than others. “If you believe in a world where meritocracy is possible then you must also believe in a world where is you deserve to get to the bottom you will get to the bottom and stay there. Your position in the world becomes merited and deserved, which makes failure seem more crushing’’ (Botton, 2009) and the pressure to succeed greater.

Reducing Academic Pressure May Help Children Succeed. Children may perform better in school and feel more confident about themselves, if they are told that failure is a normal part of learning, rather than being pressured to succeed at all costs. According to new research published by the American Psychological Association.” Maybe if we represent failure and people not being able to live out their dreams in films we can even introduce some of these ideas  “Enjoy the fun of failure.”-(Rubin 2011), ”anything worth doing, its worth doing badly.”(G.K.Chesterton).If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” – (Robinson 2006). (See appendix: 3)

In the 60s and 70s there was creativity researcher called Bob Mackin and he would do an exercise with his students where he got them to take a piece of paper and draw the person sat next to them in 30 seconds. The general reaction from adults after doing this exercise was for people to apologize to one another, and he would point this out as evidence that we fear the judgment of our peers and that we are embarrassed about showing our ideas to other people. When the experiment was tested on children they had no embarrassment at all; but as they grow up they lose this freedom, and they develop this fear of disappointing the people around them and themselves.

As we age and become adults we need the right level of positive and negative energy to navigate life. This evolves overcoming conflicts within yourself, (Erikson 1963) was a German psychologist looking at the cultural influences on a child’s development through to adults via there ability to over come and resolve dilemmas and conflicts at different stages of life. He categorized these stages into eight important life lessons:

1)   Birth – One year old, Trust vs. mistrust (see appendix: 4)

2)   One – Three years old, Autonomy vs. shame and doubt

3)   Three – Six years old, Initiative vs. guilt

4)   Six – Twelve years old, Industry vs. inferiority

5)   Twelve – Nineteen years old, Identity vs. role confusion

6)   Nineteen – Twenty five years old, Intimacy vs. isolation

7)   Twenty five – Fifty years old, Generativity vs. stagnation

8)   Fifty and older, Integrity vs. despair.

In Erikson’s theory, “children’s behavior will be shaped by how they balance the competing possibilities of each dilemma and reach some degree of resolution. Balance is a key issue since young children need, for instance, some level of wariness. Total and undiscriminating trust would not be a psychologically healthy outlook”. (Lindon 2010)

Erikson believed that “children are active in the environment, eagerly seeking out new information and actively dealing with the everyday conflicts of life.” With the growing number of children’s based media, it is safe to say that some degree of this searching is done inside of film, so to create the correct levels we must show not only the positive side, we must also show when things go wrong and getting hurt from making the wrong decisions, whether it be from trusting the wrong people or feeling shame. Thus answering the question is it harmful to show negative content? As long as the negative does not out weighs the positive it is safe to show it.

In connection with Erikson,If you only show a story from the same angle continuously it becomes conditioned into our minds Chimamanda Adichie explains how this effects how we view the people of Africa. This shows how meritocracy can be conditioned into children with positive reinforcement, if the alternative negative ending is not shown. (See appendix: 5)

Chapter 2: Conditioning

What is conditioning, how does it work, does it affect children ideals and behaviours? If ending on a happy note is the social norm, do sequels remove the happy ending?

If you show courage and success without fear in films are the characteristics displayed in the real world?

To understand how positives and negatives affect our capacity to learn we must look at the psychology of conditioning. One of the reasons why happy endings may be so dominant over sad endings may be backed up by the idea that we learn through positive reinforcement.  B.F.Skinner and Pavlov researched the effects using conditioning, to show that if there was a reward at the end the task was worth doing.

