QuestionnairesRead this report and explain why the original study produced results with low validity.

The report Video Violence and Children in 1983 claimed that 45% of 7-16 year olds had seen a ‘video nasty’, and this figure was obtained by giving children a list of 113 titles and asking them which they had seen. Similar reports led to new legislation being rushed through parliament in 1994.

However, researchers at Aston University repeated the original survey, but added some fictitious titles to the list. They found that 68% of children claimed to have seen one or more of the fake titles. As researchers interested in the field, we were puzzled at these survey results since it had proved difficult to obtain many of the titles and so we began to suspect the methodology.

On obtaining the original questionnaire used in schools it became clear how such an inflated figure could have been produced. The questionnaire was far longer than desirable and the key questions came on the last five pages where 113 video titles were listed. At the beginning of this section children were asked if they had seen a film listed to rate it on a three point scale. This scale read great, just all right and awful. At the top of each page above each scale was a cartoon face corresponding to the judgement.

Unfortunately instructions, even if initially understood, can quickly become forgotten and our hypothesis was that children might well have begun to rate the films even if they hadn’t seen them. To test this, the original questionnaire was faithfully reproduced but with some non-existent titles substituted for the video nasties. These fictitious titles, such as ‘Blood on the Teeth of the Vampire’, were checked in specialist film guides to ensure that no similar sounding film existed.

The results from five classes of eleven year olds indicated that two thirds (68%) of them had seen films which do not exist!

From: Cumberbatch, G (1994) Legislating mythology: Video violence and children, Journal of Mental Health, 3, 485-494