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Violence and the media.

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Presentation on theme: "Violence and the media."— Presentation transcript:

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




7 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





12 Violence in the United States
Violence against oneself, including suicide, is also quite common

13 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.

14 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

15 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?

16 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

17 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)


19 Amount of violence in prime time by channel type
Broadcast network (90 hrs) Independent broadcast (31 hrs) Public broadcast (17 hrs) Basic cable (232 hrs) Premium cable (48 hrs) Programs with violence 67% 77% 23% 65% 88% # of violent interactions 434 235 4 1,296 1,123 Rate of violent interactions/hour 5.16 12.05 0.14 5.32 12.40 Programs w/ saturated violence 31% 43% 21% 73%

20 Amount of violence in prime time by genre
Drama (66 hrs) Comedy (49.5 hrs) Children’s (29.5 hrs) Movies (215.5 hrs) Videos (32 hrs) Reality (74 hrs) Programs with violence 82% 43% 80% 93% 50% 46% # of violent interactions 384 87 365 1,916 121 219 Rate of violent interactions/hour 5.81 1.75 12.37 8.89 3.78 2.95 Programs w/ saturated violence 34% 3% 16% 68% 0% 17%

21 Amount of violence across subgenres of children’s programming
Slapstick Superhero Adventure/mystery Social relationship Magazine % of programs with violence 100 97 89 48 17 Number of violent PATs per hour 29.1 28.1 14.3 4.2 1.6 Number of violent scenes per hour 14.9 11.9 7.9 3.0 .9 % of time devoted to violence 28.7 24.4 12.9 3.1 1.2 Source: Wilson, Smith, Potter, Kunkel, Linz, Colvin & Donnerstein, 2002, Journal of Communication

22 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



25 Rewards/punishments

26 Reinforcements for violence

27 Motive for violence

28 Consequences

29 Graphicness

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



33 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

34 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.

35 “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

36 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.

37 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.

38 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) The similarity 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.

39 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.

40 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.

41 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.

42 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."

43 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.

44 Selective exposure to and interpretation of violent media content.
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.

45 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."

46 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

47 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.

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

49 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.” Bandura Bobo Doll experiments However: Unrealistic situation Demand characteristics Not real violence

50 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

51 Longitudinal studies Lefkowitz, Huesmann, Eron, and their associates studied the television viewing habits and behavior of 875 third-grade children in an upstate New York county during the 1960’s. Children with a preference for violent programs at age eight were more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior at age 19 and to commit serious crimes when they were 30 years old.

52 Milavsky and associates (1982), followed several hundred children in two Midwestern cities for three years in the 1970's. Initial correlations between exposure to violent media at the beginning of the period and later aggressiveness turned small and statistically nonsignificant after controlling for social and familial factors, as well as past levels of aggressive behavior.

53 Event studies Canadian study of introduction of television
The researchers compared children before and after the introduction of television in one Canadian town (Notel) during the 1950s with their peers in two comparable towns where television was already well established: Unitel (receiving the government-owned channel, CBC) and Multitel (receiving both CBC and U.S. stations). They measured aggression based on observations of children’s interactions in the schoolyard during free play, by teacher ratings, and by peer ratings.

54 Longitudinal observations of 45 children first observed in grades one and two and re-evaluated two years later indicated that both verbal and physical aggression increased over this two-year period for children in Notel after the introduction of television, but not for children in the two control communities where television was already available.

55 Multiple major studies
National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1969) The Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior (1972) The National Institute of Mental Health (“NIMH”) Television and Behavior Project (1982) The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Child and Television Drama Review (1982) The American Psychological Association Task Force on Television and Society (1992)

56 All five reviews note the existence of a significant empirical association between exposure to television violence and aggressive behavior among youthful viewers, though they vary in how they characterize of the relationship. The APA task force concluded: “There is clear evidence that television violence can cause aggressive behavior and can cultivate values favoring the use of aggression to resolve conflicts.”

57 However, the relationship is not thought to be strong:
Huesmann et al. (1997) “What is important for the investigation of the role of media violence is that no one should expect the learning of aggression from exposure to media violence to explain more than a small percentage of the individual variation in aggressive behavior.”

58 Another important area of apparent agreement is that the media-aggression relationship is a complex one that involves a number of mediating influences.

59 Paik & Comstock looked at 217 empirical studies from 1957-1990
Paik & Comstock looked at 217 empirical studies from These studies yielded 1,142 hypothesis tests.

60 Overall effect size N r r2 Male viewers All observations 595 .36 .13
Experimental designs 451 .41 .17 Surveys 144 .18 .03 Female viewers 192 .26 .07 72 .37 .14 120 .19

61 Overall effect size by age
N r r2 Preschool 1117 .46 .21 6-11 351 .31 .10 12-17 334 .22 .05 18-21 267 .37 .14 Adult 57 .18 .03

62 Effect size by research method
N r r2 All observations 1,142 .31 .10 Experimental designs 732 .37 .14 Laboratory experiment 586 .40 .16 Field experiment 97 .30 .09 Time-series studies 49 .19 .04 Surveys 410 .03

63 Program type N r r2 Cartoon/fantasy program 41 .52 .28
Excerpts/behavioral demo 159 .50 .25 Pornography/erotica 70 .43 .18 Sport show 43 .40 .16 Action/adventure/crime 157 .32 .11 News/public affairs 95 .06 Western 34 .19 .04

64 Antisocial behavior rewarded
Yes 146 .31 .09 No 30 .30

65 Portrayal justifies antisocial behavior
Yes 122 .35 .12 No 55 .28 .08

66 Types of aggressive behavior
N r r2 All simulated aggressive behavior 587 .33 .11 Intensity of using aggressive machines/self-report of intent 515 .31 .10 Plays with aggressive toys 7 .52 .28 Unclassified simulated aggressive behavior 65 .40 .16

67 Minor aggressive behavior
All observations combined 406 .31 .10 Physical violence against an object 104 .52 .27 Verbal aggression 86 .07 Physical violence against a person (not illegal) 271 .23 .05

68 Illegal activities N r r2 All observations combined 94 .17 .03
Burglary 13 .28 .08 Grand theft 23 Physical violence against a person (homicide, suicide, stabbing, etc.) 58 .10 .01


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