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Unformatted text preview: SECTIONS HOME SUBSCRIBE NOW SEARCH OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR EDITORIAL ON THE GROUND OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR Where Police Violence Encounters Mental Illness President Obama’s Call to America’s Better Nature My Take on Obama’s State of the Union Address When the State of the Union Is Strong, but Doesn’t Feel Like It Is OPINION SundayReview Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing? Gray Matter By VASILIS K. POZIOS, PRAVEEN R. KAMBAM and H. ERIC BENDER AUG. 23, 2013 Email Share Tweet Save More LOG IN EARLIER this summer the actor Jim Carrey, a star of the new superhero movie “Kick-Ass 2,” tweeted that he was distancing himself from the film because, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, “in all good conscience I cannot support” the movie’s extensive and graphically violent scenes. Mark Millar, a creator of the “Kick-Ass” comic book series and one of the movie’s executive producers, responded that he has “never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real life any more than Harry Potter casting a spell creates more boy wizards in real life.” While Mr. Carrey’s point of view has its adherents, most people reflexively agree with Mr. Millar. After all, the logic goes, millions of Americans see violent imagery in films and on TV every day, but vanishingly few become killers. But a growing body of research indicates that this reasoning may be off base. Exposure to violent imagery does not preordain violence, but it is a risk factor. We would never say: “I’ve smoked cigarettes for a long time, and I don’t have lung cancer. Therefore there’s no link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.” So why use such flawed reasoning when it comes to media violence? Gray Matter Science and society. You Don’t Need More Free Time In ‘Star Wars,’ Was the Death Star Too Big to Fail? ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ Is Not How Our Brains Work Give It Up for Pluto The Arithmetic of Compassion See More » Olimpia Zagnoli There is now consensus that exposure to media violence is linked to actual violent behavior — a link found by many scholars to be on par with the correlation of exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of lung cancer. In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990, the psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paik found that the short-term effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength. Mr. Comstock and Ms. Paik also conducted a metaanalysis of studies that looked at the correlation between habitual viewing of violent media and aggressive behavior at a point in time. They found 200 studies showing a moderate, positive relationship between watching television violence and physical aggression against another person. Other studies have followed consumption of violent media and its behavioral effects throughout a person’s lifetime. In a meta-analysis of 42 studies involving nearly 5,000 participants, the psychologists Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman found a statistically significant small-to-moderate-strength relationship between watching violent media and acts of aggression or violence later in life. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics this year, the researchers Lindsay A. Robertson, Helena M. McAnally and Robert J. Hancox showed that watching excessive amounts of TV as a child or adolescent — in which most of the content contains violence — was causally associated with antisocial behavior in early adulthood. (An excessive amount here means more than two hours per weekday.) The question of causation, however, remains contested. What’s missing are studies on whether watching violent media directly leads to committing extreme violence. Because of the relative rarity of acts like school shootings and because of the ethical prohibitions on developing studies that definitively prove causation of such events, this is no surprise. Of course, the absence of evidence of a causative link is not evidence of its absence. Indeed, in 2005, The Lancet published a comprehensive review of the literature on media violence to date. The bottom line: The weight of the studies supports the position that exposure to media violence leads to aggression, desensitization toward violence and lack of sympathy for victims of violence, particularly in children. In fact the surgeon general, the National Institute of Mental Health and multiple professional organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association — all consider media violence exposure a risk factor for actual violence. To be fair, some question whether the correlations are significant enough to justify considering media violence a substantial public health issue. And violent behavior is a complex issue with a host of other risk factors. But although exposure to violent media isn’t the only or even the strongest risk factor for violence, it’s more easily modified than other risk factors (like being male or having a low socioeconomic status or low I.Q.). Certainly, many questions remain and more research needs to be done to determine what specific factors drive a person to commit acts of violence and what role media violence might play. But first we have to consider how best to address those questions. To prevent and treat public health issues like AIDS, cancer and heart disease, we focus on modifying factors correlated with an increased risk of a bad outcome. Similarly, we should strive to identify risk factors for violence and determine how they interact, who may be particularly affected by such factors and what can be done to reduce modifiable risk factors. Naturally, debate over media violence stirs up strong emotions because it raises concerns about the balance between public safety and freedom of speech. Even if violent media are conclusively found to cause real-life violence, we as a society may still decide that we are not willing to regulate violent content. That’s our right. But before we make that decision, we should rely on evidence, not instinct. Vasilis K. Pozios, Praveen R. Kambam and H. Eric Bender are forensic psychiatrists and the founders of the consulting group Broadcast Thought. A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 25, 2013, on page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing?. Today's Paper | Subscribe TRENDING 1. Ted Cruz Didn’t Disclose Loan From Goldman Sachs for His First Senate... 2. Just in Case: Dear Powerball Winner: Take Our Advice and Take the... 3. Ted Cruz Starts to Crack G.O.P. Establishment’s Wall of Opposition 4. First Draft: Nikki Haley Turns on Donald Trump in Rebuttal Address 5. Notebook: How Donald Trump Redeemed Nikki Haley 6. Critic's Notebook: How David Bowie Challenged MTV on Race 7. Restaurant Review: At Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Slips and Stumbles 8. Al Jazeera America to Shut Down by April 9. U.S. Will Track Secret Buyers of Luxury Real Estate 10. 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  • Winter '18
  • Hayg Oshagan
  • Mass Communication, media violence, NYT, Jim Carrey, VASILIS K. POZIOS

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