Media Violence and Violent Behavior Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Because there was not the time or means to get a very diverse population of individuals, there may be some limitations when it comes to social class as well as previous levels of aggression in the children and youths. There are only two girls compared with the eight boys. This may be considered a limitation as well, but more parents of boys answered the ad and this may be because the parents are already aware that their boys are participating in violent video games or watching violent movies. In general, it could be assumed that boys have a tendency to be drawn toward violent media -- much more so than girls. But again, this may be considered a limitation.

Another limitation was that there were not means to hire a doctor to take heartbeat or pulses before the children went in to watch the violent media and after they had watched the violent media. This would have given more insight into exactly what is happening to the child physiologically speaking. However, it must be noted that this isn't a major part of the research. What the researcher wanted to reveal is whether or not the children and youths reacted aggressively (or in other negative ways) immediately after watching the violent media.

Theoretical Framework.

Minimal exposure to media violence (even small increments as little as 30 minutes) leads to immediate desensitization, which subsequently causes aggressive behavior in children and youths. Aggressive behavior may result, as may fear, suspicion, frustration and/or anger.

Research hypotheses.

The playing of violent video games or watching violent movies increases the propensity for violent behavior in children and older youths. Film, television and video games desensitize aggressive and/or violent acts. (Thus it can be surmised that this may lead to criminal behavior.) It can be suggested that violent video games and media affect the overall crime rate if, indeed, children and youths are negatively affected by violent media, causing them to become violent and aggressive. It may also be hypothesized that children and youth who already have an "aggressive nature" may feed that aggressiveness, creating even more aggression and violence in a child or youth.

Chapter II:

Literature Review.

Cline, Croft and Courrier (1973) researched the desensitization of children to violence in television and film over 30 years ago. Measures of autonomic response (skin conductance and blood volume pulse amplitude) were taken prior to and during their exposure to a violent film (which this research did not do). The high-television-exposure subjects were found to be dramatically less aroused autonomically speaking, which suggested a limited but still definite and measurable desensitization to violence in film and television. Since the subjects did not have any exposure to the particular film beforehand, the results of the research study suggested the possibility of a generalizing effect for the desensitization that occurred (1973). The researchers posit that if one were to combine the effects of desensitization, which can potentially reduce the effects of conscious, with the effects of modeling, which provides (through our media entertainments) the explicit cognitive formulations and mechanics for committing violence, it may not be very surprising then to see that there is not only a dramatic increase in acts of personal aggression in our society, but also a growing attitude of indifference and unconcern for the victims by the aggressor (1973).

While Cline et al. (1973) found there to be a definite link between media violence and desensitization over 30 years ago, Huesmann and Moise (1997) go on to add to that research by stating that children and youths who watch media violence on a very consistent basis, behave more aggressively and accept aggression more readily as a way to solve their everyday problems.

Huesmann and Moise (1997) posit that violence stimulates aggression by desensitizing children to the effects of violence -- just as Cline et al. found in 1973. The basic assumptions is that the more violence a child or youth is exposed to, the more acceptable aggressive behavior becomes for that child or youth (1997). Additionally, children and youths who view violent media or participate in violent media (e.g. video games) become suspicious of others and expect others to act in aggressive and/or violent ways -- "an attributional bias that promotes aggressive behavior" (1997). (This will be exemplified in this research study as well as many of the children and youths appeared anxious and suspicious after watching or participating in violent media).

Huesmann and Moise (1997) also suggest that justification is a process by which media violence stimulates aggression. "A child who has behaved aggressively watches violent television shows to relieve guilt and justify the aggression. The child then feels less inhibited about aggressing pain" (1997).

Another process Huesmann and Moise (1997) discuss is cognitive priming or "cueing": the activation of existing aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior. This might explain why children and youths watch one kind of aggressive behavior in a form of violent media and then commit another kind of aggressive act afterward. "Even an innocuous object that has been associated with aggression may later stimulate violence," according to Huesmann and Moise (1997). This could be exemplified in certain types of hate crimes, for example. Violence takes place when aggression cues another part of the mind that doesn't like something or somebody. This could be considered a "cue."

Finally, the last process Huesmann and Moise (1997) discuss is the numbing effect of media violence. They states that boys who are habitual television watchers exhibit lower than average physiological arousal in response to new scenes of violence" (1997). The arousal stimulated by watching violence is not pleasing at first, but children and youths who habitually watch violent media become "habituated," and their emotional and physiological responses decrease (1997). This is exactly what is meant by the word "desensitization" when it comes to media violence. After viewing violence over and over again, the violence loses its power.

Another aspect to consider when it comes to understanding the impacts of media violence is reinforcement. Social learning theorist Albert Bandura proposed that people receive vicarious reinforcement when they identify with a person whom they observe being reinforced. Therefore, if a boy watches a violent guy in a movie get attention and praise from other individuals, he may be encouraged to participate in similar behaviors on the argument that such adulation will also be given to him.

Bandura conducted some of the earliest research on television violence in the 1960s in a series of classic experiments. Bandura observed the behavior of nursery-school children in a playroom that was filled with toys -- among them a Bobo doll (a punching bag with a sand-filled base and a red nose that squeaked). The purpose of the experiments was to investigate the conditions under which children would learn and model new aggressive behaviors. To test modeling (or imitation), children usually watched the following filmed sequence on a television before they were allowed to participate in play time.

The film began with a scene in which [an adult male] model walked up to an adult-size Bobo doll and ordered him to clear the way. After glaring for a moment at the noncompliant antagonist the model exhibited four novel aggressive responses, each accompanied by a distinctive verbalization. First, the model laid the Bobo doll on its side, sat on it, and punched it in the nose while remarking, "Pow, right in the nose, boom, boom." The model then raised the doll and pummeled it on the head with a mallet. Each response was accompanied by the verbalization, "Sockeroo…stay down." Following the mallet aggression, the model kicked the doll about the room and these responses were interspersed with the comment, "Fly away." Finally, the model threw rubber balls at the Bobo doll, each strike punctuated with "Bang." This sequence of physically and verbally aggressive behavior was repeated twice (Bandura, 1965).

Bandura (1965) varied the endings to this film across different experiments. In one study, for example, children were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) a model-rewarded condition, in which the model was called a "champion" and was treated with a drink they wanted and various types of sweets, (b) a model-punished condition in which the model was harshly scolded and called a "bully," or (c) a neutral condition in which the model received no rewards or penalties for his behavior. After, each child was led into the playroom where a plastic Bobo doll, three balls, a mallet, a dollhouse, and various other toys were spread out. The results showed that children in the model-rewarded and neutral groups displayed dramatically more imitative aggression than did children in the model-punished group. The fact that the no-consequences condition resulted in just as much aggression as the model-rewarded condition implies that so long as no penalties happen, children are very likely to imitate a model's behavior (Gentile 2003).

Anderson et al. (2003) state that the research that has been done on violent media reveals that…

Sources Used in Documents:

references, symptoms of psychological trauma, and violent behaviors among children who watch television. Journal of the America academy of child and adolescent psychiatry,37,(10), 1041-48.

Smith, S.L., & Donnerstein, E. (1998). Harmful effects of exposure to media violence: Learning of aggression, emotional desensitization, and fear. Human aggression: Theories, research, and implications for social policy. London:

Academic Press, Inc.

Stossel, Scott. (1997). The man who counts the killings. The Atlantic online.

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