Flashcards in Explaining Media Influences on Aggression Deck (9)
Under normal conditions, aggressive stimuli cause physiological arousal in the sympathetic nervous system which increases heart rate and blood pressure, which prevents people from engaging in aggression or when faced with aggression want to remove themselves from it.
However, repeatedly viewing aggression in the media leads to a reduction in physiological arousal so that an aggressive stimulus which is usually aversive (e.g. a confrontation) has a diminished effect and produces little/no arousal in an individual
Therefore negative feelings associated with violence weaken and less empathy is felt for victims. The result of this effect is that individuals may be more likely to respond violently and aggressively when presented with the opportunity to do so.
Research showed that when habitual users of media violence watched violent films whilst having physiological arousal measured using Skin Conductance, participants showed lower levels of unpleasant arousal and higher levels of pleasant arousal (Krahe et al. 2011)
Most people are socialised to view violence and aggression as antisocial and harmful and therefore are inhibited against using aggression as a way to resolve conflicts in everyday life.
However, the media can change standards of acceptable behaviour and the usual inhibitions over aggressive behaviour are relaxed because it undermines the social sanctions which usually inhibit the behaviour. Aggression levels become normalised in media role models e.g. James Bond, superheroes, wrestlers.
Therefore, if the media portrays aggressive behaviour as being justified (e.g. if a superhero uses violence to capture a villain), a new social norm is learned for aggressive behaviour of ‘acceptance’ and the effects on its victims seen to be minimal with the aggression being rewarded in some way (e.g. a violent character such as James Bond receiving female attention).
Research showed that participants who watched a film showing aggression as a vengeful act (harming someone in return of a ‘wrong’ doing) gave a higher number of (fake) electric shocks and for longer durations to a confederate than those who watched a film showing aggression as an unprovoked act (Berkowitz & Alioto 1973)
Viewing aggressive behaviour helps to create a schema (or “script”) that is stored in memory, which can be later used and automatically triggered when we encounter cues in situations that we perceive as aggressive.
For example, a child who is provoked in the playground will use his/her internal schema for such situations, which may tell them that the way to 'win' is through an aggressive response rather than trying to diffuse the situation.
Therefore, the violence in computer games has the effect of 'priming' an individual for aggression e.g. playing a computer game in which the player kills off another character may activate (i.e. prime) thoughts of physical fighting which could prompt that individual to act aggressively.
Research showed that participants who listened to aggressively derogatory song lyrics about women later recalled more negative attributes of women and reported higher levels of aggression towards women. They also acted more aggressively towards a female confederate by giving her higher levels of hot chilli sauce than those who listened to neutral song lyrics. (Greitemeyer 2006)
Practical applications of research investigating media influences and disinhibition
American army recruitment strategy of selecting habitual users of violent media and have an interest in violence therefore a dishinhibited response to aggression
games as a recruiting tool, select individuals who in war like situations are likely to behave in an aggressive and violent way, aggressive response as the norm
if not could have potential issues for their own survival
supports the value of disinhibition
alternative explanations for desensitisation
contradictory research studies found no links between habitual media viewing, lower arousal and aggressive behaviour
more valid may be the psychodynamic explanation of catharsis
aggressive influences may prevent people from behaving aggressively in real life, reduces the validity of desensitization as an explanation