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The effects of violence in media on society

One problem with meta-analysis is that if studies of questionable quality are included, the overall effect size obtained will be of questionable accuracy. To avoid this problem, two approaches are used. One is to define quality requirements for the inclusion of a study.

Nonetheless, that meta-analysis showed that even including all relevant studies resulted in significant effects. Processes Linking Media Violence Exposure to Aggressive Behavior There are multiple theoretical explanations for the link between media violence and aggressive behavior. The GAM describes short-term as well as long-term processes. The short-term processes see Figure 1 are described as an episodic and cyclical pattern, where situational e.

This present internal state is characterized by three main types of variables: Any input variable can affect any and all of the three present internal state variables. For example, a homicide shown on television can lead to aggressive cognitions, increased physiological arousal, and feelings of anger or hostility.

The three present internal state variables also influence each other. For example, the feeling of hostility is likely to increase arousal. Increases in aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and arousal all increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

This aggressive behavior then influences the situation and the cycle starts over again. Adapted from Anderson and Bushman, 2002a. The effect of violent media is not limited to short-term effects; there is also a range of long-term processes linking media violence to aggressive behavior.

In other words, people learn.

  • Finally, 3 as this article has presented, there is a great deal of evidence regarding the link between media violence and aggression that directly contradicts the theory of catharsis for an extensive review and discussion, see Anderson et al;
  • Unlike true drives such as thirst and hunger, no negative biological consequence arises if one does not act aggressively.

Individuals then apply these concepts outside of the media context. The acquired concepts as well as the basic processes will be presented in the next sections. These scripts consist of distinct, simple actions as well as normative beliefs, which contain the information about when the execution of the scripts is acceptable.

In This Article

Media often portray violence as rewarding and acceptable behavior. Consuming violent media therefore leads individuals to be more accepting in their beliefs regarding the execution of aggressive scripts.

Longitudinal studies have shown that the normative beliefs act as a mediator between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior, supporting script theory. Aggressive Expectation and Perceptual Schemata Another process involves the development of aggressive expectation and perceptual schemata.

Cognitive schemata are patterns of thought that structure information processing to ease cognitive processing. These cognitive schemata are used to interpret situations that are either unclear or do not contain enough information. Since media often portray the environment as hostile and dangerous, people add this information into their schemata about how the world works.

This process was investigated in an experimental study conducted by Kirsh 1998. He asked 52 children to play either a violent or nonviolent video game. Afterwards the children read a story about negative events caused by a peer.

Children who had played the violent video game assumed more often that the negative events were caused intentionally than the children who had played nonviolent games, who tended to assume that the negative events were caused by accident.

It is also worth noting that of the different cognitive processes described here, no single explanation is favored as the main route to developing aggressive behavior.

Aggressive behavior can develop through changes in one or all of the processes just discussed. Desensitization to Aggression In addition to influencing cognitive processes, the consumption of media violence also influences affective processes.

Normally people show a strong negative affective reaction toward violence. However, clinical psychology has shown that people who repeatedly experience a situation eliciting a negative affective reaction get used to this situation, and the negative affect associated with this situation is reduced Funk, 2005.

Moreover, the decline in negative affect should be more pronounced if positive affect is included in the situation.

  1. In other words, people learn. This suggests that changes in aggressive cognitions have a larger impact on the development of aggressive behavior than changes in empathy, but further research is necessary to support this suggestion.
  2. Additionally, the effects of violent media are not limited to aggressive behavior.
  3. This process was investigated in an experimental study conducted by Kirsh 1998. There is also evidence that using violent media leads to increased physical arousal.
  4. However, for all of the other types of attention, screen media in general and violent media have been associated with poorer executive function and real world attention. Afterwards the children read a story about negative events caused by a peer.
  5. Media often portray violence as rewarding and acceptable behavior. In other words, people learn.

Media violence fulfills both conditions: A reduction of negative affect toward violence leads to an increased probability of acting aggressively and a reduced probability of helping victims.

Experimental studies have shown that even brief exposure to violent video games can lead to physiological desensitization e.

He suggested that the pity and fear experienced by the audience of a drama performance cleansed the human soul. Freud 1920 stated that this kind of cleansing is necessary; otherwise the aggression drive steadily increases until aggressive behavior occurs.

