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Media Influences on Aggression

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Media Influences on Aggression


Aggression is any action or behaviour that can cause physical or psychological harm to others or yourself. It can manifest itself in many ways, and therefore it is only fair to assume that numerous factors influence and even encourage it.

Today, there is a wide range of consumable media, and because of this wide choice available to consumers, psychologists have turned their eyes to the influences of media on aggression. Is there a link between media violence and aggression? Do violent video games cause children and adults to be more aggressive? Some believe that video games reward aggressive behaviour through a process known as vicarious reinforcement.

Or is it the television shows? Are we ignoring older types of media, like radio, and blaming new media sources? Let’s outline and evaluate existing theories about media influences on aggression and see for ourselves.

There are three primary methodologies that media psychologists use for their research:

Experimental studies are usually conducted in the laboratory and look at short-term effects.

Correlational studies examine real-life variables and can be either short term or longitudinal.

Meta-analyses combine several types of studies to make an overall judgement about the magnitude of the effect of a particular phenomenon, usually to see if a finding is universally applicable or represents a singular result.

Media Influences on Aggression Do violent games influence aggressive behaviour StudySmarter

Do violent video games influence aggressive behaviour?, Flaticon.

Explanations of media influences on aggression

Some critical theories explaining media influences on aggression to consider are:

  • Social learning theory: according to this theory, those who see an attractive character are more likely to imitate the attractive character’s actions through identification, including a violent hero.
  • Justification influences moral reasoning: if those who identify with a violent hero or feel that their actions are justified, they may alter their moral judgement to allow violent or aggressive actions.
  • Acting: When playing video games, aggression is sometimes encouraged through play, and you directly control the game character, which is a form of operant conditioning.
  • The general model of affective aggression assumes that exposure to violent video games reinforces aggressive behaviour in the short and long term. In examining the effects of video games on aggression-related variables in Study 1, Anderson and Dill (2000) found that playing violent video games in real life was positively associated with aggressive behaviour and delinquency. This association was stronger among males and characteristically aggressive individuals. Similarly, in Study 2, exposure to graphically violent video games in the laboratory increased aggressive thoughts and behaviours. Both studies showed that men had more hostile attitudes than women.

Some studies have shown a correlative relationship between aggression and violent video games, but this is not a causal relationship. Consider the following studies.

Experimental studies

Bartholow and Anderson (2002) conducted a laboratory study to determine the effects of violent video games on aggression.For this study, students played either a violent video game (Mortal Kombat) or a nonviolent game (PGA Tournament Golf) for 10 minutes. They then performed the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Task (TCRTT), a standard measure of aggression that required participants to shoot white noise at a (nonexistent) opponent as punishment.They found that those who played the violent game chose significantly higher noise levels (5.97 decibels) than the nonviolent players (4.60 decibels). A game multiplied by sex interaction showed a more significant effect for men than for women.

Correlational studies

DeLisi et al. (2013) studied 227 juvenile offenders with severe aggressive behaviour history. They used structured interviews to collect data on aggression and video games.They found a significant relationship between offenders’ aggressive behaviour, frequency of playing video games, and the extent to which they enjoyed them. Researchers also considered the effects of other constructs such as psychopathy.

Delisi et al. (2013) argued that this relationship was so well-established that aggression should be considered a public health problem and video game violence a significant risk factor.

Longitudinal studies

Robertson et al. (2013) attempted to find an association between ‘excessive’ television viewing in childhood and aggressive behaviour in adulthood.They studied 1037 individuals born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 and measured their television viewing hours up to the age of 26.They found that time spent watching TV was a reliable predictor of aggressive behaviour in adulthood (measured in terms of offending). Young adults who had spent more time watching TV during childhood and adolescence were more likely to be delinquent.The extremes (those who had watched the most TV) were more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and to exhibit aggressive traits. Simply put, this could mean that watching TV is a more significant factor in aggression than video games. The study suggests that excessive TV watching is associated with increased antisocial behaviour.

Media Influences on Aggression Negative influence of TV StudySmarter

The negative influence of TV - StudySmarter Originals.

