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Biology of Aging

Marie-Louise Mares

Marie-Louise Mares

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor, Department of Communication Arts

Developmental Changes in Media Use & Effects

Much of my research is organized around a central question of how social and cognitive development across the lifespan alters the way we use and are affected by media content.

1. Developmental differences in media use and preferences.
I am interested in studying (1) the nature and extent of age-related changes in media use (2) what it is about maturation and aging that might cause changes in media use, and (3) what features of media content are particularly attractive or relevant at different ages. In one study (Mares & Woodard, 2006) we used General Social Survey data to test claims that older adults (across multiple cohorts and times of measurement) watch more TV than younger adults and that they do so because factors such as retirement, poor health, and widowhood create more opportunity and desire to watch. Since then, I have been interested in the implications of emotional development and age identity development for adults' television and film preferences. In an ongoing series of studies, (e.g., Mares, Oliver, & Cantor, 2008; Mares & Ye, 2010) we have been testing predictions (based on theories of emerging adulthood, socioemotional selectivity, and age identity) that younger and older adults differ in the types of emotional experiences they value while watching films and TV, and that subjective age and distress about aging affect preferences, both for emotional tone/genre and the age of characters in the content.

2. Developmental changes in the processing of TV content.
I am interested in the nature of developmental changes in comprehension and memory of television content and whether these age differences can be minimized by prior familiarity with the content. In one study (Mares, 1996) I measured age differences in memory for the source of televised information and found that older adults (to a greater extent than young children and teens) tended to misremember that fictional information had been part of the news. This tendency was related to perceptions of the real world as a dangerous and violent place. I subsequently became interested in the idea that age differences in comprehension of television content might be mitigated by expertise or familiarity. I conducted an experiment (Mares, 2007) examining older and younger adults' comprehension of two shows - one with which they were familiar and one with which they were unfamiliar. I found that age differences in comprehension were reduced for relatively easy tasks when viewers were fans of the content, but were not eliminated for more difficult tasks. I would like to return to this topic in the near future and study older adults' memory for the source of health-related information and the implications of their source attributions for their beliefs and behaviors.

3. Developmental changes in media effects.
I am interested in examining whether effects that have been documented with a narrow range of adults (typically undergraduates) vary when investigated across the adult life span. I am currently co-authoring a paper with Robin Nabi at University of California-Santa Barbara, examining age differences in the relationship between men and women's television viewing, body image, and interest in various invasive and non-invasive procedures to enhance their appearance.

Representative Publications
Sivakumar, G., & Mares, M.-L. (2017). The doctor versus the internet: Effects of low-, medium-, and high-quality websites on intentions to follow the doctor's advice. Health Communication, 32(12), 1454-1462.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/10410236.2016.1228030

Mares, M. L., Bartsch, A., & Bonus, J. A. (2016). When meaning matters more: Media preferences across the adult life-span. Psychology and Aging, 31(5), 513-531.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1037/pag0000098

Bartsch, A., & Mares, M. L. (2014). Making sense of violence: Perceived meaningfulness as a predictor of audience interest in violent media content. Journal of Communication, 64(5), 956-976.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1111/jcom.12112

Mares, M.-L. (2013). Review of 'Media effects'. Journal of Children and Media, 7(3), 404-407.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/17482798.2013.794600

Mares, M.-L., & Pan, Z. (2013). Effects of Sesame Street: A meta-analysis of children's learning in 15 countries. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(3), 140-151.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1016/j.appdev.2013.01.001

Mares, M.-L., Braun, M. T., & Hernandez, P. (2012). Pessimism and anxiety: Effects of tween sitcoms on expectations and feelings about peer relationships in school. Media Psychology, 15(2), 121-147.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/15213269.2012.664762

Mares, M.-L., & Woodard, E. H. (2012). Effects of prosocial media content on children's social interactions. In D. G. Singer & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of children and the media (2nd ed.). (pp. 197-214). Thousand Oaks, CA US: Sage Publications, Inc.

Mares, M. L. & Sun, Y. (2010). The multiple meanings of age for television viewing. Human Communication Research, 36, 372-396.
Click here to download this publication.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2010.01380.x

Mares, M.L., Oliver, M.B., & Cantor, J. (2008). Age differences in adults' emotional motivations for exposure to films. Media Psychology, 11, 488-511.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/15213260802492026

Mares, M.L., & Acosta, E. (2008). Be kind to three-legged dogs: Children's literal interpretations of TV's moral lessons. Media Psychology, 11, 377-399.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/15213260802204355

Mares, M.L. (2007). Developmental changes in adult comprehension of a television program are modified by being a fan. Communication Monographs, 74, 55-77.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/03637750701196888

Mares, M.L., & Woodard, E. (2006). In search of the older audience: Adult age differences in television viewing. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50, 595-614.

Mares, M.L. (2006). Repetition increases children's comprehension of television content - Up to a point. Communication Monographs, 73(2), 216-241.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1080/03637750600693464

Mares, M.L., & Woodard, E. (2005). Positive effects of television on children's social interactions: A meta-analysis. Media Psychology, 7, 301-322.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0703_4

Mares, M.L., & Fitzpatrick, M.A. (2004). Communication in close relationships of older people. In J.F. Nussbaum, & J. Coupland (Eds.), Handbook of communication and aging research 2nd Ed. (pp. 231-249). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cantor, J., Mares, M.L., & Hyde, J.S. (2003). Autobiographical memories of exposure to sexual media content. Media Psychology, 5, 1-31.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1207/S1532785XMEP0501_1

Mares, M.L., Cantor, J., & Steinbach, J.B. (1999). Using television to foster children's interest in science. Science Communication, 20, 283-297.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1177/1075547099020003001

Mares, M.L. (1998). Children's use of VCRs. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 557, 120-131.

Davis, S., & Mares, M.L. (1998). Effects of talk show viewing on adolescents. Journal of Communication, 48, 69-86.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1998.tb02760.x

Mares, M. (1996). The role of source confusions in television's cultivation of social reality judgments. Human Communication Research, 23(2), 278-297.
View publication via DOI: DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2958.1996.tb00395.x

Mares, M., & Cantor, J. (1992). Elderly viewers' responses to televised portrayals of old age: Empathy and mood management mersus mocial comparison. Communication Research, August, 459-478.

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