Pavlov was a Russian psychologist working in respondent behavior focusing on his dog, and their reactions to positive reinforcement. And at a later date B.F Skinner (Burrhus Frederick Skinner) an American psychologist in the 1930’s influenced by Pavlov’s work on positive reinforcement, researched operant conditioning based around the theory. Operant conditioning is a type of learning that involved rewards and punishments, so both positive and negative emotions are explored. (Lain Macleod-Brudenell)

Richard gross writes in the science of mind and behavior sixth edition-“(Pavlov 1927) noticed that the dogs would often start salivating before they were given any food” as a result of merely seeing the food or the feeding bucket. These observations led to the study of what is now called conditioning. Pavlov experimented with his dog and a bell, before the conditioning the sound of the bell did not cause the dog to salivate thus the bell is called the unconditioned stimulus, during his experiment he connected the bell with the food causing association the ringing of the bell equaled food, eventually the dog learnt this so started to salivate at the mere sound of the bell without hint of food. With the positive reinforcement the new behavior of salivating when the bell was heard it learnt; making a conditioned learnt behavior. So by showing the positive attitudes resulting in reward in children’s film, the same behavior should in theory be learnt.

Skinner on the other hand worked with rats and pigeons for the majority of his experiments, focusing on both negative and positive reinforcements. When a lever is pulled a food reward is given in the positive reinforcement and with the negative reinforcement the electrical charge that was present it their change is turned off when the lever is pulled, the rats and pigeons quickly learnt that pulling the lever meant a positive outcome (Gross.R 2010). Thus showing that learning is achieved through both positive and negatives, as long as the end result is at the positive end of the spectrum (the happy ending).

If ending on a happy note is the social norm, do sequels remove the happy ending?

Sequels are usually set in the future, with new dilemmas, which showing  ‘happily ever after’ does not mean ‘forever’ anymore, it can never last.

When films are aimed at young female audience the ‘happily ever after’ usually refers to relationship (see appendix 6).

Humans are creatures of routine. Familiar faces on a week or monthly basis comfort us with predictability, we know exactly what to expect. Dr. Marie Hartwell-walker author of tending to the family heart explains this as ”predictability in a otherwise unpredictable world”.  Especially for small children who are experiencing many new things on a daily basis. “Dinner, bath, story time, drink, and the stories will usually be two or three favorites which never change giving them something solid to hold onto.

You only have to look at the average soap audience to see that they are relating to these characters as real people, they feel their emotions. They relate so closely to these characters that the BBC is currently running a project called “Your World – Soap Operas – Art Imitating Life” where they try to influence the public’s behaviour in a positive way by looking at the content broadcasted, this is know as Conditioning the audience.

So does showing the same characters, such as in children’s cartoon series, facing new problems work more efficiently than introducing new characters in new story layouts?

Jean Piaget proposed that three processes are important in learning; assimilation, accommodation and equilibration. Assimilation involves transforming experiences in the mind and “when children encounter new experiences, concepts or knowledge, their existing internal schema have to adjust causing a state of disequilibrium or cognitive conflict. Disequilibrium motivates learning until a state of equilibrium is reached.”(Piaget, 2010). This suggests the more new experiences and concepts presented to the child, the more opportunities for learning are made.

Eddie Obeng is a British educator and author of a number of business books.

In one of his motivational talks he shows us how conditioning can have an adverse effect and sometimes cause us to remember incorrect information. With his ‘line experiment’ in which he asked an audience which is the larger line,


in response to being shown the image they responded with both the lines are the same size, and of course they are wrong, in school we were presented with this test and taught it was an optical illusion, which we took to memory. This also shows that learning through a negative is possible, as being wrong causes you to remember the correct answer. He uses is test as a way to explain that all the rules were flipped overnight and now – “companies want innervation they say to people take risks and be creative but unfortunately the words get transformed as they travel through the air entering their ears and what they hear is do creative and crazy things and I will fire you.”(Obeng, 2012)

Obeng saw the life span as two worlds the ‘old world’ known as childhood were getting stuff wrong was unacceptable, if you got something wrong you failed, and you should be treated harshly for failing. And the ‘new world’ adulthood were the rules are flipped turned upside-down and we are suddenly asked to take risks and it doesn’t work, Obeng said that in reality there are two ways you can fail in our ‘new world’

1)   When you are doing something that requires follow a procedure to and you fail. Outcome you should probably be fired and on the other hand.