Meta-analysis

Anderson and Bushman (2001) conducted a meta-analysis on research showing that exposure to TV and violence in movies increases aggressive behaviour.Their review found that violent video games increase aggressive behaviour in young adults and children, and experimental/non-experimental studies with men and women in field and laboratory settings support this. It also increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings.

Notable studies on media influences on aggression

There are a few more studies to consider for your exams:

  1. Gentile et al. (2004): This study surveyed 607 8th and 9th-grade students about their video game habits and the extent of parental monitoring of adolescent video game use. They also examined the relationship between violent video game use, hostility, and arguments and physical altercations.They found that teens who played more violent video games were more hostile and argumentative toward peers and teachers. They also did worse in school. Hostility mediated the relationship between exposure to violent video games and outcomes.
  2. Dunhn and Hughes (2001): In this study, 40 ‘hard-to-manage’ preschoolers were compared to 40 control children and assessed for early interest in violent fantasy and social understanding, as well as antisocial and emotional behaviour. The researchers filmed them alone in a room with a friend and gave them cognitive tests (false beliefs, executive functions, and emotional understanding).The hard-to-control group had higher rates of violent fantasies related to poor executive control, frequent antisocial behaviour, and anger outbursts.

Evaluation of media influences on aggression

Let’s study the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of media influences on aggression.

Strengths

  • Causal relationship: Experimental studies allow us to establish a causal relationship between media aggression and aggressive behaviour.
  • Longitudinal studies look at changes in aggressive behaviour over time. This factor is a strength because people are viewed as active consumers rather than passive recipients, which is more realistic. However, these studies are prone to confounding variables (when there are so many other variables at play that we cannot identify the effects of each variable on aggressive behaviour).

Weaknesses

  • Laboratory studies: Measures of aggression in laboratory contexts are often artificial and unrealistic. However, it would be unethical to allow realistic forms of aggression in an experiment, leaving researchers with no other choice.
  • In these laboratory situations, there is no fear of retaliation. The participant is ‘safely’ aggressive, whereas, in the real world, one might act differently if one is afraid that another person will retaliate.
  • Correlational studies: Some studies on the influence of media on aggression are correlational. We cannot draw causal conclusions from correlational studies. There are no manipulated or controlled variables and no random assignment of participants.
  • Imagine a positive correlation between violent video games and aggressive behaviour. We could not determine if this was due to the socialisation hypothesis (aggressive media causes people to become more aggressive) or the selection hypothesis (aggressive people choose to consume aggressive media). So we do not know what the cause is.

  • Non-equivalence problem: Many studies compare the effects of playing a nonviolent game with a violent game to examine aggression. However, because the games may not be similar in content, this could affect the outcome of the studies and result in an invalid study.
  • Publication bias: There is a tendency in scientific research only to publish statistically significant results, which is a problem because we do not have access to all the non-statistically vital research that could tell us just as much.
  • Real-world aggression has decreased over the years. Since the 1980s, violent behaviours such as assault have decreased significantly, while computer games and graphics have increased quantitatively and qualitatively. There is a lack of face validity. What is the reason for this? Some believe it is because more people spend time indoors and use video games as catharsis for their aggression.

Media Influences on Aggression - Key takeaways

  • Studies have found an influence of aggressive video games and TV on aggression levels.
  • Experimental studies allow us to determine cause and effect. However, many studies on aggression are laboratory experiments that are artificial and unrealistic.
  • Some studies that demonstrate the influence of media on aggression are correlational; however, we cannot draw cause-and-effect conclusions from correlational studies.
  • Longitudinal studies look at changes in aggressive behaviour over time. This factor is a strength because they view people as active consumers rather than passive recipients, which is much more realistic.
  • Many studies compare the effects of playing a nonviolent game with a violent game to examine aggression. However, because the games may not be similar in content, this could influence the outcome of the studies and result in an invalid study.

Frequently Asked Questions about Media Influences on Aggression

Many different factors influence aggression: for instance, someone’s biology, environment, and psychological history.

Bartholow and Anderson (2002) demonstrated that media violence could cause increased levels of aggression. DeLisi et al. (2013) showed a significant correlation between violent media and aggression, to the extent that they thought aggression should be considered a public health issue, and video game violence a considerable risk factor.

