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Violence and the media

Violence and the media

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Violence and the media

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  1. Violence and the media

  2. Violence in the United States • The United States has one of the highest levels of violence (perhaps the highest) among all industrialized nations • The level is far below that found in a number of poor/developing nations

  3. Violence in the United States • The level of violent crime has risen and fallen at different points over the last century • Some of the variance may be due to research methods rather than changes in real violence levels

  4. Violence in the United States • Violence is greatest among teens and young adults • Young men are especially likely to be involved either as perpetrator or victim • Use of weapons, especially firearms, is common and increases the likelihood of serious injury or death

  5. Violence in the United States • Violence against oneself, including suicide, is also quite common

  6. The U.S. government and a wide range of organizations have studied the causes of violence • The strongest influences seem to be peer group, home environment, social class, gender and other major demographic variables.

  7. Media violence • The role of media depictions of violence in fostering a range of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors tied to social violence remains controversial • Few deny any role, but the significance and nature of media contribution remains open to wide interpretation

  8. Media violence • How much violence is found in the media and how is it presented? • What is the relationship between media violence and real-world violence? • What are thought to be the mechanisms of that relationship? • If the relationship is significant, what can be done about it?

  9. The big picture • 99% of homes have at least 1 TV • American children spend 4 hours a day watching TV • 28 hours a week • 2,400 hours a year • 18,000 hours by high school graduation • Compared to 13,000 hours in school

  10. The big picture • 60% of TV programs contain violence • 5 acts per hour in primetime • Children’s Saturday morning shows include about 23 violent acts per hour • Cartoon violence • Child will witness 200,000 violent acts on TV by the time she is 18 years old • (FCC factsheet)

  11. Amount of violence in prime time by channel type

  12. Amount of violence in prime time by genre

  13. Amount of violence across subgenres of children’s programming Source: Wilson, Smith, Potter, Kunkel, Linz, Colvin & Donnerstein, 2002, Journal of Communication

  14. The depictions vary across a number of dimensions • Nature of the act • Perpetrator/victim characteristics • Attractiveness • Justification or lack of it for the violence • Realism of the depiction • Reward or punishment of the perpetrator • Brutality/graphicness of the depiction • Use of weapons • Victim pain/suffering or lack of it • Humor

  15. Rewards/punishments

  16. Reinforcements for violence

  17. Motive for violence

  18. Consequences

  19. Graphicness

  20. Character attributes of perpetrators n=660 n=1,019 n=12,959

  21. Catharsis theory • The basic notion of catharsis theory is that the frustrations of everyday life build up within all individuals. Eventually these frustrations boil over and lead to aggression. However, in certain cases the aggression may be relieved by watching others release their aggression. • Sports • Crime/action • Horror

  22. Seymour Feshbach is the name most often associated with the theory of catharsis. Thus the hypothesis for media studies becomes: "exposure to violent television content decreases the probability of violent behavior." • Feshback and Singer (1971) have revised the catharsis approach by saying that it may play a greater role for lower-class viewers than those in the middle-class. They argue that socialization differences in middle-class families are an alternative maintenance mechanism for aggression.

  23. “The individual differences most central to catharsis theory are the level of accumulated frustration and hostility which individuals are experiencing prior to exposure to violent television programs. The cathartic effect of televised violence should be greatest for these individuals with the strongest catharsis need, namely, individuals who have built up considerable frustration and hostility." • DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach

  24. Aggressive cues theory • Leonard Berkowitz (1962) • Looks at violent content as a stimulus to physiological and emotional arousal, which tends to increase the possibility of aggressive behavior. • His classic design was to show subjects excerpts from the movie "The Champion." • Subjects in the experimental group were less likely to provide reward and more likely to inflict aggression (electric shock) on a fellow subject.

  25. Violent depictions are said to arouse audience members and to provide cues as to how to release that aggressive energy. • The effect is not expected to be uniform among audience members, but will vary with a number of factors.

  26. Factors affecting the impact of violent media • Frustration at the time of exposure • The nature of the violence • Was the violence justified? (the viewer can learn these patterns of justification to rationalize his own violent actions) • Thesimilarity of the context of the media violence to the context of the viewer's everyday life. • Depicting the pain and anguish of victims • Inspires audience inhibitions via guilt and sympathy.

  27. Social learning theory • Bandura and Walters (1963) based on the assumption that aggressive behavior is learned through observation and modeling. Exposure to violent media content is said to increase the probability of aggression not only by providing the audience with an opportunity to learn violent behavior, but also by providing violent behavior models.

  28. Violent media content teaches or socializes children to engage in violent behavior under certain conditions. • The performance of learned behaviors is not seen as something which happens automatically. The appropriate context for the performance of a given violent behavior must also be present.

  29. Social learning theory • “Huesmann and Eron (1986) identify three psychological processes through which exposing a child to excessive media violence can encourage aggressive behavior: • 1) observational learning • 2) attitude change: the more TV a child watches, the more accepting the child becomes of aggressive behavior; and • 3) scripts: social behavior is controlled to a great extent by cognitive scripts and strategies that have been stored in memory and are used as guides for behavior.

  30. Factors affecting media impact "The probability of audience members' exhibiting learned violent behavior is enhanced by such factors as an expectation of being rewarded by others for such behavior, similarity between the situation presented in the television portrayal and the social situation encountered by viewers after exposure, and anticipation of social support from a co-viewer who praises the violent action of the television characters."

  31. Reinforcement theory • Joseph Klapper (1960) • "television portrayals of violence reinforce whatever established pattern of violent behavior that viewers bring with them to the television situation.“ • Media violence, then, does not directly produce or inhibit aggressive behavior.

  32. Violent content acts to reinforce predispositions based on “cultural norms and values, social roles, personality characteristics, and family or peer influences” • DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach • Selective exposure to and interpretation of violent media content.

  33. Individuals belonging to the same categories should share similar norms, attitudes, values, prior experiences, and many other social and personal characteristics. These . . . should operate to make them respond very similarly to violent television programs."

  34. Overall evaluation of the evidence • There has been very little support for the main prediction of the Catharsis theory. Subjects exposed to violent programs have tended to perform acts of aggression in a manner consistent with the Aggressive Cues theory and the Observational Learning theory. In fact, "most of the data tend to support both Observational Learning theory and the Aggressive Cues theory.” • DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach

  35. Reinforcement theory • Mixed evidence with regard to Reinforcement theory—surveys show differences in preference for violent content and aggressive behavior based on social categories, etc. However, aggression is generated among groups who should simply ignore content. Reinforcement theorists argue that most such findings are methodological artifacts.

  36. Research methods • Experimental Studies • Bobo dolls • Correlational Analysis • Surveys • Event Studies • Natural experiment (Notel, etc.)

  37. Experiments • “A majority of experimental investigations undertaken in the laboratory report that exposure to violent programming leads children to act more aggressively. This is true for a wide variety of settings and outcomes.” • BanduraBobo Doll experiments • However: • Unrealistic situation • Demand characteristics • Not real violence

  38. Correlational studies • One-shot surveys • Belson(1978) investigated the behavior and viewing habits of over 1,500 adolescent males in London in the early 1970s. • Found a moderate relationship between high exposure to television violence and violent behavior, . . . the more exposure to television violence, the greater the reported actual violent activity of the subjects – while controlling for family background, cognitive ability, other likely influences