Explanations for media influences on anti-social behaviour

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`Discuss explanations for media influences on anti-social behaviour' 8+16
It has been suggested that cognitive priming can affect levels of anti-social behaviour.
Cognitive priming is the idea that aggressive ideas shown in the media can `spark off' other
aggressive thoughts (Berkowitz). After viewing a violent film, the viewer is `primed' to
respond aggressively, therefore leading to anti-social behaviour. Children can `store scripts'
for anti-social behaviour which can be recalled and acted upon if an aspect of the original
situation is present.
Josephson did a study on cognitive priming using hockey players. After being deliberately
frustrated, the hockey players were shown either a violent or non-violent film in which an
actor had a walkie-talkie. It was found that, while playing a hockey game in which the referee
was holding a walkie-talkie, those in the violent condition displayed more violence after
viewing the film. The walkie-talkie acted as a cue for anti-social behaviour, so this research
suggests that the cognitive priming theory is correct, as we are more likely to show
anti-social behaviour is we are primed by the media and a cue is present. However, the
findings of this research may be difficult to draw conclusions from, as hockey is a reasonably
violent sport to begin with, and aggression levels may vary from game to game. The higher
aggression levels therefore might not have been down to the influence of the film, or the
presence of the cue, weakening the support this research gives to cognitive priming.
Desensitisation is another explanation for media influences on anti-social behaviour. It is
possible that repeated exposure to violence and general anti-social behaviour through the
media has reduced its impact in reality. It has less of an effect on people because they
become desensitised to it- this means that they become less anxious about anti-social
behaviour, and may become more likely to become engaged in it.
Cumberbatch suggests that people might `get used to' violence in the media, but that does
not mean that they will use it in the real world. However, it can be argued that people who
are desensitised might be less aroused by violence, and therefore less easily provoked by
real-life violence. Belson conducted a study of 1500 teenage boys and found no evidence
that high exposure to TV violence would desensitise them into behaving more anti-socially.
There was also no evidence that watching violence on TV reduced the boys' consideration
for others, or respect for authority, suggesting that the media and desensitisation does not
have much of an impact in terms of anti-social behaviour in real life.
However, it can be said that everyone reacts to the media in different ways, and we are not
all equally influenced by it- individual differences is a problem in researching the effects of
media on anti-social behaviour. It is also assumed that the amount of TV usage influences the
amount of behaviour change, but this is not supported by factual evidence. It is too simplistic
an assumption, ignoring other factors such as upbringing, and also ignoring the effects of
other types of media such as the internet. Websites such as facebook may also have an
effect on levels of anti-social behaviour, but as this is a more recent development there is no
research into it. Of the research there is, researcher bias may affect the conclusions drawn; in
general, academic journals are more likely to publish significant findings rather than ones that
suggests there is no effect, so it could be that the media does not have as much of an affect
on anti-social behaviour as it has been suggested.


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