2)   You do something no one has ever done before; you get it completely wrong, how should you be treated? “Well free pizza !” You should be treated better than the people who succeed, its called smart failure, because you cant put it on your CV.

Daniel Pink goes one-step further in his book “drive” (Pink, 2010) and shows how conditioning does not work for any task more complicated than ‘press this button’, ‘opens this door’. The history of conditioning teaches us that if you reward good behaviour they will keep repeating the behaviour, if you punish bad behaviour you will get less of it. Showing good behaviour in films equals good behaviour in real life and visa versa which easily witnessed in Albert Banduras dolls experiments were negative images of doll being beaten resulted in children beating the doll where as positive images resulted in kind actions towards it. (Banduras, 2009)

But Daniel looks at a few sociological experiments where the reward system fails which in turn could mean that displaying people working on the reward system aka meritocracy could be harmful:

Edward Deci is the author of intrinsic motivation and professor of psychology with 40 years research into human motivation. His work was with university students, splitting them into two groups: group A and B.  Deci discovered that conditioning/the reward system only worked temporarily with humans although the initial introduction of reward improved performance. It was a short-lived success because as with coffee, once the caffeine has gone you feel worse. He demonstrates this over three days, on day one both groups are given no pay/reward and are sent into a room and given a puzzle game ‘soma’:


They were asked to complete 3 tasks both groups are give an 8 minuet break in the middle of the task in which they could do anything they desired in the room, the room contained magazines and other games. Most of the students played with the soma toy for a further 1-3 minuets in their break. On the second day group A were given a reward for how many correct puzzles they solved. On this day group A spent much more time playing with the puzzle in their 8-minuet break than they had on the previous day. Group B stayed about the same. On the third and final day something interesting happened, the reward was taken away from group A again. On this day group A spent no time at all on the puzzle in their free 8 minuet break where as group B started spending 5-7 minuets on the soma toy. Thus showing that the power of intrinsic motivation to be greater over the long term, and that although conditioning does work the results are short lived.

Similar tests have been conducted my M.I.T ‘Masatusa Instatute of technology’ they applied 3 levels of rewards to American’s and also to Madurai Indians. If you did marginally well you got a small reward, if you did really well you got a large reward and they discovered that “if the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward lead to poorer performance”- (Pink,2010)

You only have to watch one film or documentary about changing the world to see the ‘coffee effect’, you feel this great motivation to change the world; by the same time the next day you are back to your normal life- it is easier with electric, or I like the benefits of cheaper meat.

If you show courage and success without fear in films are the characteristics displayed in the real world?

Although conditioning does work it only works temporarily, and it also depends on the individual’s life style. If it is a very depressed or abused child showing positive stories, it may give them hope.

‘Important topic films’ are usually in the form of a direct message, where the story is defined by getting an important life lesson across through films such as: Cyber Bully 2008, Bully 2012, The Pregnancy 2008.

This genre of films usually has sad endings, isn’t this a good thing? True they do, but only in the sense that if we don’t change our ways these terrible things will happen ‘negative reinforcement conditioning’ -equivalent to the rat pushing the button to avoid shock. Documentary type films approach the story dynamic problem from a completely different angle, they over play the drama, as Erikson has taught us, too much of anything is a bad thing.  Nic Marks founder of Nef’s award-winning Centre for Well-being and author of “the happy planet index” said in august (2010)- “Martin Luther King did not say “I have a nightmare” when he inspired, he said “I have a dream”, and I have a dream that we can stop thinking the future will be a nightmare.” Every major blockbusting film of resent times nearly all of its visions for humanity are apocalyptic, and Marks believes the environmental movement has been complicate in creating this vision into the future. For too long we have peddled a nightmarish vision of what’s going to happen, we have focused on the worst case scenario, we have focused on the problems and we have not thought enough about the solutions. We have used fear. To grab people’s attention, fear in the organism is linked to the flight mechanism, its part of the fight and flight mechanism. That when an animal is frightened, think of a deer, a deer freezes very still poised to run away. What we are doing, when we are asking people to engage with our agenda around environmental degradation and climate change. People are freezing and running away because we are using fear. The ‘environmental movement’ has to start to think about what progress is, what would it be like to be improving the human lot. “One of the problems we face, is that the only people who have cornered the market in terms of progress, Is a financial definition of what progress is, an economic definition of what progress is, that some how if we get the right numbers to go up we are going to be better off “(Marks 2010)