Many factors cause aggression and violence. Berkowitz argues negative feelings (e.g., fear, jealousy, anxiety, frustration) cause aggression. Many different things could trigger these negative feelings, for example, violence in a video game.

Psychological studies have shown that video games make you more aggressive. For instance, Delisi et al. (2013) found a significant correlation between offenders who displayed aggressive behaviour, how often they played video games and how much they enjoyed them. However, other studies have shown that these games can also have a cathartic effect, so it is not simple. 

Studies have shown that violent video games make humans more aggressive, such as ‘Mortal Kombat’. However, other studies have shown these video games can also have a cathartic effect. Despite the increase in both the quality and quantity of video games and their graphics over the last 40 years, real-world aggression has decreased.

Final Media Influences on Aggression Quiz

Question

What type of correlation did Fulker et al. (1986) find between twins and aggressiveness?

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Answer

Strong positive correlation.

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Question

What is a criticism of Fulker et al. (1986)?

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Answer

The researchers used questionnaires to measure aggression. As this is a sensitive topic, individuals may lie to appear socially desirable, which would reduce the study's findings. 

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Question

What did Dabbs et al. (1987) find?

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Answer

Dabbs et al. (1987) found 9 out of 11 inmates incarcerated for non-violent crimes had lower levels of testosterone. However, 10 out of 11 incarcerated for violent crimes had higher levels of testosterone. 

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How did Dabbs et al. (1987) measure testosterone?

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Answer

The researchers measured testosterone in the saliva.

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Question

How does the diathesis-stress model explain aggression?

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Answer

The diathesis-stress model assumes that people have a biological predisposition that makes them more prone to aggression. When environmental triggers, such as the media (cognitive priming), influence them, they may exhibit aggressive tendencies.

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Question

What is the issue of blaming the media for individuals aggression levels? 

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Answer

This blames the media for aggressive behaviour and takes away the responsibility from individuals.

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Question

Which side does the media role in aggression take in the free will versus determinism debate?

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Answer

This account of aggression assumes others dictate our behaviour and that we have no self-control or influence over our own actions. This approach suggests humans have no free will. 

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Question

Would positive psychologists agree that the media is to blame for human aggression?

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Answer

Positive psychologists would disagree with this, as they believe that humans have free will and that reaching a high level of satisfaction and self-actualisation dictates their behaviour. They disagree with the notion that external forces dictate human behaviour.

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Question

What are experimental studies?

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Answer

Experimental studies are lab-based studies, which usually look at short-term effects.

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Question

In 2002, Bruce Bartholow and Craig Anderson carried out a study where participants played either a violent or non-violent video game. After the experience, researchers carried out a test on them. What was it called?

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Answer

Researchers carried out the ‘Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Task’ (TCRTT) on participants, a standard measure of aggression.

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Question

How does the TCRTT measure aggression?

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Answer

By subjecting participants to different stimuli (in this case, violent or nonviolent video games) and then having them blast white noise at a (non-existent) opponent, at whatever level they feel necessary.

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Question

What method did Matt DeLisi et al. use on their juvenile offender participants in 2013?

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Answer

Structured interviewing.

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Question

What did the Matt DeLisi et al. study find?

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Answer

They found a significant correlation between offenders who displayed aggressive behaviour, how often they played video games and how much they enjoyed them.

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Question

What special recommendation did the Matt DeLisi et al. study make?

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Answer

They believed the link between offenders’ aggressive behaviour and their video game playing habits was so well-established that aggression should be considered a public health problem and video game violence a significant risk factor.

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Question

What did the Linsey Robertson et al. study find in 2013?

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Answer

Linsey Robertson et al. found that time spent watching TV was a reliable predictor of aggressive behaviour in adulthood (measured in terms of offending).

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Question

What disorder are the people who watch the most TV in childhood more likely to develop?

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Answer

The people who watch the most TV in childhood are more likely to develop an antisocial personality disorder.

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Question

What is the main strength of experimental studies?

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Answer

They can show cause and effect.

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Question

Name two weaknesses of experimental studies.

