Media Influences on Aggression

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  • Created by: msahay
  • Created on: 10-02-20 20:17

Media Effects on Aggression - Anderson + Dill

Another strength of the explanation that violent media causes aggression is further research support.

Anderson and Dill conducted a laboratory experiment in which participants played either a violent or non-violent video game. 

Afterwards, participants rated their aggression and played a competitive computer task in which they could choose to blast white noise at their opponent. 

Anderson and Dill found participants that played the violent video game reported increased levels of aggression after playing and were more likely to blast white noise at their opponent, supporting the idea that playing violent video games caused participants to be more aggressive. 

However, a limitation is that the researchers may not have measured aggression. The researchers operationalised the choice to blast white noise as a measure of aggression. This  unusual opportunity may have meant participants did not take it seriously. Therefore, white noise might not have been a good measure of actual aggression, meaning the study lacks validity and consequently weakens support for the idea that violent video games can cause aggression. 

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Media Effects on Aggression - Huesmann

One strength of the explanation that violent media causes aggression is that it is supported by longitudinal studies.

Huesmann et al conducted a study on 557 children looking at the effect of watching violent TV on aggression. It was found that children that watched more violent TV reported being more aggressive as adults. This study suggests that consuming violent media in childhood can have long-lasting increasing effects on aggression in later life. 

However, one limitation of this study is that it uses self-report. Since aggression was measured using self-report, it is possible participants answers lack objectivity as they may not be accurate in rating their aggression levels and may have displayed social desirability bias in their answers by reporting lower levels of aggression because aggression is considered an undesirable behaviour. This means that the results may lack validity and weakens support for the idea that violent TV causes aggression. 

Another limitation is that a meta-analysis by Ferguson found no relationship between violent media and aggression once confounding variables (e.g. family violence) are taken into account.  For instance, it may be possible that children who are already more aggressive choose to watch more violent TV, rather than the other way around. This study is therefore evidence rebuking the role of media in causing aggression. 

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Desensitisation

Desensitisation is a mechanism of media influence on aggression where a person's emotional response to a stimulus reduces after repeated exposure to it. 

Violence or aggression in the media can lead to aggression through desensitisation because with repeated exposure, people become less shocked to what they have seen. 

This can make them feel more comfortable with displaying violent or aggressive behaviour themselves. 

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Support for Desensitisation

One strength of desensitisation is that it is supported by research support. 

Carnaghey et al conducted a laboratory study in which participants were made to play a violent or non-violent video game. 

Afterwards, all participants had their heart rate monitored whilst watching a violent film. 

Carnaghey found that participants that had previously played a violent video game had a lower heart rate while watching the violent film than the non-violent video game group.

This suggests that participants that had played the violent video game had a reduced emotional response to the film as they had already been exposed to a similar stimulus. 

This physiological change in participants supports the idea desensitisation to violence and aggression is caused by a repeated exposure to it. 

Though violent media allows for catharsis, perhaps? - Limitation

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Disinhibition

Disinhibition is a mechanism of media influence on aggression where people become less concerned about social norms regarding the undesirability of aggression, causing their behaviour to cease being inhibited. 

Disinhibition can contribute to aggression because violent media usually exposes people to the idea that aggression is socially acceptable or justified. 

This can cause people to feel less concerned about social norms that say aggression is wrong, thus making them less inhibited to behave in a violent or aggressive way. 

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Support for Disinhibition

One strength of disinhibition is that it is supported by research.

Heath et al conducted a review of a large number of studies that reviewed relationships between violent media and aggressive behaviour. 

One of Heath's important findings was that children whose parents emphasised social norms against aggression were unlikely to behave aggressively, even if they were exposed to violent media. 

Children whose parents did not express these social norms and used physical punishment were more likely to display aggression when exposed to violent media. 

This finding suggests that children who see their own parents use aggression and violence were less concerned about social norms that say it is an undesirable behaviour, and therefore the likelihood of their aggressive behaviour is due to this mechanism of media influence on aggression known as disinhibition.

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Support for Disinhibition - Application

One practical application of our understanding of the processes of disinhibition has lead to the inception of army recruitment tests.

From the perspective of the armed forces, recruiting individuals that are unconcerned with social norms about the undesirability of violence and aggression is beneficial. 

Soldiers in a war situation are likely to behave in a violent way so it is more beneficial to see aggression as the norm because being inhibited to aggression could prove fatal. 

Therefore, this shows that disinhibition can be applied in a practical sense to situations where aggression is necessary. 

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Cognitive Priming

Cognitive priming is a mechanism of media influence on aggression where a person's exposure to a stimulus makes a script of cognitions related to that stimulus more accessible in their mind. 

Cognitive priming can cause aggression because being exposed to numerous of images of violence and aggression makes a script of cognitions about violence and aggression more accessible in our minds which makes us more likely to think and behave aggressively when triggered.

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Support for Cognitive Priming

Bushman et al conducted a laboratory experiment in which participants watched a violent or non-violent film. 

Participants then had to do a computer task where they responded to aggressive or neutral words by pressing a button. 

Participants that had watched a violent film responded faster to the aggressive words than non-aggressive words, compared to the non-violent group that were equally fast at responding to both types of words. 

These results indicate that the experimental group had been cognitively primed to thinking aggressively, as the violence they had watched was more accessible in their minds.

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