Sunday, October 28, 2007

Violence in the mass media and its impact on young viewers

Discuss the role of violence within mass media, such as television and video games. What effects can this have on viewers, especially children? Should violence in the media be more controlled?

In 2001, The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that on average, children between ages two and 18 spend six hours and 32 minutes each day using media such as television, movies, video games, and computers, which is more time than is spent on any other activity aside from sleeping (Cheng et al., 2004). A different survey revealed that 75 percent of parents believe that television affects the way their children talk, dress, and behave (McCarraher, 1998, as cited in Browne & Hamilton-Giachritisis, 2005). The US National Television Violence Study investigated the contents of television to find that 61% of programmes contained violence, 55 % of which was in realistic settings, and 71% of violent scenes led to no remorse of criticism for the violence. Furthermore, 54% of programs showed lethal violence content, 39 % of which was committed by attractive people (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritisis, 2005). Exposure to media of a violent nature (including violent news footage) has been linked to a wide range of physical and mental health problems such as desensitization to violence, fear, anxiety, depression, nightmares, and sleep disturbances (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001; Australian Psychological Society, 2000). The negative outcome that has been of most interest however, is the role violence in the media plays in increasing aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

It is clear that media content can influence all viewers, especially impressionable audiences such as children and adolescents. Steinberg and Kauffman (1999) suggest that adolescence is much like early childhood in the sense that the plasticity of this period leaves adolescents vulnerable to manipulation of thought, social behaviour, and emotions by outside factors. The recent increase in interactive videogames with realistic graphics has raised further concerns that video games may have an even greater adverse effect than television, as they involve the direct and active involvement of the player (Scott, 1995). In a survey by Bowman and Rotter (1983, as cited in Scott, 1995), 85% of the 28 video games examined involved participation in acts of simulated destruction, killing, or violence. Although the responsibility has been delegated back to parents to monitor the programs their children are watching, it is literally impossible to filter out all violent media influences, suggesting that no one can be completely immune to the effects of media violence (Anderson et al., 2003). However, there is a continuing debate on the extent of the short term and long term effects of media violence on children and young people, and how to investigate these effects (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritisis, 2005).

Another perspective argues that violent content on television and in video games does not cause every viewer or player to behave in a violent or aggressive manner in reality, and as a result the effects of individual differences have been thoroughly investigated (Kiewitz & Weaver, 2001). Factors such as genetic predisposition, personality, and social and environmental experiences have been suggested to have an effect on susceptibility to violence in the media. A further viewpoint states that videogames in particular may in fact serve as a tool for relieving aggressive impulses before they are directed elsewhere.

Viewing of violent television has also been associated with aggressive behaviour. According to studies using laboratory simulations, population-based observations, and longitudinal analysis, children who are exposed to violent television programming are more likely to be aggressive and to become involved in the juvenile justice system compared to those with less exposure (Cheng et al., 2004). Anderson et al., (2003) postulate that short-term effects of exposure to media violence might include an increased likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behaviour, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. This is suggested to result from the priming of existing aggressive scripts and cognitions and increased physiological arousal, as well as triggering a tendency to imitate observed behaviours. Longitudinal studies have revealed a link between frequent exposure to violent media in childhood and physical assaults, spousal abuse, and other aggressive behaviours later in life (Anderson et al., 2003). This has been attributed to learning processes leading to the acquisition of automatic and lasting aggressive scripts and schemas, and by increasing desensitisation to violence, overriding what should be a negative emotional response to violence. Furthermore, The American Academy of Pediatrics (2001) suggests that prolonged exposure to violent media content results in an increased acceptance of violence, both as a suitable means of solving problems and achieving one’s goals.

The more interactive forms of violent media, such as video games have been shown to have a detrimental effect on pro-social and helping behaviours after playing, and a facilitative role in aggressive thoughts and violent retaliation to provocation (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001). In addition to violent behaviour, Funk et al. (2002) suggest that violent video or computer games may cause behavioural and emotional problems such as social withdrawal and addiction although most players do not display obvious psychopathology.

