chapter  2
18 Pages

Children’s Comprehension Processes: From Piaget to Public Policy

A kindergarten child and her sixth-grade brother watch televised nuclear holocaust in America’s heartland (“The Day After” on ABC Theater, November 20, 1983). The sixth grader is disturbed by the program, whereas his kindergarten sister is not. Why? The very same program stimuli were there for each to see and to hear, and each had comparable neural pathways for sensory input to the brain. Yet their experiences from viewing are very different. It is natural for us to ex­ plain this phenomenon by saying their comprehension levels differed-that the sixth grader came to the program with a much greater capacity to assimilate con­ textual elements and to understand motivations and consequences. It is less natural to examine the basic models and assumptions on which our explanation is based and to determine their implications for children’s comprehension processes and for the television viewing experience. Within this chapter we examine basic com­ prehension models and assumptions, the ways in which they have affected our perception of children’s comprehension processes and the corresponding televisionrelated questions that have been formulated and researched within the field.