Violent TV, Games Pack A Powerful Public Health Threat
Watching media violence significantly increases the risk that a viewer or video game player will behave aggressively in both the short and long term, according to a University of Michigan study published today in a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study, by L. Rowell Huesmann, reviews more than half a century of research on the impact of exposure to violence in television, movies, video games and on the Internet.
“The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively,” said Huesmann, the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Psychology, and a senior research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).
In his article, Huesmann points out that U.S. children spend an average of three to four hours a day watching television. “More than 60 percent of television programs contain some violence,” he said, “and about 40 percent of those contain heavy violence.
“Children are also spending an increasingly large amount of time playing video games, most of which contain violence. Video game units are now present in 83 percent of homes with children,” he said.
According to research conducted by Huesmann and ISR colleague Brad Bushman, media violence significantly increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively.
“Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well-known threat to public health. The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer,” Huesmann said.
“Our lives are saturated by the mass media, and for better or worse, violent media are having a particularly detrimental effect on the well-being of children,” he said.
“As with many other public health threats, not every child who is exposed to this threat will acquire the affliction of violent behavior. But that does not diminish the need to address the threat — as a society and as parents by trying to control children’s exposure to violent media to the extent that we can.” The reading is clearly indebted to the author’s piagetian concepts about psychosocial development. But even in the light of a Vygotskian “zone of proximal development”, narrative constructivism or REBT, the social consequences of these findings would not be any less concerning.
Dev Psychol. 2007 Jul;43(4):1038-44.
Department of Communication Science, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands. email@example.com
This study tested the hypothesis that violent video games are especially likely to increase aggression when players identify with violent game characters. Dutch adolescent boys with low education ability (N=112) were randomly assigned to play a realistic or fantasy violent or nonviolent video game. Next, they competed with an ostensible partner on a reaction time task in which the winner could blast the loser with loud noise through headphones (the aggression measure). Participants were told that high noise levels could cause permanent hearing damage. Habitual video game exposure, trait aggressiveness, and sensation seeking were controlled for. As expected, the most aggressive participants were those who played a violent game and wished they were like a violent character in the game. These participants used noise levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage to their partners, even though their partners had not provoked them. These results show that identifying with violent video game characters makes players more aggressive. Players were especially likely to identify with violent characters in realistic games and with games they felt immersed in. Copyright 2007 APA.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Apr;160(4):348-52.
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. firstname.lastname@example.org
OBJECTIVES: To test whether the results of the accumulated studies on media violence and aggressive behavior are consistent with the theories that have evolved to explain the effects. We tested for the existence of both short-term and long-term effects for aggressive behavior. We also tested the theory-driven hypothesis that short-term effects should be greater for adults and long-term effects should be greater for children. DESIGN: Meta-analysis. PARTICIPANTS: Children younger than 18 years and adults. MAIN EXPOSURES: Violent media, including TV, movies, video games, music, and comic books. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Measures of aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (eg, heart rate, blood pressure), and helping behavior. RESULTS: Effect size estimates were combined using meta-analytic procedures. As expected, the short-term effects of violent media were greater for adults than for children whereas the long-term effects were greater for children than for adults. The results also showed that there were overall modest but significant effect sizes for exposure to media violence on aggressive behaviors, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, arousal levels, and helping behavior. CONCLUSIONS: The results are consistent with the theory that short-term effects are mostly due to the priming of existing well-encoded scripts, schemas, or beliefs, which adults have had more time to encode. In contrast, long-term effects require the learning (encoding) of scripts, schemas, or beliefs. Children can encode new scripts, schemas, and beliefs via observational learning with less interference and effort than adults.
This one is interesting too and explains a good part of actual Bush administration’s foreign politics:
Psychol Sci. 2007 Mar;18(3):204-7.
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St., Ann Arbor, MI 48106, USA. email@example.com
Violent people often claim that God sanctions their actions. In two studies, participants read a violent passage said to come from either the Bible or an ancient scroll. For half the participants, the passage said that God sanctioned the violence. Next, participants competed with an ostensible partner on a task in which the winner could blast the loser with loud noise through headphones (the aggression measure). Study 1 involved Brigham Young University students; 99% believed in God and in the Bible. Study 2 involved Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam students; 50% believed in God, and 27% believed in the Bible. In Study 1, aggression increased when the passage was from the Bible or mentioned God. In Study 2, aggression increased when the passage mentioned God, especially among participants who believed in God and in the Bible. These results suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers.