The issue of violence in the media is highly significant because of the increased number of occurrences of portraying violence in music videos, movies, television programs, videogames, popular talk shows, and news. Some may argue that this content has resulted in increased violence among viewers. Others feel that such programmes are products of people; thus, they indicate inherent violence and aggressive nature of human beings. This study utilizes the results and data of previous researches on the topic and determines the effect of media depictions of violence on aggression.
Violence and the Media
The amount of violent content broadcasted in the media has been increasing steadily over the years. Violence is demonstrated in films, video games, television, music videos, and other forms of media. The long-term effects of this demonstration are significant, because they may alter a person’s perspective on life and change relationships with other people. Movies, television, and music videos have the widest audience; therefore, they cause the most significant and long-term effect on people’s attitudes and development of aggressiveness. Research shows that people that watch television for a long time are more likely to be violent, and tend to use strength and force to solve conflicts more than other people do. Media portrayals of violence result in the individuals’ viewing the world as being hostile; thus, they develop issues with trusting other people. These effects depend on a person’s exposure and are likely to increase, as violence becomes more and more frequent and colourful in the media. Violence in the media is a serious topic because the depictions of violence are included in different programs, even children’s TV shows and games. Therefore, the effect of media violence becomes apparent in both children and adults (Murray, 2008).
The effect of violence portrayed in the media is more significant in children than in adults. This is because of the amount of time children spend in front of the TV, as they watch television more than adults do. Moreover, children are more sensitive and perceptible to the new information. They are in a development stage; thus, they are more likely to be influenced by the television in terms of changing their behaviour. Some studies have linked the long-termed exposure to violent information in the media in childhood with different forms of aggression and behavioural deviations, such as spouse abuse, domestic violence, or physical assault, in the future (Anderson et al, 2003). This study aims at determining the available evidence on the connection between the media violence and increased aggression among viewers.
Research Questions and Hypothesis
The research is based on the data of the current studies that prove that the effects of the media violence are dire and may vary in different societies. The main research questions are:
- What is the difference between the negative effects of the media violence in young people and adults?
- Do the different forms of media result in different effects? Or does violence in all forms of media have the same effect on development of aggression.
- Does coverage of violent news have an effect on aggression in a viewer?
- Does the effect of the violent media exposure differ in boys as compared to girls?
The hypotheses above will be tested after conducting the study; on the bases of the findings and results, they will be either proved or disproved. The hypotheses to be tested are:
- Young people are affected by media violence more than the older people and adults.
- All forms of media have the same effect on aggression and violence.
- News coverage with violent depictions has a significant effect on aggression and the adoption of violence in solving conflicts.
- The effect of violent exposure in media is similar in both boys and girls.
This study will utilize quantitative methods to collect and analyze data on the subject. Within the framework of the research, three research reports on primary studies of the media violence will be analyzed. The study will utilize the secondary sources of data, such as journal articles containing information in current research on the issue. The purpose of using the secondary researched is because it saves time and resources. It can also be easily verifiable through analysis of the methods used. The secondary research provides coded information and findings that are easy to analyze and determine the outcomes. They also enable the researcher to compare the findings from different settings and determine the causes of variations observed in the studies.
Gentile, Mathieson, and Crick (2011) conducted a study among elementary school children; they focused on the form and function of aggression in the participants. Media violence exposure, physical aggression, and relational aggression were studied during the research, in order to determine correlations for different participants. Social information processing is an essential aspect in changing the behaviour of children. The way a child relates to a situation determines how she or he will respond to it. The study examines the relationship between exposure to violence in the media and the different forms of aggression. Children who were more exposed to violent television shows, films, or video games were found to have higher hostile attribution bias. The study involved 641 participants from the third, fourth, and fifth grades. The study found out that sex is a moderating factor in the connections between media violence and relational aggression. The regression coefficient for girls was stronger than that for boys. Media exposure is also positively correlated to physical aggression; however, the effect was not moderated by sex. The forms of aggression, expressed by children in relation to their exposure of violent media, were also differentiated in accordance to sex.
Weaver (2011) conducted an analytical study on exposure and enjoyment of media violence. The argument tested in this study was that violent media is a result of the audience’s wish to watch violent events and actions. Many producers and creators of media content claim that their action are driven by the need to prevent their audience from getting bored. This fact proves that many producers believe that violence is popular; therefore, it sells. Studies show that ratings and advisories on the content of media items, such as films, increase selective exposure to the content. This effect is stronger in males than females. Another study found out that aggressiveness and sensation seeking were positively correlated with attraction to be frightened. The effect was different in males and females with males being more attracted to feel the fear and see violence than females. The study utilized a number of prior studies to analyze the effect of violence on selective exposure. It was determined that violent content increases, although it reduces enjoyment received from such content. Aggressive individuals have increased selective exposure to violent media content. Enjoyment of such content does not differ significantly across age groups and the method variables involved in the selection. In relation to preferences, males preferred violence more than females did (Weaver, 2011).
Ashworth, Pyle, and Pancer (2010) highlight that exposure to violent media causes aggression by activating prime aggression related schemata. These influence expectations when being activated result in changes in a person’s own behaviour and attributions of others. It also influences the individual’s response to provocation or any other factor. Continued exposure to such violent content changes a person’s belief in social norms and moral. It also increases the likelihood of applying violence in everyday behaviours, such as dealing with conflicts. Young children are likely to mimic witnessed acts of violence. The effect on children is more than the one on adults. The effect is caused by children’s inability to differentiate situations. Increased exposure to violence results in reduced excitation, which lowers perception of the severity in such acts (Meltzoff, & Moore, 2002). This fact also has the effect of increasing blame on the victims of violence and reducing helping behaviour.
Some studies show that although exposure to violent media may increase the likelihood of aggression, age, sex, and other mitigating factors also have a significant effect. Therefore, the effect of the violent content can be mitigated by the character of such individual. The fact is especially true in adults and youth. On the other hand, this effect is different in the case of children who are on their character development stage. Therefore, the effect of violent media on children is more intensive than the one on the youth. Exposure to violent and physically aggressive media content, such as video games, reduces the feelings of empathy in the individual and changes his or her perceptions of the world as a whole.
Findings and Conclusion
The study shows that although a person’s character has a significant effect on violence and aggression, the individual’s perceptions can be changed by viewing violent media content in films or video games. Children with more exposure to violent media have higher hostility attribution bias. The effect was found to be more severe in girls than in boys. This means the effect of violent media in increasing aggressive tendencies is more in case of girls than boys. Males are more attracted to be frightened, which results in higher levels of aggression and violence in them. Although it reduces enjoyment, violent media content increases selective exposure. People are more willing to view programs when the last contain violent exposure. Violent exposures in media change the perceptions of violence and issues, such as empathy and blaming the victims of violence, by people. Response to provocation also changes according to exposure to violent content that an individual has. A person exposed to violent media is more likely to respond to conflicts aggressively than other people are. The differences in effect on males and females are minimal; however, children are affected more than the adults are. On the other hand, the violent effect does not depend significantly on the media type.