Children are particularly influenced by the media, as they learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviours their own. Aggressive attitudes and behaviours are learned by imitating observed models (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963, see video in Appendix A for Bobo Doll experiment). Much of this learning takes place without an intention to learn and without an awareness that learning has occurred. Children are especially inept at distinguishing between reality and fantasy, making them a particularly vulnerable group to learning and adopting as normal practice the circumstances, attitudes, and behaviours portrayed by entertainment media (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001). According to observational-learning theory, the probability that an individual will acquire an observed behaviour is increased when the model is similar to or attractive to the observer, the observer identifies with the model, the context is realistic, and the observed behaviour is followed by positive consequences (Bandura, 1965; Anderson et al., 2003). Adolescents are especially likely to look for role models to identify with because they are attempting to develop their own identities. Media figures are involved in this process because they offer a variety of possible selves with which adolescents can experiment (Konijn, Bijvank, & Bushman, 2007).

The reinforcements a person receives when imitating behaviour are also largely responsible for whether the behaviour persists (Anderson et al., 2003). For example, youngsters might be rewarded or punished by people in their social environment (parents, teachers, peers) for behaviours, or they may observe another person being rewarded or punished for acting in a certain way. Through imitation and reinforcement, children develop habitual behaviours. Although everyone is negatively affected in some way by media violence, the extent to which their behaviour is influenced depends on a variety of individual differences.

Genetic predisposition affects neurocognitive functioning, temperament, conduct disorder, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and all might have the potential to change a child’s behaviour and subsequently, the contribution of media violence to aggressive behaviour becomes hard to distinguish (Browne & Hamilton, 1998). As a result, the effects of media violence will only account for a proportion of an individual’s predisposition for aggressive behaviour. Kiewitz and Weaver (2001) have also found that men are more desensitised to interpersonal conflict and real violence after exposure to media violence than women, and are more likely to respond aggressively. Personality factors such as temperament also seem to play a role, with some research suggesting that high-trait aggressive men are most affected (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005). Further dimensions to consider are family, social, and environmental factors, which have an important role in the development of aggressive and antisocial behaviour (Browne & Hamilton, 1998). For example, growing up in a violent family and being a victim of violence or witnessing violence can have a strong impact on an individual’s predisposition to act aggressively.

Knowing the effect violent media has on youth and children, the problem still remains that children are continually exposed to this violent content, and it is extremely difficult to control. The APS (2000) suggests that some children even develop a taste for more aggressive content, which often includes cartoons. The focus of violent media often underemphasises the impact of aggression in cartoons. In 1956, researchers compared the behaviour of 24 children watching TV. Half watched a violent episode of the cartoon Woody Woodpecker, and the other half watched the non-violent cartoon The Little Red Hen. During play afterwards, the researchers found that the children who watched the violent cartoon were much more likely to hit other children and break toys (Freedman, 2007). Cartoons such as Family Guy, South Park, and Drawn Together all display a medium to high level of violence involving aggressive attacks, shootings, and bleeding (see Appendix B). Although these cartoons and other violent media are designed for adults, they appeal to a younger audience and are easily accessible on free to air and cable TV as well as internet sites such as, making it hard for parents to monitor. Furthermore, with the development of the internet, software for violent games is easily downloadable and often goes un-noticed by parents who monitor their child watching television or DVDs, but are less likely to monitor their child using videogames (Browne & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005).

The availability of free to air, cable TV, and movies in the home allows youth to easily access violent media inappropriate to their age, developmental stage, and mental health. Although essentially violence in the media should be controlled, it is yet to occur despite the vast amount of studies that have found a link between viewing violent media and subsequent aggression, anxiety, desensitisation and violent behaviour. Consequently, the responsibility falls on caregivers to monitor the programmes that impressionable children and adolescents are viewing. Although video games are less monitored, they have been found to be an even stronger antecedent to aggressive behaviour due to their interactive nature. The Australian Psychological Society (2000) suggests that adults can help children interpret and critique exposure to violent television material, putting it into a social context which will essentially lessen the negative effects.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Public Education. (2001). Media
violence. Pediatrics, 108, 1222–1226

Australian Psychological Society. (2000).The effects of violent media on children. Retrieved September 25, 2007 from

Anderson, C., Berkowitz, L., & Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L., Johnson, J., Linz, D., Malamuth, N., & Wartella, E. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(3), 81-110.

Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the
acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
, 589–595.

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. (1963). Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. Abnormal Social Psychology, 66, 3-11.

