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Cognitive priming


Aggressive cues in films or television programmes lead to aggressive thoughts and feelings, which may then be expressed in aggressive behaviour.


Josephson (1987)

Aim: To assess the effect of cognitive priming on aggressive behaviour.

Procedure: Boys watched a television programme of a gun battle, in which the snipers communicated using walkie-talkies.  A control group watched a non-violent programme about a motocross team.  Both groups then played a game of floor hockey and were given instructions beforehand either by walkie-talkie or a tape recorder.

Results: the boys who had watched the violent television programme and had received instructions by walkie-talkie were more aggressive than the control group and than those who had watched the same programme but received instructions by tape recorder.

Conclusion: The walkie-talkie acted as a cognitive prime to aggression.




         Anxiety about violence inhibits its use. 

         Those who are not used to violence would be shocked by its use.

         Frequent viewing of television violence makes it appear commonplace and so viewers may be less shocked and less sensitive about the violence.

         So someone who is desensitized to violence perceived violence as ‘normal’.



Belson (1978)


Belson (1978)

Aim: to identify a link between viewing habits and aggressive behaviour.

Sample: teenage boys.

Design: correlational study based on retrospective interview data.

Method: boys were interviewed about their viewing habits (self reporting) over the previous ten years (V1=level of TV violence watched) and about their aggressive behaviour (V2=self-ratings of aggression).

Result: a significant positive correlation was


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