This connects to the issue of children not knowing how to solve the problems the world faces with meritocracy pressuring them. Addressing the quote from Ghandi “be the difference you want to see in the world” to be wrong. Dr William Winter (2011) says “that low self esteem develops when a child feels helpless, where there is a situation where they are helpless to fix it.”

Although the apocalyptic videos are not all aimed at younger children, you cannot deny their impact on teenagers, even in school films such as “the day after tomorrow” a film that actually doesn’t give any clues at the end on how you yourself can make any change to the world. You are left this empowering raw emotion to help ‘coffee rush’ and yet are given no direction to tailor this drive.

(See appendix: 7)

Alternately, once a child has been helped to identify which of these drives is their most prominent in their personalities, there should be a lesson on how to navigate the sea of career choices. You must choose the path that makes you an autonomous worker, self-motivated and loving what you do. ‘Follow your dreams’

There are two animations aimed at girls, which tackle this topic very well. The first, Tinkerbell released in 2008, rated ‘U’ for ‘universal’ (See appendix 8), demonstrates the true meaning of knowing yourself; knowing your skills and weaknesses and how you should use them to your advantage, rather than fighting against them. she is introduced to the fairy world and told she is a ‘tinker fairy’, and has one of the less glamorous jobs in their world, but unwilling to believe this, she takes some time off work and tries all of the other fairies jobs first. This experience leads her to discover that she does not have the natural talent to do these jobs, nor does she particularly like them. While doing what she enjoyed in her spare time she discovers that what she loved was ‘tinkering’, and that each job in this world played an important part. The important lesson here is that she didn’t know what she liked, or wanted to do until she had first tried everything. This also strengthens the bond with trusting other people’s judgment not only your own.

My little pony also puts a spin on ‘the you can do anything’ motto with cutie marks, each pony has a special life skill and until that is realized the pony will not have a mark on its side. Each pony only possesses one true skill, and they must discover this skill alone.

So to sum up what is conditioning, how does it work, does it affect children ideals and behaviours also ending on a happy note is the social norm, so do sequels remove the happy ending?

Conditioning is using ‘positive or negative reinforcement’ to Encourage a desired behaviour. It does effects their ideals by showing meritocratic ideas and perpetuating of ‘following ones dreams’ but it does not condition them into being brave, strong and successful it in fact raises the chances of a child developing low self-esteem. In turn this means that the characteristics are admirable but they to don’t help children display these traits in the real world.

An example of a sad film, which does not use negative, conditioning, is Marley and me (see appendix: 9)

Chapter 3: Choice Theory

How does choice effect how we live our lives? Does it benefit children telling them they can be whatever they want to be?

Stanley Coopersmith researched into parent behaviour in relation to self–esteem (1967 as cited in Seligman 1996) stated that- self evaluation scale measured self-esteem in children and then assessed the parent’s child rearing practices for those children with higher self-esteem and concluded that the origins of higher self-esteem lay in clear rules and LIMITS enforced by the parents”.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz explains this in his book as ‘the paradox of choice’, the more choices you give people the harder it becomes to make a decision, so rather than making the wrong decision people prefer to disengage and not choose at all. (Schwartz, 2005)

