The effect of media violence is a heated debate among researchers and the public. According to David Gauntlett, despite many decades of research and hundreds of studies, the connection between people’s consumption of the mass media and their subsequent behavior, has remained increasingly mysterious (Gauntlett). He also states that the media effects on research, has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general (Gauntlett).
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I agree with this statement; the environmental and cultural influences have been neglected in the majority of the research done on this topic. Media violence cannot be blamed for people being violent. Environmental and cultural influences weigh heavy on the reasons that people are violent today. In all the research that I have read through, I have found that the researchers involved have many disagreements. I went to the Media Awareness Network website and found an article where Andrea Martinez did a review of all the scientific writing for a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
She concluded that the lack of consensus about media effects reflects three areas or constraints contained in the research itself (Media Awareness Network). The three areas are: media violence is hard to define, researchers disagree over the relationship, and those that agree argue the way that one affects the other. It seems that the effect of media violence is hard to research. It’s hard to prove the kind of connection it has with aggressive behavior. In my opinion, it is hard to prove the relationship because there are too many external factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Environmental and cultural influences are important factors that need to be considered. In all the research that I’ve done, it has never been measured. According to Martinez, there is a positive, though weak, relation between exposure to television violence and aggressive behavior(Media Awareness Network). Violence in the media can have different effects. I personally feel that it differs from each person, but it also depends on an individual’s environmental and cultural influences. According to one website, there are four different psychological effects that can occur from violence in the media.
They are; Direct, Desensitization, Mean World Syndrome, and Catharsis (A technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness). In the direct effect, individuals who watch a lot of violence on television could attain aggressive behavior or be more favorable towards violence. I feel that the way the media portrays certain things is done in a way to purposely affect people’s emotions. There are certain instances where I do feel that violence being shown in the media causes anger, but it is in the way it is represented, not by what is presented.
In desensitization, the viewer may become less sensitive to violence that is occurring and less sensitive to the pain that violence can cause. People who live in violent environments or cultures see violence a lot and can become desensitized to it and are therefore prone to act aggressively. When living in these environments it becomes more of a learned behavior rather than a reaction to the violence in the media. With Mean World Syndrome, the viewers may begin to view their environment as a violent place. I think that the people who develop this syndrome are sensitive to what they see and what they are involved in.
For someone to honestly believe that the world around them is a violent place, and cannot see the good that does occur, is extremely hard to understand. Catharsis could possibly be a positive effect and actually reduce aggression. These effects have a lot to do with the individual as well as their environment. I have noticed that most of the research does leave out the environmental and cultural effects. These effects seem to have a big influence on whether or not there would be a connection between media violence and aggressive behavior.
The Media Awareness Network had a lot of other articles pertaining to media violence, but the majority of the research had been done with children. One experiment in particular sticks in my mind because of the age of the children involved. They showed a group of 2-3 year olds a violent cartoon while showing another group a non-violent cartoon. When they put both groups in the same room to play, the toddlers that watched the violent cartoon were more aggressive than the toddlers that did not watch the violent cartoon. Many other researchers however stated that this study wasn’t very useful because cartoons are meant for comedic relief.
In this study, it makes sense that the toddlers acted aggressively because that is what they had just seen. Toddlers, especially at this age, imitate what they see and hear. Since they were shown violence, they acted out what they had seen (Kirsch). I don’t think that this would be an accurate way to test the effects of media violence or an accurate way to prove the relationship between media violence and aggressive behavior. I think it shows that a person needs to reinforce the toddler by letting them know that what they saw is not what they should do.
If someone would teach them this then they would know that it is not ok to be violent and aggressive. Young children have yet to learn that violence is not the answer, and in a normal setting, the child behaving aggressively would be corrected so they would know that it was the wrong thing to do. In my personal opinion, I feel there is no correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. If there is, it’s a very weak one. Correlation method is defined as, a numerical value that indicates the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables (Wood, Wood, and Boyd, 2004).
Therefore, a correlation would be whether or not there is a relationship, and if there is, how strong or weak that relationship is. Just because an individual watches a violent movie, plays a violent video game, or listens to violent lyrics, does not mean that person will go out and act more aggressively or act out what they have seen or heard. To me, it seems to be common sense that seeing or hearing violent acts or behaviors does not mean someone should copy those behaviors or acts.
If a person was raised with any kind of morals or values, they would know the difference between right and wrong. They would know not to go and act out what they saw or heard. The way an individual is raised directly affects how things influence them. If a child is raised in a happy non-aggressive environment then they will not act aggressively as a result of violence in the media. When someone knows right from wrong, they know not to act aggressively unless they are in a situation where aggression is warranted. Granted, there are some instances when one may not know these differences.
Children before a certain age have not completely learned about morals and values, so they do not know that what they have seen or heard may be the wrong thing to do. This is why legally, a minor under the age of 14 cannot be held liable for their actions. Minors, under 14, have not yet completely learned right from wrong, therefore they cannot competently make decisions. This is why you can’t use children in any kind of research trying to identify the relationship between media violence and aggressive behavior.
There are also psychological disorders that could prevent an individual from comprehending the difference between right and wrong. People with very low IQ’s also may have trouble understanding the differences between right and wrong. Once again, individuals with these types of disorders cannot be held liable for their actions legally because they cannot competently make these decisions. I think that the majority of people who commit violent acts and then blame it on the media were not taught the difference between right and wrong, and/or did not have anyone around who cared enough to teach them these things.
There are also people that blame the media to avoid the consequences of their actions. It is up to parents to teach their children what is acceptable and what is not, and to teach them that what they see and hear is not always the correct thing to do. Society is blaming media violence for aggressive behavior when, for the most part, the blame should be laid on the individuals who brought up and cared for the violent individual. It was their responsibility to raise these individuals with the knowledge to know the difference between right and wrong and to know that being aggressive or violent is never the solution.