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Unformatted text preview: in their study listened to an audio-taped passage of a rape. For some
participants, the passage indicated that the victim was hurt and disgusted, whereas others heard that
the victim became sexually aroused by the rape and was not hurt. A subsequent measure indicated
that those who heard about negative consequences to the rape victim were less accepting of
common rape myths than those who heard about positive consequences to the victim.
However, there is some theoretical and empirical support for the opposite view, that explicit
portrayal of blood, gore, or other painful consequences might increase aggressiveness on the part of
the viewer. Repeated exposure to such negative consequences can lead the viewer to experience
less of a negative emotional reaction to future scenes of blood and gore and to pain expressed by
victims. Such habituation (or desensitization) may well enable one to consider harming someone
without experiencing the negative emotional reactions that normally inhibit aggression.
Empirically, viewers who show less negative emotional reactions to viewing violence are more
likely to behave aggressively than those who show more negative reactions (Kirwil & Huesmann,
2003; Moise-Titus, 1999).
These few studies are not sufficient for firm conclusions. It may be that the short-term effects of Anderson, Berkowitz, Donnerstein, Huesmann, Johnson, Linz, Malamuth, & Wartella 54 portraying negative consequences differ from the long-term effects, and there may well be other
complicating factors involved. In any case, it is clear that additional research is needed on this
Little research to date has examined how cultural, environmental, and situational variables (e.g.,
place, presence of co-viewers) moderate the impact of media violence. However, the theories and
the data we have already reviewed suggest that such social factors might moderate the effect if they
alter the chances that the child will identify with aggressive characters, alter the child's perception
of the scene's reality, alter the chances that the child will watch violence, or alter the chances that
the child will carry out aggressive behaviors learned from watching the violence. Any of these
factors might be influenced by culture, neighborhood environment, or family.
Influence of Culture
There have been many studies on media violence carried out in countries other than the United
States, but few studies have examined the effect of media violence in non-Western cultures. Within
Western countries, the empirical results have mostly been similar, but with important exceptions.
For example, Huesmann and Eron (1986) reported there was no relation between viewing of TV
violence and aggression among Israeli children raised on a kibbutz, but found a moderate to strong
relation among Israeli children raised in a suburb. It may be that cultural environments with strong
sanctions against violence within the group mitigate the expression of any aggressive behaviors
learned from media violence. This could also explain why effects for U.S. females appear to be
much stronger among those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s than among those who grew up in
the 1950s and early 1960s. However, the lack of research in non-Western cultures and other
anomalies in the research in Western countries suggest that the full effects of culture and society
are not yet well understood. For example, in the preliminary results from a 15-year follow-up
among Polish females who experienced the social upheavals of the end of Communism as Media Violence 55 teenagers, Huesmann and Moise-Titus (1999) reported that those girls who were more aggressive
as children and watched more violence became less aggressive and more successful young adults
than the girls who had been less aggressive and watched less violence.
Influence of Neighborhood and SES
Low-SES children on average watch more television and television violence than high-SES
children (Comstock & Paik, 1991). The SES link to television viewing habits does not account for
the overall association between viewing media violence and aggression among youth (Huesmann et
al., 2003). Nor is there much evidence that low SES increases or decreases the effect of media
violence on behavior. That is, the effect of media violence on aggression appears essentially the
same on low- and high-SES children. However, the generally high dose of media violence given to
low-SES children is yet another risk factor for adulthood violence in this population.
Influence of Parents
From a theoretical standpoint, parents have the potential to be important moderators of the
effects of media violence on children. Children and adolescents form attitudes and beliefs and take
action as a result of their exposure to media content, but they also may discuss what they see with
others—especially parents and friends—and their responses may ultimately be shaped by these
interpersonal interactions. Singer and Singer (1986a, 1986b) proposed that when parents take an
active mediating approach toward television viewing by their children—including commenting
regularly and critica...
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- Spring '13
- The Land