Browne, K., & Hamilton, C. (1998). Physical violence between young adults
and their parents: associations with a history of child maltreatment. Journal of Family Violence, 13, 59–79.

Browne, K., & Hamilton-Giachristsis, C. (2005). The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: A public-health approach. The Lancet, 365, 702-710.

Cheng, T., Brenner, R., Wright, J., Sachs, H.C., Moyer, P., & Rao, M. (2004). Children’s violent television viewing: Are parents monitoring? Pediatrics, 114(1), 94-99.

Funk, J., Hagan, J., Schimming, J., Bullock, W., Buchman, D., & Myers, M. (2002). Aggression and psychopathology in adolescents with a preference for violent electronic games. Aggressive Behaviour, 28, 134-144.

Henry, D. B., Tolan, P. H. & Gorman-Smith, D. (2001). Longitudinal family and peer group effects on violence and nonviolent delinquency. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 172-186.

Kiewitz C., & Weaver, J. (2001). Trait aggressiveness, media violence, and perceptions of interpersonal conflict. Personality and Individual Differences, 31, 821–35.

Konijn, E., Bijvank, & Bushman, B. (2007). I wish I were a warrior: The role of wishful identification in the effects of violent video games on aggression in adolescent boys. Developmental Psychology, 43(4), 1038-1044.

Media Awareness Network. (2007). Research on the effects of media violence. Retrieved 27 October, 2007, from

National Television Violence Study. (1998). National Television Violence
Study (Vol. 3
). Santa Barbara: University of California, Santa Barbara,
Center for Communication and Social Policy.

Scott, D., (1995). The effect of video games on feelings of aggression. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 129(2), 121-132.

Steinberg, L., & Cauffman, E. (1999). A developmental perspective on serious juvenile crime: When should juveniles be treated as adults? Federal Probation, 63 (2), 52-58.

Appendix A
Bandura's (1965) Bobo Doll experiment depicting children copying aggressive behaviour seen performed by a model.

Appendix B

A compilation of violent cartoons

Appendix C
Self Analysis

Word Count: 1, 630

I do feel that I understand all of the key theories surrounding this topic; however it is hard to judge whether I have included all of the relevant information since there was so much literature on the topic, and such a short word limit. I have attempted to summarizes the different theoretical approaches to violence in the media, and provide examples and studies that help explain how they are applied.

2. Research

This particular topic has a wide variety of information available, and hence it was difficult to summarize and draw out the key points from the multitude of resources. I have used 16 references which are a combination of journal articles, web articles, and surveys/studies. Combined they were more than adequate to provide statistics, research and theory. I could have included a lot more research since it was readily available, but there wouldn’t have been much point without more words to work with, as I wouldn’t have been able to include all of the findings.

3. Written Expression
I am confident in my ability to write in a sound APA style. Although the blogging format won’t let you indent paragraphs or reference lists, I have attempted to italicise in all of the appropriate places, and reference in the correct style. The paragraphs are well structured and include an extended introduction (over a couple of paragraphs) which helped to separate the concepts to be explored, a body, and a conclusion which summarized the key points made. The relevant videos- which enhance the interactivity of the blog- have been included as appendices at the end so as not to disrupt the APA formatting. A Flesch- Kinkaid analysis revealed a reading level of 17.2, but once again, this seems to vary depending on whether a word is deleted, and even altered if you copy and paste the same text into another document and re-run the analysis.

4. Online engagement
My online engagement has really improved in the second part of the semester. I have made 11 of my own posts, many of which included videos and images, and were aimed at assisting other people with their topics and providing them with resources and opinions. Many of these have also generated interesting discussions. I enjoyed posting not only on my own essay topic, but exploring some of the other social psychology issues. I also made 13 comments on other peoples’ blogs throughout the term, which is almost double the amount that I made for blog 1. I think my confidence increased after the first assignment, and as I learnt more from the course content I felt better able to make input. Links to some of my contributions can be found below.

