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Does the Exposure to Violence in Media Increase an Individual's Likelihood of Engaging in Violent Behaviors?

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Does the exposure to violence in media increase an individual's likelihood of engaging in violent behaviours?

The effect of media violence in increasing violent behaviour in observers is direct, though they are still many unknown knowledge that still requires further research and studies for an obvious relationship. Over the course of past research, there is a significant association that exists between media violence and its effect on human behaviour. However, it cannot be sure that media violence cause violent behaviour; it is no more than just an important risk over the number of reasons that also contributes to the causation of violent behaviour.


The relationship between media violence and the corresponding violent behaviour has been a going on debate since the early 1960s. Research evidence had been accumulating on suggesting that exposure to violence in television, movies, video games, and Internet increases the risk of violent behaviour on the viewers' part. According to the Council on Communications and Media (2009), media violence is the act of violence and aggression being portrayed to young people that can be found in television shows, movies, music and video games. Between 1937 and 1999, animated feature films produced in United States showed that 100% of them portrayed violence (Yokota & Thompson, 2000), and the amount of violence intent to injure has increased annually. Teenager's music is becoming more violent, with lyrics of violent and aggressive meanings. The involvement of media violence in the behaviour modification of observers and viewers had been increasingly crucial, and the consistency of results in the effect of media violence in many studies done by researchers was quite alarming.

The National Institute of Mental Health (Anderson et al., 2003) had revealed that media violence was to be a significant causal factor in aggression and violence in youths. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (2007) produced a report on effects of television programming on children and had agreed with Anderson et al. (2003) that there's a strong evidence of media violence increasing aggressiveness and violence in children. A cross-sectional study paper by Ybarra et al. (2008), which measures the relationship of media violence and the violent behaviour in youths in associations with many moderating factors such as family background and cultural factors, showed that exposure to violence in media was the biggest contributor to aggressive reaction.

Over the studies on the impact of media violence towards the viewers, two types of effects have been generalized, mainly short term effects and long term effects. Most theorists would now agree that short term effect resulted from priming, mimicking and arousal theories, while long term effects were based on observational learning and desensitization (Huesmann, 2007). Long term effects are delayed and prolonged changes that occur to a person's behaviour (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006), usually at risk of behaving violently for a much longer time (Huesmann & Kirwil, 2007). Short term effects of media violence simply mean that there are immediate but transient short term changes that occur in our behaviour (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006). These short-term changes are usually temporary, but the impact it held was still significant for the modification of a person's behaviour. These theories will form the basis of the topics theme, on how they will promote relationship between violence in media and violent behaviour.

Observational learning from exposure to violence

Observational learning is a powerful extension of imitation (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006), as children learned by imitating the observed object. Observation of other's behaviours is the likely source of many young children's motor and social skills (Bandura, 1977); when a child observed, they are actually learning simple social scripts that are incorporated into their conscious mind, which can be retrieved later as a guide for behaviour (Bushman, 1998). Long term observational learning usually requires repeated exposures to fully integrate a particular behaviour script into an individual's memory, unlike short term imitation, it usually produce a more lasting effect on the person's behaviour.

Observational learning is usually further enhanced by several moderating factors, such as identification with the aggressive perpetrator. When the model performing the violent script is thought to be attractive or similar to an individual, the chances for the individual acquiring the observed social script are higher (Bandura, 1977). In this case, children who are more attracted to characters in television shows or video games are prone to learn any violent behaviour exhibit by that character. For example, the American media tend to portray heroes using violence as a justified means of resolving conflict (Comstock & Strasburger, 1993), drawing children to accept violence is a way of trying to resolve personal conflicts. Cantor (1998) had also identify that the more realistic violence is portrayed, the greater the likelihood that it will be tolerated and learned. This was supported by Ybarra et al. (2008), who proposed that the combination of the interactive environment found online and the violence involving real people makes the Internet a strong contributor to seriously violent behaviour.

In violent media, observational learning is obvious, especially in violent video games. The player is placed in the role of an aggressor and rewards him or her for successful violent behaviour (Council on Communications and Media, 2009). Video game allows the player to rehearse the entire behavioural script, then played repeatedly to improve their scores and advancing to higher levels. Studies have shown that video games, being an interactive and virtual tool of portraying violence, have a more profound effect than those passive media such as television (Anderson, 2007). Furthermore, the improvement in the special effects in video games allow for more realistic depictions of violence, as suggested by Cantor (1998), are usually more tolerable to be accepted.

Desensitization to violence in media

Repeated exposures to emotionally arousing media can lead to habituation of an observer to media violence, causing a reduction in emotional reactions (Huesmann & Kirwil, 2007). This process is known as desensitization, the diminished responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after gradual exposure to media violence (Fanti et al., 2009). Initial exposure will



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