Immediate impact of fantastical television content on children’s executive functions

Sinead Rhodes, Tracy Stewart, Margarita Kanevski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research has suggested that particular content of television programmes, such as watching fantastical scenes, can have negative consequences on cognitive functions in young children. We examined the effects of watching fantastical programmes on executive functions measured at both pre and post television viewing. Eighty 5-6-year-old children participated and were randomised into either fantastical or non-fantastical conditions. They completed inhibition, working memory, cognitive flexibility and planning tasks both before and after watching either the brief fantastical or non-fantastical television clip. While there were no differences between the groups at pre-test on any of the cognitive measures, children in the fantastical condition were poorer on inhibition, working memory and cognitive flexibility tasks at the post-test session. Watching fantastical television content, even briefly, seems to disrupt cognitive function performance in young children across a broad range of aspects of executive function.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Early online date24 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Dec 2019


  • executive functions
  • fantastical
  • television


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