PDF | Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence about the real risks of media-violence exposure to children and youth.
Table of contents
- Public Policy and the Effects of Media Violence on Children
- Original Articles
- Papers – Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D.
Public Policy and the Effects of Media Violence on Children
Researchers from Ohio State University brought pairs of 8- to year-old children into a lab and showed them a minute version of a popular PG-rated movie—either the Rocketeer or National Treasure In the edited movie, the children either saw that actual movie footage, which contained characters using guns, or they watched a version where the guns were edited out.
They were then presented with a large room that contained various toys including Legos, nerf guns, and games.
Not surprisingly, the children who watched the movie with the guns played more aggressively than children who watched the movie with the guns edited out, consistent with previous research. The playroom also contained a closed cabinet, wherein one of the drawers was a real 0. It was also modified so that it kept track of the number of times the trigger was pulled hard enough that the gun would have gone off.
About 83 percent of the kids in the study found the gun, and most of them played with it.
Of the kids who found it, 27 percent immediately gave it to the experimenter and the experimenter took it out of the room. Of the remaining 58 percent of kids who found the gun, 42 percent played with it in various ways. Importantly, almost none of the kids who watched the movie clip without guns ever pulled the trigger. The kids who watched the movie that contained gun footage were more likely to pull the trigger of the real gun; on average, they pulled it about two to three times and spent four to five times longer holding it when compared to kids who watched the movie with no gun footage.
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This research suggests that violent media can cause aggressive behavior in children and that this behavior can be incredibly problematic if violent media includes guns. So can viewing violent media cause more aggression in children? The answer based on this research is a very clear yes. Anderson, C. 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, 12 , Bandura, A.
Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models.
Papers – Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D.
The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66, Berkowitz, L. Weapons as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7 2p1 , Many of the studies show that even though youth who are already violent tend to seek out violent entertainment, they will still be influenced by the exposure to violence. The result is a vicious cycle: the kids get more aggressive and violence-prone as they are exposed to more violent media.
This is the key to understanding why media violence is so dangerous, and at the same time its impact is so difficult to study. Some of the conclusions from these studies include: Although not every child or teen exposed to violence through media will become violent, media violence is very strongly connected with aggressive or violent behavior in those children.
Researchers compare this to the connection between smoking and lung cancer. Although not everyone who smokes will develop lung cancer, smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and as a result smokers are more likely to get lung cancer. After watching violent movies or playing violent video games, people are less likely to show empathy behavior in their behaviors, for example, helping someone up who has fallen.
All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Laboratory experiments manipulate one phenomenon — in this case, exposure to media violence — and keep all others constant. Because of their controlled environment, experiments provide strong evidence for a causal effect. But for the same reason, laboratory studies may not accurately reflect how people act in the real world.
This brings us to why debate still exists among scientists studying media violence. Some researchers have found that the experimental evidence backing the causal relationship between playing video games and aggression might not be as solid as it seems. After Hilgard corrected for this bias, the effect of violent video games on aggressive behavior and emotions did still exist, but it was reduced, perhaps even to near zero.
However, the effect on aggressive thoughts remained relatively unaffected by this publication bias. But what about movies and television? Dodge , a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, told us by email. The review also found media decreases the likelihood of helping behavior. This lack of evidence is due, in part, to the fact that there are ethical limitations to conducting experiments on violence in the laboratory, especially when it comes to children and teens, the report explains. That leaves only evidence from cross-sectional studies and longitudinal studies.
So what do those studies say? Girls who watched the most violent television were also more likely to commit similar acts as young women. These effects persisted after controlling for other risk factors for aggression, such as parental aggression and intellectual ability.