Media plays a direct role in today’s society. Many publications notify the public of current affairs that are important to the community. The media has the responsibility of informing the public about criminal acts. However, the media also has an influence on the types of behaviors that prevail in the society. There have been extensive research that attributes aggressive behavior in society which is linked to media violence exposure. Researchers Anderson and Bushman define aggression as “a behavior intended to harm another individual who is motivated to avoid that harm” (354). If aggressive behavior develops from media violence, the world will undoubtedly become systematically toxic. Not all media is subject to negative influence, but when evaluating different venues such as; television, movies, and video games, it is apparent that there is a combative negative influence. Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies that reveal exposure to violent behaviors by television, movies, and video games lead to aggressive behavior among the media consumer. The influence of media violence has become a relevant subject to researchers as they examine how media impacts negative social behaviors. Many studies attribute the exposure of violence in the media conditions media consumers such as teens to exhibit aggressive and violent behaviors.
Linkage of Aggression to Media
The advancement of technology has allowed media to broadcast news in real time. With breaking news coverage of car chases, standoffs, riots, and mass shootings the public is instantaneously subjected to actual time publication on television, radio, and social media. The infamous 1999 Columbine High School tragedy, for instance, where two students intentionally walked into their school campus with weapons and calculatedly murdered and wounded many of their classmates before killing themselves was breaking news on every channel around the country. Soon after Columbine mass shooting, an outbreak of imitation threats swept across the country (Klite 32). These perpetrators are sensationalized by the media which only intrigues others to use tragedies as models to follow. Media activist Paul Klite argued that the consumers of media content emulate the “styles, fads, speech, and behaviors from television.” As far as violence goes, many deem that media doesn’t “cause” violent crimes, but there is credible research that credits the influence media has on a person’s vulnerability (32). The media link goes beyond television programming into video gaming. It was reported that one of the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris, created a customized version of the video game “Doom” spotlighting two predators with numerous weapons and ammunition that targeted victims who were defenseless (Anderson & Bushman 353). The connection between this type of gaming and the invasion at Columbine has been linked to the research that influence of violent gaming can transfers into aggressive behavior.
From the earliest years of television existence there have been signs of negative aggression in the most innocent manner. For example, Walt Disney’s early animated production was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This short animated film had the character of a witch who was determined to violate Snow White with the poisoned apple. Researchers found that the violent connection came quickly (Murray 1214). Studies have been quick to show how it has changed, sculptured and influenced people’s behaviors. Psychologists and scientific researchers have collected extensive data from experiments, observation, interviews, survey’s and clinical studies to formulate a relationship between a person’s aggressive behavior and different media sources (1214). Most of the research compiled to reflect the same overall sentiment; there is enough evidence to conclude that there is an association between the media violence exposure and aggressive behavior (Anderson et al. 353; Gentile, Reimer, Nathanson, Walsh, & Eisenmann 379; Hoffner et al. 283; Kaplan 1; Klite 32; Murray 1212, & Rosenthal 53).
Not all researchers agree, few researchers have argued that there is no scientific proof that violent entertainment is associated with demented actions (Kaplan 7). A study conducted by W.P. Davison in 1983 concluded that most of his subjects claimed that they were not affected by violence attributed by media; but others were. The study established that most people have a positive perspective about themselves, and feel that they can control their emotions and maintain a positive self-image in social pressures (Hoffner et al. 283). This concept is called “third-person effect”, and Hoffner et al. explained it as, “The belief that others are more affected by media messages than oneself” (283). It seems like a natural perspective to see others worse than oneself. This reflects that those who are confident in their psychological behavior are unaware that the influence of media violence can profoundly affect their mind and actions.
Behavioral Change and the Media
The availability to media violence can form an opinion that inhibits others from positive social behaviors. Hoffner and associates third-person study conclude that many participants perception had negative emotion when watching television violence; seeing the world as an uncertain and scary place (284). Some of the findings trigger aggressive behavior by those who see the world as a dangerous place, some as a protective mechanism from fear. The fear concept points to a negative trusting attitude out of a sense of protecting oneself (Murray 1217). The influence of a negative draining movie can change ones frame of thinking long after the movie is over. Murray compiled media violence studies that span five decades. The extent of the research was a collaboration of about 1,000 published reports of television violence. The collection of studies Murray compiled came from different sources that evolved from the 1950’s to the millennium (1217). Murray also derived a similar conclusion by saying that, “The most plausible interpretation of this pattern of correlations is that early preferences for violent television programming and another media are one factor in the production of aggressive and antisocial behavior when the young boy becomes a young man” (1230).
