Moderate-Discrepancy Hypothesis

The moderate discrepancy hypothesis describes the notion relating to aspects of visual and audio portrayals among young viewers. In this regard, young children respond differently to varying visual and audio portrayals in the context of the experience of the viewer. According to this hypothesis, visual portrays that have minimal variations concerning children’s knowledge attract high levels of attention. As children mature, variations in their media preferences begin to increase. Educational materials such as videos, computer programs and CD/DVDs have considerable effects on viewers during infancy and early childhood in terms of their intellectual development. Depending on the approach adopted to expose children to visual portrayals, the effects could be either positive or negative. For example, exposing children of preschool age to appropriately designed programs could significantly improve their social skills and level of preparation in academics (Valkenburg & Vroone, 2004).  The impacts of these effects are likely to remain considerable even during adolescence. The level of influence of various forms of media depends on the intensiveness of support from parents and other caregivers. Infants that experience consistent support within their environment witness minimal disruptions in their social and intellectual development.

 Research shows that infants exhibit certain forms of preferences. These preferences influence children’s attention in various environments. For example, children demonstrate high responsiveness to sources of music and speech. Furthermore, they portray aspects of enjoyment when listening to music. Research illustrates that children, even 4 months old infants, have well developed responsiveness to human voice (Valkenburg, 2004). Thus, media such as tape-recorded speech considerably attract children’s attention. Educational materials such as audio or audiovisual stories attract high levels of attention among children. 

Children are highly interested in moving objects. As their visual ability develops, their preference for specific images intensifies. Moving objects with bright colors and sharp contrasts, cause high levels of attention among children due to their ability to discern different colors.

Television programs, especially preschool programs, constitute of brightly colored puppets and commercials. Research shows that children are highly attracted to commercials. This is due to the visual and auditory stimulus that is also present in preschool programs. Various surveys indicate that a significant percentage of children under 5 years regularly imitate songs, jingles and other visual and auditory stimuli present in commercials. The fact that programs with repetitions and a slow pace attract most young children illustrates the highlights of moderate-discrepancy hypothesis concerning the complexity of information presented to young children (Valkenburg, 2004). The need to categorize much of this information as too complex arises due to the consideration that young children have less prior knowledge and minimal experiences. Repetition within programs provides children with an opportunity to develop psychological mastery of the content in question. In this regard, the encounter challenges children in selecting, ordering and processing new information.

Moderate-discrepancy hypothesis highlights various aspects of infant and early childhood intellectual and social development that have a correlation with approaches within the socio-culture tradition. Young children prefer programs that contain familiar context with consideration to their environment. They easily understand content that resemble familiar objects and scenes. Children have a highly specialized attention system that makes them sensitive to various features of televised preschool programs. As young children’s orienting system expands, they develop attentiveness towards salient stimuli, which is crucial in their exploration and learning. As children mature, their response to novelty declines as intrinsic stimuli becomes more influential. Stimuli of attention among children may be visual, auditory or based on content attributes. As children grow, they can effectively distinguish between reality and fantasy.  However, preschoolers face difficulties in ascertaining differences between the two cases. Differentiation between reality and fantasy introduces aspects of media preferences among children.