Media Violence and Aggression

The topic of media violence has lacked a clear understanding for many years now. Most of the studies concerning media influence are centred on whether or not it causes violence and aggression especially in the children and the youth (Hitti, 2005). Many researchers especially in psychology have been so concerned with the relationship between the two. These studies have provided many results and conclusions. Most of the results and conclusions reached by different people are contradictory (Coyne, 2007). There have been varying descriptions and definitions of media violence. Most of the researchers argue that media violence is the key cause of aggressive behaviour (Carter  Weaver, 2003). This topic has sparked a lot of debate as to whether there is basis to prove this view. Huesmann Rowell, a lecturer at the University of Michigan claims that severe aggression takes place in a situation where there is compound predisposing and impulsive factors. There are other arguments that aggressive behaviour is a genetic factor. Other researchers have claimed that this behaviour can be understood by the theory of evolutionary psychology (Reith, 2003).  But whatever the cause, the question is whether or not there is a connection between media violence and aggression. This paper seeks to establish from review of the available literature, whether the connection exists.    

Huesmann Rowell asserts that there is a relationship between media violence and aggression. He argues that five decades of research provides proof that media violence renders the young to exhibit aggressiveness. This effect is carried on to their adult life. A professor in the university, Freedman Jonathan, presents a different argument. He argues that the scientific proof does not give a clear indication on whether media violence makes viewers violent or desensitizes them to violence (Hitti, 2005).

In the University of Ottawa, another detailed study from the methodical literature was done by Martinez Andrea. This research was conducted for Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Martinez found out that there is no agreement on the influence of media violence. She came to a conclusion that the scenario reflected three limitations that were in the studies (Hitti, 2005).
The first limitation was a fact that media violence is a complex topic that is not only hard to describe, but also to gauge. George Gerber, a professor at Temple University defines it as the action of causing injury or murder, the means utilised and the environment not withstanding. According to him this includes cartoon violence that is watched by many children. There are other researchers who do not include cartoon violence in their studies. Paquette and Guise, lecturers at the University of Laval, leave out cartoon violence due to the fact that it is comic and so fictional in the way it is presented. They present the argument that cartoon violence does not reveal any aspect of reality (Hitti, 2005).

The second limitation is that the research results have not provided a consensus on the type of connection the information they present supports. There are researchers who have argued that it is true that media violence leads to aggressive behaviour. Other researchers argue that media violence and aggression are connected, but there is no contributory association. This argument is based on the fact that though the two are related, there may be another factor that causes them. There is yet another group that claims that there is no connection between them at all (Hitti, 2005).

The last limitation is that even the groups that concur that there is a relationship between the two do not reach a consensus on the effect of one on the other. There is a category of researchers who argue that the connection is psychological. In this case, the connecting factor is rooted in the means through which people learn. This argument is supported by Huesmann who claims that young people build up cognitive scripts that direct the way they behave by copying the acts of their champions. As they are exposed to media violence, they gain the understanding of internalising scripts that show aggression as the proper way of resolving issues (Reith, 2003).  

There is another category of researchers who claim that it is the psychological influence of the violence that leads to aggression. Being exposed to violent image is associated with an increase in heart beats, increased rate of respiration and increased blood pressure. Some researchers believe that this stimulated fight or fight reaction is the one that causes people to act aggressively in reality (Reith, 2003).

There is yet another category of researchers who claim that aggression is predisposed in a persons mind and feelings. This category emphasises on the means of media violence as a catalyst to this predisposed state. They believe that these kinds of people already have the desire to act and only use media violence as a justification. Their acts are justified by the media imagery, where the hero and the bad character employ acts of violence to seek revenge, mostly without any form of punishment (Reith, 2003).
In the year 1956, researchers embarked on a lab study to determine the conduct of children being exposed to television. Twelve of the children were exposed to a violent cartoon, while another twelve were exposed to a non-violent one. It was later discovered that those who watched the violent cartoon would be more prone to hitting others and breaking playthings. In the year 1963, three researchers, Ross, D., Badura, A. and Ross, S. began a study on the experience with real-life, TV and cartoon violence. They separated 100 children into four categories. The first group was exposed to a person hurling abuses at a doll while beating it. The next group watched a similar incident on TV. The third group watched the same in a cartoon and the last group was a control group, therefore exposed to nothing. Later the four groups were exposed to a frustrating circumstance. All the children who were exposed to violence tended to act more aggressively than the last group. Those who had watched the cartoon exhibited less aggression than the first two (Coyne, 2007).

Results from outside the lab also give very similar results. Children who like violent behaviour usually tend to be more aggressive that those who watch non-violent ones.  The young people who usually act more aggressively are the ones who watch a lot of violent TV shows, believe the shows to be a reality, and identifies with the violent actors. More that 50 of the parents whose children are exposed to media violence claims that the children tend to copy aggressive characters from television (Coyne, 2007).

A study on the effects of violent video games carried out by Anderson and Bushman of Iowa University revealed nothing different. They found out that those individuals who are exposed to video games that are violent tend to be more aggressive in real-life. In 2003, Anderson, Carnagey and Eubanks discovered that violent songs raise aggressive thinking and antagonistic ideas on the young people. They found out that violent music just like all other media violence has an influence on aggression (Carter  Weaver, 2003).

Eron, a lecturer at the University of Michigan investigated grade 3 children and found out that the children who were exposed to media violence had a more aggressive behaviour towards their peer. He wanted to view the effect on these children as years went by. He went back to study the students after 11 years and realised that those students still viewed the violent shows and that they were the most likely to break the law as adolescents. Eron went back again when his subjects were 30. This time it was discovered that the ones who were exposed to media violence as children were more liable to be in trouble with the law, violently discipline their children and handle their spouses with aggression. Similar results were recorded by Monroe Lefkowitz. He carried a study in children aged eight. He discovered that the males who had exposure to media violence were more aggressive in reality. After ten years, he went back to the children and discovered that those who were exposed at an early age had become more aggressive at eighteen (Carter  Weaver, 2003).
Most of the studies have concluded that there is a positive, though not strong connection between media violence and aggression. Even if it might be difficult to scientifically establish the connection, as Van Der Voot argues, it is not wrong to claim that there is no connection just because the incident is rare or happens in specific situations (Carter  Weaver, 2003).  All media violence is responsible for influencing some form of aggression to those exposed to them. This is evident in violent cartoon and TV shows, violent video games, as well as violent music. It is also clear that the effect is not short-term but long-term. The lack of an agreeable conclusion in the connection on the influence of viewing media violence on aggression does not mean that the matter should be brought to a rest. It is evident that most of the children who act aggressively are the ones who are exposed to media violence. This is enough proof that media violence has some influence on aggression. What researchers should do is research more on the nature and kind of connection that exists between the two.


Post a Comment