April 17, 2005
Link between aggression & violence in media
I've always been skeptical when people said violence in TV shows or video games lead to more violent behavior in children. It's always smacked of hysteria and panic, particularly back when Doom was being blamed for Columbine and other school shootings. Cognitive Daily has just posted a three-part series summarizing a report published by the American Psychological Society that has me convinced I was wrong — there really is an effect and a problem here, especially with regard to violence in TV and video games. CD concludes:
Posted by bug to Media at April 17, 2005 7:23 PM
Overall, the research on media violence, whether it was experimental or correlational, has shown a significant correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. Though the correlations are sometimes small, Anderson and his colleagues point out that they are at least as significant as other behaviors considered to be very risky, such as exposure to asbestos and smoking cigarettes.
It’s clear from the research we have discussed in the last few days that media violence is a significant problem. What’s less clear is precisely what to do about it. Aside from the research on parental intervention, little has been done to determine the best way to address the problem. If the goal is to reduce aggression and violence in the greater society, then more resources should be devoted to finding solutions, rather than only adding to the voluminous literature indicating that a problem exists.
Interesting. I'm not surprised to see a correlation. It's certainly in line with my personal experiences in seeing kids of friends and familiy who have differing levels of exposure to violent media.
What's frustrating is that there are plenty of people putting energy into finding scapegoats and profiting from the problem (people who sue makers of violent video games, for example), but very few who are actively working on real solutions.
The ironic thing is that I've known several people who've developed violent games (I have worked on several violent titles that did not ship). Every one of them agrees that violent media should be kept out of the hands of kids. They label stuff clearly as being adults only, and frequently even invest huge effort and expense into building parental controls, yet if their work somehow falls into the hands of a child they are the first to be blamed.
The most effective solution I know of is better parenting, but, considering that most parents in the US aren't competetant, that's not likely to work.
What convinced you, Bug? I liked the yellow-and-grey bar chart, but I can't say there was much in the article that actually convinced me. I agree that the general version is probably true -- but what is 'best methodology', how long does the effect last? What's the real baseline level, anyway?
Again, in general, I think I agree with the findings, but I'm intrigued as to why you found this article persuasive.
So, I'm curious -- what about this article changed your mind?
Personally, I've always thought it likely that exposing children to violent acts increases their likelihood of their initiating violent acts; that seems consistent with how monkeys work. But nothing in this article presented me with any new reason to believe it. Were you just unfamiliar with the literature prior to the article? Or was there something new and compelling about it that I just missed?
Mostly I was unfamiliar with any scientific literature prior to reading the article — up till now the stuff I've heard has been from people with clear axes to grind and usually taken to the extreme (e.g. "DOOM caused Columbine"). It's pretty easy to discount all that as plain old fear-mongering, and without further evidence I had discounted more reasoned positions along with the extreme view (standard thinking flaw #22, I know).
I should also say that I'm going from not thinking there was any effect at all to thinking there's some effect and it's in a bad direction. Whether that's a big problem or a little one is less clear — I'm thinking it's minor on the grand scheme of things but still something to think about with my own future kids.
I'm also using discount bullshit detection in this case — I haven't gone through the original study or followed up on any of the references — but the fact that they're addressing potential conceptual flaws (like the fact that aggressive thought doesn't equal agressive action) gives it more cred in my eyes.