While these theories may seem convincing at first glance, there are at least three large problems: Unlike true drives such as thirst and hunger, no negative biological consequence arises if one does not act aggressively. Finally, 3 as this article has presented, there is a great deal of evidence regarding the link between media violence and aggression that directly contradicts the theory of catharsis for an extensive review and discussion, see Anderson et al.

The fact that the catharsis theory is so popular despite all the evidence against it can be explained by multiple psychological processes.

Violent Media Content and Effects

Since people normally do not associate good mood with aggression, they think that they have reduced the probability they will act aggressively. However, learning that acting aggressively improves their mood may mean people are more, not less likely to be aggressive. There is also evidence that using violent media leads to increased physical arousal.

After playing, our body needs rest to return to its baseline state, which is felt as tiredness. This tiredness may be misinterpreted as a reduction of the likelihood to act aggressively.

Effects of Violent Media on Outcomes Other Than Aggression Effects on Attention, Impulsivity, and Executive Functioning Although not as extensively researched as the link between violent media and aggression, there is the effects of violence in media on society growing body of research on the effects of violent media on attention and executive functioning. Generally, positive effects of a specific type of violent media—e. However, for all of the other types of attention, screen media in general and violent media have been associated with poorer executive function and real world attention.

Playing action-based video games which are most often violent has been experimentally linked to improvements in visuo-spatial attention e. Unfortunately, other research has shown that despite the potential for some media i. There was also a weaker association between nonviolent, noneducational television viewing and later attention problems. Similar links have been established for violent video games. One cross-sectional study found that for 6- to 10-year-olds, playing violent video games was significantly associated with attention problems, but total play time ignoring content type was not Hastings et al.

Not all studies find stronger effects for exposure to violent media as compared to total media exposure, however. The effects of violent media on attention and impulsivity may also partially explain the impact of violent media on aggression. Other research has linked violent media exposure to deficits in executive functioning. For example, it has been found that individuals with high media violence exposure show reduced frontal lobe activation during a counting Stroop task Mathews et al.

Effects on Empathy and Prosocial Behavior There is also a wealth of evidence linking violent media use to decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. One of the best examples of experimental and quasi-experimental research on this topic can be found in two studies conducted by Bushman and Anderson 2009. In Study 1, undergraduates were randomly assigned to play a violent or a nonviolent game for 20 minutes.

At the conclusion of this fight, a confederate supposedly sustained an injury. In a separate field study a similar effect was found for adult moviegoers. A minor emergency i. Moviegoers who had just watched a violent movie took significantly longer to help the confederate than did moviegoers who had just watched a nonviolent movie or had not yet watched a movie of either type.

Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies also support the link between violent media exposure and reduced empathy and prosocial behavior.

  • Since media often portray the environment as hostile and dangerous, people add this information into their schemata about how the world works;
  • A reduction of negative affect toward violence leads to an increased probability of acting aggressively and a reduced probability of helping victims;
  • Playing action-based video games which are most often violent has been experimentally linked to improvements in visuo-spatial attention e.

One three-wave longitudinal study conducted over a period of two years using a large sample of Singaporean children and adolescents found that violent video game use at Time 1 negatively predicted prosocial behavior at Time 3 through decreases in empathy at Time 2 Gentile et al.

Another three-wave, three-year longitudinal study also using a large sample of Singaporean children and adolescentshowever, found that empathy was no longer a significant mediator of the relationship between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior two years later when a composite measure of aggressive cognitions was included in the model Gentile et al.

This suggests that changes in aggressive cognitions have a larger impact on the development of aggressive behavior than changes in empathy, but further research is necessary to support this suggestion. Although empathy was not supported as a mediator in Gentile et al. Finally, and most compellingly, meta-analytic evidence further supports the link between violent media exposure and reductions in empathy and prosocial behavior—at least for video games Anderson et al.

This finding is supported by a large number of studies utilizing a wide variety of methodological approaches. The connection between media violence and aggressive behavior is explained by many different mediational processes. Violent media exposure can change what is considered socially acceptable, how the environment is perceived, and how we feel about violence.

All these processes combined lead a higher levels of aggressive behavior. Although an appealing explanation, there is almost no evidence for the opposite argument i. Additionally, the effects of violent media are not limited to aggressive behavior. There is also substantial evidence linking violent media exposure to problems with attention, impulsivity, and executive functioning as well as reductions in empathy and prosocial behavior. Further Reading Anderson, C. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27—51.