However, some researchers have only established a minimal correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. Anderson and Bushman have also conducted numerous studies that looks at aggressive behavior on different levels; general behavior, cognition behavior, arousal, and aggressive social behaviors. Together they conducted almost one hundred independent tests to help support their hypothesis “that exposure to violent video games poses a public-health threat to children and youths, including college-age individuals” (358). Anderson and Bushman concluded that adolescent to college age individuals who are over exposed to violent video have heightened levels of aggressive behavior (353). The exposure to media violence has a negative effect on different levels of behavior that is consistent with the cognitive, social, anti-social, and arousal behavior findings.
In a 2014 study Douglas Gentile, Ph.D. and associates used two communities and in-home, in-school medium to investigate parental monitoring and media usage. This study comprised of third to fifth-grade students, approximately 1,300 participants in all. The participants were from two communities; one in Minnesota and the other in Iowa. Pupils and teachers filled out surveys in school while parents filled out theirs in the home. Media usage was evaluated using different factors such as total screen time, media violence exposure, school performance and wellness, social behavior, monitoring, and demographics. This study established the same conclusion, that exposure to media violence leads to negative social outcomes among children. These outcomes include aggressive behavior, victimization, bullying, and lack of attachment to parents and peers. Teens who are exposed to media violence exhibit heightened levels of aggressive behaviors and lower pro-social behaviors (Gentile et al. 480). Gentile and Bushman established that the effect of parent involvement on their media habits is more complicated than it seems. Parents have to be more forthcoming and involve any and all outside positive influences to help combat the negative cogitations violent media can have on a child (484). Age difference and parental involvement does not seem to alter the results by a significant margin.
Harvard University’s Robert Rosenthal took a look at the effects of behavior on a socialization aspect. Rosenthal used formulas and variables to draw his conclusions. Rosenthal’s findings indicated a variance in the prediction of aggression from the participant’s childhood media influence to their adult social behaviors (153). Gentile and Bushman conducted a similar study with school aged students that concluded, “The best single predictor of future aggression in the sample of elementary schoolchildren was passed assault, followed by violent media exposure, followed by having been a victim of aggression” (151).
A more recent study by Saleem, Anderson, and Gentile (263) explored the impacts of different categories of video games such as pro-social, neutral, and violent video games on college students. The study established that pro-social games minimize state hostility and enhance positive affect while violent video games enhance hostility and minimize positive affect. However, the influence of the games is moderated by the trait of physical aggression in an individual. There is minimal variance between the findings of the discussed studies. Every one of the researchers has conclusions that reflect that there is a link between violent media exposure and aggressive behavior.
The media has a powerful influence on our actions, beliefs, and values. Journalists and broadcasters should not compromise their First Amendment Right, but need to be more sensitive to those minds that can be manipulated by the content presented by the media. Stakeholders in the media are encouraged to adopt the use of their journalistic insights to prevent the negative influence on media consumers (Klite 32). America has the responsibility to evaluate and teach children to discern media literacy, encourage the entertainment industry to acknowledge the negative effects of media violence and the adverse effects in today’s society. Video developers should be compelled to address violent gaming so that what children see and hear in videos does not lead to aggressive behaviors (Murray 1225). With the way technology is developing, society has to come to terms that media has an ongoing influence, good or bad in the world today and the world of tomorrow.
- Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell) 12.5 (2001): 353-359. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
- Gentile, Douglas A., and Bushman, Brad J. “Reassessing Media Violence Effects Using a Risk and Resilience Approach to Understanding Aggression.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 1.3 (2012): 138-151. Psyc Articles. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
- Gentile, Douglas A., Reimer Rachel A., Nathanson, Amy I., Walsh, David A., and Eisenmann, Joey C. “Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use: A Prospective Study.” JAMA Pediatrics 168.5 (2014): 479-484. CINAHL. Web. 27 Feb. 2016
- Hoffner, C, et al. “The Third-Person Effect in Perceptions of the Influence of Television Violence.” Journal of Communication 51.2 (2001): 283-299. Business Source Complete. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.
- Kaplan, Arline.”Violence in the Media: What Effects on Behavior? (Cover Story).” Psychiatric Times 29.10 (2012): 1-11. OnmiFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web 19 Feb 2016.
- Klite, Paul. “Media can be Antibiotic for Violence.” Quill 88.3 (2000): 32-34. Literary Reference Center. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.
- Murray, John P. “Media Violence: The Effects are Both Real and Strong.” American Behavioral Scientist 51.8 (2008): 1212-1230. PsycINFO. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
- Rosenthal, Robert. “Media Violence, Antisocial Behavior, and the Social Consequences of Small Effects” Journal of Social Issues. 42.3 (1986): 141-154 PsycINFO. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
- Saleem, Muniba, Craig A. Anderson, and Douglas A. Gentile. “Effects of Prosocial, Neutral, and Violent Video Games on College Students’ Affect.” Aggressive Behavior 38.4 (2012): 263-271. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.