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Answer

  1. They are often artificial and unrealistic because they are carried out in labs. 
  2. They involve no ‘fear of retaliation’. The participant is ‘safely’ aggressive, whereas, in the real world, one might act differently if one is afraid another person will retaliate.

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Question

What is the main weakness of correlational studies?

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Answer

The main weakness of correlational studies is they can’t give us cause and effect solutions.

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Question

Why is it less helpful to do studies that don’t give us cause and effect results?

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Answer

Because we can’t tell what causes what, for example, we have a positive correlation between aggression and video games. But, we don’t know whether this is due to the socialisation hypothesis or the selection hypothesis. 

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Question

What do we mean by ‘publication bias’?

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Answer

Publication bias is the tendency in scientific research only to publish statistically significant findings.

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Question

What is a big risk in doing studies over long periods of time?

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Answer

Studies over long periods are prone to confounding variables (when there are so many other variables at play that we cannot identify the effects of each variable on aggressive behaviour).

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Question

What are some examples of violent computer games?

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Answer

  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Call of Duty
  • The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
  • Dark Souls
  • Fortnite
  • League of Legends

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Question

What is desensitisation?

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Answer

Desensitisation is where the usual anxious and worrying reaction people have to aggressive or violent acts is reduced due to repeated exposure (such as in video games). The first time you see blood may be frightening, but if you were a doctor, the thousandth time you saw blood would not have the same effect.  

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Question

What did Carnagey et al. (2007) find in their study concerning desensitisation?

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Answer

Carnagey et al. (2007) examined the nature of desensitisation through the scope of the physiological changes (heart rate and galvanic skin response) upon exposure to video game violence. Participants played either a violent or non-violent (control group) video game for 20 minutes, after that they watched a 10 minute video of real-life violence.


They found that, when compared to controls, participants who played violent video games and then witnessed real-life violence had lower heart rate responses and lower galvanic skin responses, showing a desensitised response to violence 

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Question

What is disinhibition?

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Answer

Disinhibition is where behaviours that are morally bad or aggressive are, through repeated exposure (such as in television shows or video games), seen as more acceptable. They become the norm, in a sense, and the inhibitions we usually have about aggressive behaviours are less apparent. We behave more aggressively as it seems to be more acceptable.  

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Question

What is cognitive priming?

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Answer

Cognitive Priming is where, when witnessing aggressive acts in the media, it triggers aggression in a person when they come across something similar to it in real life. This is because the information is stored during the previous exposure to it in the media, and this becomes a memory and is available to be used as a reference to behave when exposed to a similar stimulus again. (Schemas) 

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Question

What is the General Aggression Model (GAM)?

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Answer

GAM examines the nature of aggression by providing a framework of aggression theories. Attitudes, according to GAM, are pieces of learned knowledge that become innate and automatic after learning aggressive schemas, which become part of your aggressive personality, in turn predicting aggression.  

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Question

What did Harris and Williams (1985) find about the effect of computer games on English grades?

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Answer

They had better grades playing more computer games

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Question

What is a criticism of research investigating the link between violent video games and aggressive behaviours?

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Answer

They are only correlational links. 

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Question

What did Anderson and Bushman (2001) find in their meta-analysis of violent video games and aggressive behaviours?

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Answer

  • Video/computer game violence was associated with higher levels of aggression. 
  • This was true for males, females, children and adults, in both experimental and nonexperimental environments. 
  • Exposure to violent computer games is negatively correlated with prosocial behaviour. 

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Question

What did Gentille et al. (2004) find in their study of violent video games and aggressive behaviours? 

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Answer

Overall, exposure to violent computer games and time played is positively associated with trait hostility, argumentative behaviours, and physical aggression. Computer games with violence are negatively associated with school grades. Adolescents who played more violent games were more hostile. Children who played more violent video games were more likely to be involved in physical fights, which showed stronger correlations between video games and arguments with teachers.  

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Question

What are some positive effects of video games?

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Answer

  • Whilst computer games have shown to increase levels of aggression, we can adapt the current standard of computer games to potentially employ non-aggressive solutions to situations, which could discourage aggressive behaviours
  • These games can also act as an outlet for aggressive behaviours, and more research needs to be done to identify the positive effects these games can have. 