Schwartz continued, -“I went to gap to buy a pair of jeans, I tend to wear my jeans until they are falling apart, so it had been quite a while since my last purchase”. He asked a young sales woman for some help. “I want a pair of jean, 32-28, she replied do you want them slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit, baggy or extra baggy. Do you want them stone washed, acid-washed, or distressed? Do you want button-fly or zipper fly. Do you want faded or regular? He goes on to tell about how there used to be only one kind and although what you got was imperfect at least it was a simple five minuet affair a not a complex decision lasting one day. And he was not even happy with the jeans we had chosen because although they fit a lot better than the ‘one kind’ he was unsure if he had made the correct choice. “Even if we overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice, than we would be if we had fewer opinions to choice from.”

Although it is true “when people have no choice life is almost unbearable,” as the number of available choices increases it is liberating and positive. “There is no denying that choice improves the quality of our lives. It enables us to control our destinies. But as the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point choice is no longer liberating, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.”(Schwartz 2004)

This correlates directly to meritocracy as into today society we encourage that anyone can be anything they want to be, but parents that were enforcing more limitations made them direct their drive to succeed into a particular area. Similarly to that of aristocracy, the choices where made for them. Having only one kind of jean meant that you could spend the rest of the day doing more productive tasks, just like when your parents would buy your clothes for you, the freedom not to care was liberating not constructive.

One particular type of happy ending involves following your dreams and as we have discussed to be ‘intrinsically motivated’ in your job is empowering and improves performance. In today society we believe that the individual should make this career choice.

Sheena Iyengar Professor of Business in the Management Division at Columbia business school, shows examples of how having choices made for you by parents and teachers effected how children performed in the tasks. In her book ‘the art of choosing’, the results came back differently dependent on where they had been raised in the world also the family background Anglo-Americans or Asian American. (Iyengar 2010)

She took a group of children aged between seven and nine, into a laboratory and divided them up into three groups. The first groups was greeted by the teacher and given a pile of six anagram puzzles and were asked to choose which anagrams they would like to do. In the second group they were given the same six anagrams but this time the teacher told them which ones to do. In the third group they were told that their mothers had chosen the anagrams. In reality the children who were told which ones to do either by miss Smith, or their mothers. They were actually given the same anagrams, which their counter parts in the first group had chosen.

Anglo- Americans did two and a half times more anagrams when they got to choice themselves. In contrast Asian American children preformed best when they believed their mothers had made the choice. “The children were strongly influenced by their immigrant parents view towards choice, for them choice was not only a way of defining and asserting their individuality but a way to create community and harmony by referring to the choices of people whom they trusted and respected.” (Iyengar, 2010) to see Iyengar’s research continued (See appendix 10) and (see appendix 11) to see how Maslow believed that esteem can not be reached without first felling a sense of love and belonging.

It is a mistake to think that everyone thrives under the pressure of choosing alone, and to insist that all children choose independently regardless of their backgrounds and views may actually compromise their performance and their relationship. For example, in the case of Thinkerbell as discussed earlier, choices were in part made for her.

Kathryn Schulz author of the book, ‘Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error’ (2010)

Mentioned how we view being wrong, we often believe we are right even though we are wrong, we make “a series of unfortunate assumptions” when we believe we are right and the other person is wrong, believing our dream or idea is the right one for us and ignoring our people opinions. This view leads into the concepts of the following theories.

1)   The ignorance assumption:

The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us, is we just assume they are ignorant, they do not have access to the same information as we do, and when we generously share that importation they are going to see the light and come over to our team.

2)   The idiocy assumption:

When we discover they already have all those facts and they still disagree, we assume that they are idiots they have all the right pieces of the puzzle and they are too moronic to put them together correctly.

