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Is Violence In Mass Media A Necessary Cathartic Outlet, Or An Unnecessary Influence?

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Violence is everywhere around us, from the rise of the ISIS empire to the advent of school and college shootings and the continuous attacks on the LOC, violence has become a daily part of our lives and leads us to the question why it actually happens. Whenever I flip the pages of the newspaper, I see hundreds of articles on road rage which very much highlight the prevalence of these kinds of behaviors in different ways. The rise in fights was on a different high when I entered high school where people cheered instead of trying to stop the alteration altogether. It always made me wonder why people are getting so excited when they know people can be hurt. I saw the same thing happening in the movies I used to watch at that time.

Coming to the question about the influence of violent media, with my personal experiences, I think it depends on how people perceive what is shown to them, with many people becoming aggressive in their nature, there were some who were able to understand the difference between artistic depiction and real life and therefore found a cathartic path within that. There was a very interesting case in Australian where a man had stalked and harassed a woman for days but then acquitted by court because he had said in his statement that it was what he watched in the movies and this incident somewhat affirmed my belief regarding the general influence of media. There have been studies which show that violent behavior enhances aggressive behavior but there are many which have found it to be a cathartic outlet.

The very first experiment which tried to shed light on this phenomenon was Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment in 1961, he observed that children were likely to violently attack a doll if they had witnessed their parents do the same. In a study conducted in 2006 by Huesmann and Taylor, they concluded that media violence poses a threat to public health as it leads to real-world violence. Specifically, their data showed strong evidence that short-term exposure to media violence in younger viewers stimulates immediate aggressive behavior with their peers at school. Long-term exposure was significantly correlated with destructive behavior beyond childhood and into adulthood. Their conclusion was in accord with Bandura’s initial theory in that the researchers concluded the portrayal of “justified” violent behavior allows children to consider their own violent behaviors appropriate. The researchers agreed that media exposure is not the only factor that contributes to violent behavior, but asserted that it is an important one. Due to numerous studies, the psychological community overwhelmingly supports the notion that violent media exposure is harmful.

The Children, Youth and Families Office of APA conducted a thorough review of the literature published between 2005 and 2013 focused on violent video game use. This included four meta-analyses that reviewed more than 150 research reports published before 2009. The research demonstrated that violent video game use has an effect on aggression. This effect is seen both as an increase in negative outcomes such as aggressive behavior, cognitions, and affect and as a decrease in positive outcomes such as pro social behavior, empathy, and sensitivity to aggression.

In a series of five experiments involving over 500 college students (Anderson & Carnagey, 2003) , researchers examined the effects of seven violent songs by seven artists and eight nonviolent songs by seven artists. The students listened to the songs and were given various psychological tasks to measure aggressive thoughts and feelings. Results of the five experiments show that violent songs led to more aggressive interpretations of ambiguously aggressive words, increased the relative speed with which people read aggressive vs. nonaggressive words, and increased the proportion of word fragments that were filled in to make aggressive words . The violent songs increased feelings of hostility without provocation or threat, according to the authors, and this effect was not the result of differences in musical style, specific performing artist or arousal properties of the songs. Even the humorous violent songs increased aggressive thoughts. The findings contradict popular notions of positive catharsis or venting effects of listening to angry, violent music on violent thoughts and feelings.

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There is research suggesting that guns don’t need to be featured in the media to cause aggression; the mere presence of a gun is enough to elicit aggressive behavior. For example, having a gun sitting on a table makes people behave more aggressively (Berkowitz & LePage, 1967), and recent work shows that having a gun in the car makes people (even non-gun owners) more aggressive drivers (Bushman, Kerwin, Whitlock, & Weisenberger, 2017). These effects even exist in children, whether or not the gun is real or is just a toy (Benjamin Kepes, & Bushman, 2017). A 2002 report by the US Secret Service and the US Department of Education, which examined 37 incidents of targeted school shootings and school attacks from 1974 to 2000 in this country, found that over half of the attackers demonstrated some interest in violence through movies, video games, books, and other media

Many of my friends are into wrestling and violent video games and they used to say that these games help them relax.They said it helped them release this pent up energy.With so many studies indicating that violent media leads to aggressive behavior, there is another side with well organized set of arguments about why it may actually do any harm but act as a healthy outlet. There are counter arguments that states violent media does not cause violent behavior. Video-game-enthusiasts-turned-advocates argue that most gamers, no matter their age, have the emotional intelligence and the ability to understand the difference between reality and virtual reality. Others say that those who play violent video games experience a form of catharsis that enables them to reduce their level of aggression by engaging in role-playing. James C. Klagge, a professor at Virginia Tech, suggests that exposure violent media, allows younger people to let go of negative and angry emotions without causing harming to others or oneself.

Cheryl Olson, cofounder of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Mental Health and Media, conducted a study in 2004 on 1,254 public school students in South Carolina. She observed children playing in a schoolyard and then examined their exposure to violent games. While Dr. Olson noted a correlation between playing violent games and what he called “delinquent behavior” only in those children who had aggressive traits. The study concluded that there was not enough evidence to support a causal relationship between violent media and violent behavior.

Craig Anderson, PhD, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University stressed, “Media violence is only one of many risk factors for later aggressive and violent behavior. Furthermore, extremely violent behavior never occurs when there is only one risk factor present. Thus, a healthy, well-adjusted person with few risk factors is not going to become a school-shooter just because they start playing a lot of violent video games or watching a lot of violent movies.”

I think this debate has been going on for years and will still go on as there has been increasing research supporting both sides of the field. I don’t think any of us can provide a clear cut answer to this. I would end by saying that the situations in which the person is in terms of environmental, physical and mental state might play a very important role in how we behave.

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Is Violence In Mass Media A Necessary Cathartic Outlet, Or An Unnecessary Influence? (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Is Violence In Mass Media A Necessary Cathartic Outlet, Or An Unnecessary Influence?” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
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Is Violence In Mass Media A Necessary Cathartic Outlet, Or An Unnecessary Influence? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 08 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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