The first paper looking at non-college students, in fact young children, turns up 1983. Byron Reeves and Gina Garramone tested whether exposure to a TV program could prime traits that are then use to judge another character – very much in line with the work of Srull & Wyer and all the others.
The participants were kids in 2nd, 4th and 6th grade.* Two classes for each. One were the experimental class, and the other the control class.
What they wanted to prime was “Funny”. First, they put together a 10 minute video with clips from “prime time syndicated situation comedy programs”. The clips had been rated by other kids on how much they made them laugh, and how funny they thought the characters were.
Then, they created a vignette of Andy which was ambiguous as to how funny he was, although the situations described were ones where he could have been funny. For example “Later in the day, Andy’s class went on a field trip and Andy made jokes on the bus”.
The experimental classes got to see the film, and then they read about Andy. The control classes only read about Andy. Then they rated him on 25 traits, using a scale from 1-4.
Target traits, they claim, were Funny, Attractive and Strong. I’m not sure how they came up with this. I certainly buy Funny, but wonder if they did a bit of exploring to find effects for both Attractive and Strong also.
Overall, collapsed over grade, priming did not result in any difference. Neither did class. But, there were interactions for the above three traits. Mainly, it looks like there was a lot more variance between the grades in the control condition than in the experimental condition. Especially the second graders tended to rate Andy as more funny, attractive and strong in the control condition than in the experimental condition. The 4th graders don’t seem to differ much, whereas the 6th graders tended to go in the other direction from the 2nd graders, but the differences are not large
The cell sizes ranged from 19-25 (whole classes), so mainly in range of what has been done before.
Reeves, Byron & Garramone, Gina M. (1983). Television’s influence on children’s encoding of person information. Human Communication Research, 10 257-268.