Beck's blog: How social psych got me into an argument
Beck's blog: Why are some people attractive?
Christina's blog: Post Secret
Clare's blog: Love me, Love me say that you love me
Convenor's blog: Flashmobbing
Dave's blog: information overload
Graham's blog: The facebook stalker
Kara's blog: sex and popularity
Michelle's blog: Dove campaign for real beauty
Monique's blog: divorce in Australia
Nick's Blog- Today's women

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Violent video games are a minimal factor in violent behaviour

This video highlights the concept that although violent video games do lead to aggression, it is only in a small percentage that the aggression becomes an issue, and this is due to a multitude of other factors, such as personality and upbringing. The psychologist in the video highlights that the people who participate in school shootings are most likely angry and have been provoked in life. Furthermore, it suggests that violent video games are in fact an outlet for aggression and hence my have a positive function.

How violent video games affect the brain (NBC news clip)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Reflections on divorce, and our last tutorial

In our last social psychology tute, one of our 'changes' to Australia that we discussed we would like to make is to lower the divorce rate, as it was shocking to hear a statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Of course this has impacted on the rate of people getting married in the first place- would like to marry, would NOT like to be divorced! Our plan was to reduce the divorce rate by making it HARDER to get divorced. This might involve having a minimum of 3 counselling sessions before the legal avenue could be taken. Either that, or make it harder to get married in the first place! It seems so many people have romanticised views of marriage and dont forsee/are not willing to put in the hard work that comes with it. My grandparents have been married for 50 years next year, and when we ask how they made their marriage work they told us grandkids that there had been plenty of times when one or both of them had wanted to leave because it had been too hard. However, they maintained that they didnt leave- they stayed and worked on it, and now their marriage is stronger than ever. As we all know from our psychology/counselling courses: conflict is inevitable. So do we just run away when things get hard? As we also know from Social Psychology, passionate (romantic) love only lasts for 1,2,3 years at the most, so what do married couples anticipate will happen when this wears off? This is where the good old 'birds of a feather flock together' seems sensible. Marry your best friend: someone you respect, who has the same values, goals, dreams, interests, and attitudes of commitment towards marraige and then hopefully you'll have enough to sustain you :)

One more point on Moniques stigma comment: i completely agree. In Australia, divorce has become so normalized that people dont give it much thought. When i was living in Poland, i discovered that divorce was associated with a negative label... it wasnt socially acceptable to have a failed marriage. Consequently the divorce rate in Poland is extremely low! Is this because their marriages are better? doubtful. They have less conflict? Unlikely... so we're left to conclude that perhaps they work at it harder, and that if our society was less accepting of divorce then our divorce rate would be lower as well!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Socialising is an important part of Social Psychology :P

University of Canberra Psychological Society
Christmas Party

Satisfy your NEED for affiliation :P

All Psychology students and staff members are invited to attend our Christmas cocktail party to celebrate the end of another year and get together and have some fun!

When: Friday November 16th (after exams!)
Time: 7.30pm onwards
Where: Binara One Bar, Binara Street, Crown Plaza Civic
Cost: FREE for members and staff
$10 for non-members (to contribute to bar tab and catering)
RSVP deadline: November 1st 2007

Non member fee of $10 can be paid to Rachael at UCU clubs and societies office above the refectory.

We hope to see you there for drinks, dancing, and yummy nibbles!

*Especially those who are graduating this year from undergraduate, 4th year and masters *

Friday, October 5, 2007

In response to: Piercings and beauty spots

Hey Beck,
this is indeed a good point! I think the beauty spot is a bit of an 80s trend! You dont really see people adding them anymore... but my mother was a beauty therapist in the late 80s/early 90s and she had one tatooed onto her face to look like Cindy Crawford! Bizzare! The things we do for beauty! Also, the picture you posted of Fergie, and the one of Michael Jackson Clare posted sent me off onto another tangent- plastic surgery! Its terrible! People think it makes them look more attractive but the examples i can think of look so much prettier without it! I am led to conclude that plastic surgery is an illness or disorder. Perhaps pending for the DSM-V? haha. Have a look at the pictures below and see if you think the before shots are more attractive too!

-Lauren (aka Mrs. Freud)

Hunter Tylo before and after shots (Taylor from The Bold and the Beautiful)

Michael Jackson before, during, and after assorted plastic surgery. What a handsome young man he would have been if he'd just left his appearance as it was!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Examples of media violence

The following clip is a compilation of violent scenes in cartoons! Cartoons are very attractive to children, and less likely to be detected for their unsuitable content by parents than are blatantly violent movies. Have a look at the clip and see how bad some of the messages they are sending are! All comments welcome!