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Question

What studies support the correlation between violent video games and aggressive behaviours?

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Answer

Anderson and Bushman (2001) 

Gentille et al. (2004) 

Silvern and Williamson (1987)  

Anderson and Dill (2000)  

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Question

Experimental studies into violent video games and their links to aggression lack ecological validity, true or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

Other confounding variables affect aggression, true or false?

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Answer

True. 

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Question

What did Lieberman et al. (1988) find in their study on grades and video game use?

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Answer

Lieberman et al. (1988) found that children who play more computer games perform worse in school, however, if they use the computers for school work they perform better in school. 


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Question

What is cognitive priming?

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Answer

Cognitive priming is where violent images provide us with ready-made scripts about aggression which are stored in memory and triggered when we perceive aggressive cues in a situation. People are primed to react aggressively using these stored, violent memories when they come across similar real-life situations. 

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Question

What is disinhibition?

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Answer

Disinhibition is where normal social constraints against certain behaviours are weakened by environmental triggers. These behaviours then appear temporarily socially acceptable and are therefore more likely. It is also a psychological process where violence and aggression are internalised as acceptable.  

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Question

What is desensitisation?

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Answer

Desensitisation is where repeated exposure to violence reduces normal levels of physiological and psychological arousal associated with anxiety, making aggressive behaviour more likely.  

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Question

People ______ their behaviours if they are inappropriate or morally abhorrent in normal, daily situations.

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Answer

Inhibit. 

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Question

In situations with disinhibition, empathy is often reduced for victims - true or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What did Fischer and Greitemeyer (2006) find in their study on media violence and song lyrics?

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Answer

They found that males who were exposed to misogynistic song lyrics behaved more aggressively (pouring more chilli) to female participants compared to those who listened to neutral lyrics. They found that male participants recalled more negative traits about women and had feelings of vengeance after listening to misogynistic lyrics. Similarly, female participants listening to misandristic lyrics had similar aggressive responses to men.  

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Question

What did Funk et al. (2004) find in their study on empathy and desensitisation?

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Answer

In fourth and fifth graders, they found that video game violence was associated with lower empathy. Similarly, video game and movie violence portrayals were associated with stronger proviolence attitudes.  

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Question

What did Weisz and Earls (1995) find in their study on filmed sexual violence and attitudes towards rape?

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Answer

They found that 

"males were more accepting of interpersonal violence and rape myths, more attracted to sexual aggression, less sympathetic toward the rape trial victim, and less likely to judge the defendant as guilty of rape." Weisz, M. G., & Earls, C. M. (1995). 

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Question

What did Leonard Berkowitz and Joseph Alioto (1973) find in their study on observing aggressive behaviour and disinhibition?

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Answer

They found that participants who saw a film that showed aggression as vengeance gave more shocks of a longer duration to a confederate.  

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Question

What do the results of Leonard Berkowitz and Joseph Alioto (1973) suggest?

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Answer

This suggests violent media disinhibits aggression especially when it's justified because it's seen to be more socially acceptable. This adds to the validity of the disinhibition hypothesis as it shows that the removal of social constraints means aggressive behaviour is more likely. 


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Question

What did Krahe et al. (2011) find in their study on violent and non-violent film clips and psychological/physiological arousal?

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Answer

Habitual violent media viewers showed lower arousal at the violent clips than non-habitual viewers. They also showed higher pleasant arousal and lower anxious arousal. 

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Question

What did Bushman and Anderson (2002) find about the application of cognitive priming?

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Answer

Bushman and Anderson (2002) showed that someone who is used to consuming violent media accesses stored aggressive 'scripts' more easily. This means that in a real-life situation, they are more likely to resort immediately to aggression without considering the alternatives - We could stage effective interventions by challenging violent cognitive biases and encouraging the media to present alternatives to aggression (e.g., negotiation).  

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Question

What physiological arousal is involved when witnessing something violent?

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Answer

Normally when we witness violence, we experience physiological arousal associated with the sympathetic nervous system (e.g., sweating). 

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