3)   The evil assumption:

When we learn they are not idiots and they still disagree. They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes. (Schulz, 2010)

Botton believed the opposite that we are highly open to suggestion: (See appendix: 12) the author continued by stating,

“This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes, when we absolutely need to and causes us to treat each other terribly, but to me what is most befalling and tragic about this, is that it misses the whole point of being human, it’s like we want to imagine that our minds are these perfectly translucent windows and that we gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds, and we want everyone else to gaze out of that same window and see the exact same thing. That is not true and if it were, life would be incredibly boring. The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It is that you can see the world, as it isn’t. We can all look up at the same night sky and see this:


 and also this:


 and also this:


and yeh it is also why we get things wrong.”

A children’s film can evoke a different response in each child’s mind that views it. And being wrong is a part of life. We should let them make their own minds up about how they see failure by showing them realistically represented failure.

It’s never about being right; the information that is important is almost as significant as showing an audience what you are reacting towards, as reacting towards it and achieving the goal. “Being willing to fail is an important part of that, if you are afraid of a shipwreck you are never going to leave the shore. And you never go anywhere”.-Tony Kushner (2012) an American playwright and screenwriter.

In children’s films we do show over coming fear of failure, but only overcoming failure, this may be because overcoming the failure is positive reinforcement, and without it we would become depressed. If the only options in a world of democracy are to pretend everything will turn out well one day, or to except your place in the world as a nobody most people would rather life in a dream even if it comes with the guilt of not achieving acknowledgement we cannot all be leaders. (N-Pow in appendix 5)

To answer the question: does it benefit children telling them they can be whatever they want to be?

It does not benefit them, In fact it causes confusion with the overwhelming possibilities. We should instead encourage more searching for the correct path. Unfortunately once they make a decision they are then pressurised to preform to the highest standards.


Should we have more negative content and unhappy endings?


This dissertation looked at three main areas, meritocracy, conditioning and choice theory.

Chapter one looked into Meritocracy and how it may be the cause of low self-esteem. Although low self-esteem can be destructive to child’s school and home life leading also into adulthood removing meritocracy in entirety from film would not change all forms of media. There is also evidence to prove that without it, it may not spark the inspirational drive to achieve in this world. We could however introduce other elements, luck, opportunity, mistakes, accidents, family problems or environmental. Causing the hero to fail at times. Balance is the key, weighing the positive and negative content as equals; Erikson was a strong believer in this.  Erikson-“children are active in the environment, eagerly seeking out new information and actively dealing with the everyday conflicts of life.” And Dr. Marie Hartwell-walker shows how having a predictable ending can be a positive to bring calm to the unpredictable scary real world. Depending on the individual in question this balance can be achieved through films. There by showing we must also have unhappy endings to show negative outcomes at times but they must not out weigh the positives.

Conditioning is using ‘positive or negative reinforcement’ to Encourage a desired behaviour. It does effects their ideals by showing meritocratic ideas and adds perpetuating of ‘following ones dreams’ but it does not condition them into being brave, strong and successful it in fact raises the chances of a child developing low self-esteem. In turn this means that the characteristics are admirable but they to don’t help children display these traits in the real world.

Therefore showing failure would just demonstrate that not everything is perfect.

Conditioning only works with a positive ending, for a short time.

So in connection with meritocracy showing a happy ending may be more efficient at a young age full of new scary things. Where as introducing more unhappy ending which are non apocalyptic for middle school and secondary may be beneficial.

Choice theory tells us it would be better for children and teenagers to see more films about family bonding rather than the traditional happy ending story of going on a journey to discover your dreams alone as not all children benefit from this theme.  We should encourage more path finding rather than the conventional you can do anything rule, which is a cause of low-self esteem in young adults and can lead to an inability to find their path to be intrinsically motivated.

As art is open to interpretation, film is an art and there is no sign that unhappy endings can harm children psychologically as long as negative conditioning is not present in ‘U’ and ‘PG’ films.

This answers the question; Should we have more negative content and unhappy endings? Yes there should be more negative content and unhappy endings. With the rules; no or very low use of negative reinforcement as it results in the ‘coffee rush’ effect and path finding is encourage with trusted people with less free standing choices.

(i will upload appendixes if ask)- sorry if the document has jumped around a lot, wordpress is evil sometimes