Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

April 6, 2021

What are the Long-term effects on aggression of exposure to violence in media?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:55 AM

Violence in media is something that has become a cornerstone of the belief amongst some people as to how the society nowadays is more decadent and violent than what it was a few decades ago. One of the reasoning people give is that the amount of violence on TV and in media is increasing because people are getting desensitized to it and want more. Most of the research into this phenomenon agrees that there are both short-term and long term impacts of watching violence in Media. For example, we have a study that uni-vocally claims that there are significant short-term effects of violent media in adults and long-term effects in children after exposure to violent media. (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006)

Media violence scholars have identified several basic psychological processes involved. Short-term effects are those that occur immediately after exposure. The main ways that media violence exposure increases aggression in the short term are:

  • Direct imitation of the observed behavior
  • Observational learning of attitudes, beliefs and expected benefits of aggression
  • Increased excitation
  • Priming of aggression-related ways of thinking and feeling

Basically, the more normalized a particular behavior becomes the more people will think and act in that way. For example, in a lot on Indian movies there is a theme of the boy falling in love with a girl who does not love them back. The hero then proceeds to stalk, harass the girl who then falls in love with him and they live happily ever after. There have been a few instances where college kids tried the same approach in real life not realizing that this is not appropriate behavior. In essence, for at least a brief period after viewing or playing violent media, the exposed person thinks in more aggressive ways, feels more aggressive, perceives that others are hostile towards him or her and sees aggressive solutions as being more acceptable and beneficial.

The short-term effects typically dissipate quickly. However, with repeated exposure to violent media, these short-term lessons are learned in a more permanent way and the person comes to lean towards more aggressive solutions to conflict. There also is growing evidence that repeated exposure to blood, gore and other aspects of extremely violent media can lead to emotional desensitization to the pain and suffering of others. If a person is already mentally leaning towards violent behavior or socially maladjusted, they will get more influenced by the violent depictions on screen and be tempted to try it out in real life. However, in other people it has been found that watching violence on screen or in video games acts as a sort of pressure release and allows them to channel the anger and hurt in a way that does not harm actual people.

Habituation is a form of non-associative learning in which response to a stimulus decreases after repeated or prolonged presentations of that stimulus. Basically, it means that if someone is exposed to a stimulus (like violence in media) repeatedly there is a decrease in their response to the stimulus. For example, if a new sound like a loud is happening next to you it will draw your attention initially and be very distracting but if it keeps happening then a person becomes accustomed to the sound and pay less attention to the noise reducing their response to it. I have seen it happen with people living next to airports, over a period of time they do not even notice the sounds of the planes landing even though visitors to their house comment on it.

Cultivation theory on the other hand suggests that people who are exposed to media regularly over a prolonged period of time will start to perceive the world as presented in the media they consume. For example, if someone is constantly consuming far-right videos and talking points about how the immigrants in the US are the cause of most of the country’s problems and how they are violent and lazy they will start thinking this is real and behave accordingly in the real world as well. There have been documented cases of people attacking immigrants in the US because they believed that their way of life is under threat from them. The fact that this may or may not be true does not come into the picture as they are conditioned to believe in this ‘fact’.

Media has a tremendous power to change the public perception and that is why people are worried about the amount of violence being depected in it. Movies like the Joker and similar movies normalize the violent behavior and that is what scares most physiologists.

– Suramya

PS: This essay was originally written for my Social Psychology class. Hence the really more formal writing style.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress