Media Consumption Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

media consumption and subsequent behaviour?

Profiling the criminal behavior of rampage perpetrators is one of the main areas of focus in the social science research community. Gender, mental health issues, social exclusion, genetic susceptibility or predisposition, and ultimately, violent media, are most of the factors that guide researchers in the field, seeking to develop broader frameworks of understanding rampage violence. Over the past three decades, 78 cases of public mass shootings have been registered by the Congressional Research Service (2013). An FBI report indicated a rise in typical mass shootings, from 6.4 incidents occurring between 2000 and 2007 to an average of 16.4 incidents between 2007 and 2013 (2013). Most of these public mass shootings have been found to occur either at workplaces or at schools across the United States.

The proliferation of mass shootings over these past few decades has further brought into the public and academic's attention the issue of media consumption and its effects on people's behavior. Correlations have been made between media's continuous coverage of violent incidents and subsequent similar behavior from individuals (Signorielli, 2005). Other researchers have argued that such correlations do not have any real foundations and that scientific evidence does not support them (Freedman, 2002). The popularization of TV and media led researchers in the late 1980s and following years to advance theories regarding the rise in violence. Between the late 1960s and the first half of the 1990s, over 425 scientific studies found that media's non-stop coverage of violent acts influenced public opinion and people's behavior (McCombs and Reynolds, 2009). In the United States, three analyses related to media's coverage of violent events were conducted between 1967 and 1990, which depicted an average of 60 to 80% violence-related broadcasted programs of all national TV broadcasting. At this point, the social scientific community started to wonder about the implications of the themes of violence depicted in media sources and their effects on people. Researchers were trying to find if there was a direct link between people's exposure to violent events presented on TV and subsequent violent behavior. Therefore, if we are to understand academic theories on media violence and the effect on people, we need to take a closer look at some of the elements that create the media and define its relation to the public. These elements are important because they put us in contact with how the social scientific community analyzed and concluded its research on the influence of violent events, which are broadcasted by media sources.

Media is a communicator. It is a medium of communication, which has moved past its initial role of providing people information and entertainment to becoming an integral part of everyone's lives; and one of the most powerful media communicators is the television. According to Gerbner, et al. (1986), television has become an indispensable, almost humanized element for people everywhere. It communicates to large masses of individuals and is unique in that it makes more use of imagery than any other media source. When information is passed visually rather than textually, the human brain absorbs it more easily and rapidly. The visual component is in fact very important in our society that has become, due to the prevalence of movies, videos, visual advertising, reliant on imagery. Graphics and montage are used in media to emphasize certain scenes and create the drama effect, and further reinforce the message that is transmitted. When media transmits information, this is then absorbed and analyzed by the brain, either consciously or subconsciously. Television thus becomes a learning instrument, and watching television becomes the means by which people build their beliefs and accept certain values. Researchers have explained that the more people watch television, the more inclined they are to adopt certain behaviors. Subsequently, the more exposed people are to violent scenes on the screen, the more possible it is that they adopt similar behavior (Paik and Comstock, 1994). When psychologists and sociologists in past centuries put together the issue of violence rising in societies and the portrayal of violent incidents on TV, the idea emerged that the two phenomenons could somehow be related. The imitative model theory, which had served the social scientific community ever since 1896 when C. Lloyd Morgan first promulgated "imitation" as a behaviorist pattern, became a point of reference in the academic circles; and one of the most important figures to portray the imitative model in relation to media violence was Albert Bandura. Bandura (1969)...
...Most imitative-model theorists believed that imitation occurs as a type of learning process in which case, the television is the learning mechanism. One study in the 1960s showed that children exposed to violent models, whether in real life or on television -- film and cartoons --, do indeed express aggressiveness upon exposure and when further challenged (Bandura et. al, 1963). Three subject groups were formed in which the first group was put into contact with real-life aggressive models, the second group was exposed to TV mediated aggressive models, and the third group was exposed to cartoon depicting-violence models. The research concluded that aggressiveness on film was the most influential mechanism in shaping the subjects' behaviors.

If people learn by exposure to certain models or certain type of information, such as violent information, then constant and repeated exposure can influence and shape people's behavior is what so many researchers in the field have tried so hard to demonstrate. Many of the theories that have been put forward over the last decades asked whether watching violent behavior on TV could induce a similar pattern in viewers. The social learning theory of Bandura, which he advanced in 1963, assumed that people learn through imitation. They do this by reenacting social behaviors from film into real life. For example, when individuals observe that characters in a movie resolve interpersonal conflicts by physical aggression, they then learn or adopt a similar behavior when confronted with a similar situation in real life. When individuals are repeatedly exposed to physical/verbal-aggression conflict management scenarios, they thus learn that violent and aggressive behavior is a common strategy for solving conflicts. Furthermore, some critics believe, this type of aggressive attitude comes to be perceived as an effective strategy for solving conflicts (Bushman and Huesmann, 2001).

The social learning theory supposes that people learn both from direct experiences and by means of observing others, whether in real life or on screen. It bases its assumptions on four relevant elements in connection with people's cognitive and behavioral construction. First, there is the observing element or the paying attention element. Second, there is the adoption or the memorizing element, which integrates the observed behavior into existing patterns. Third, there is the actual reenactment of the observed behavior and four: there is the motivational element, which supposes that an individual is motivated by certain factors to pay attention to the behavior in the first place and to reproduce it subsequently. The evidence that suggests the influence of violent depictions in media on people rely most if not all, on case studies and experiments in which subjects of different ages, gender, nationality, religion etc. are assigned to some scenarios of various types and doses of violence. In Bandura's et al. study (1963), 48 boys and 48 girls formed the three group subjects, with ages ranging from 35 to 69 months. Bjorkqvist's study from 1985 assessed children in Finland of 5 to 6 years of age. His study also found that children exposed to violent film, as opposed to those exposed to non-violent film, were more inclined to physical aggressiveness, demonstrated in the playing room by physical assault on other children and other types of aggressive behavior (pushing, elbowing etc.). Both Bandura's and Bjorkqvist's studies indicated that there are immediate, short-term effects on children who are exposed to violent media. Though children are indeed known to mimic behavior that they see in models such as their parents and in the people around them, the fact that they replicate violent behavior as seen on screen can influence their predisposition to harm others, according to Anderson et al. (2003).

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior in America concluded in 1992 that most of the research that had been conducted in the previous thirty years confirmed the harmful effect of violent media. Three prevalent effects were identified: the direct affect, desensitization of the public and the "mean world syndrome." The first effect assumed that adults and children who watch violet scenes on TV frequently can become more aggressive and can develop further violent behavioral characteristics that they use to manage threatening situations. Desensitization claimed that children who watch a lot of violence on television could become less sensible to real-life violence, less empathic toward other people's suffering and more prone to accepting violence in society as a normal conduit. Lastly, the "mean world syndrome" is a term…

Sources Used in Documents:


Anderson, C.A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L.R., Johnson, J.D., Linz, D., Malamuth, N.M. And Wartella, A., 2003. The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public interest, 4(3), pp. 81-110.

Berkowitz, L. And Geen R.G., 1966. Film violence and the cue properties of available targets. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3(5), pp. 525-530. [pdf]

Bjorkqvist, K., 1985. Violent films, anxiety, and aggression. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters.

Bushmann, B.J. And Huesmann, L.R., 2001. Effects of televised violence on aggression. In D. Singer and J. Singer, eds. Handbook of children and the media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. pp. 223-254.

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