Desensitization and Media Violence

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  • Topic: Violence, Media violence research, Aggression
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  • Published : March 27, 2013
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Discuss the relationship between violence in the media violence in the society. Does violence in the media make people more tolerant of violence in the society? Also, does violence in the media cause people to behave violently?

The impact of violence in the media relating to the society is an intense topic discussed in this century. Gerbner defined violence as “a threat or use of physical force, directed against the self or others in which physical harm or death is involved” (cited in Giddens, 2006, p. 610). The media includes different means of communication, such as television, radio, newspapers, video games; internet etc. People make use of media as a source of information, entertainment and leisure activity (Brown, 2005, p. 161). According to O’Donnell (2005), the two main roles of the media are to make profit in terms of money and promote particular ideology. The information that people see, hear or read has great influence on people’s identities, values and interests. It also affects the way people think and act regarding particular issues based on the “provided” evidence (Brown, 2005,p. 162). However, people have ability to evaluate and decide what they hear, see or read based on their social experiences, ethnic origin, social class and gender (Brown, 2005, p. 185). Now, the questions arise as, what is the relationship between media violence and the violence in the society? Whether media violence cause people to behave violently or it desensitizes people? Throughout this century, sociologists and researchers have examined these issues and have attempted to explain or disprove it using different theories and researches. In the first place, the media plays great role in shaping values, attitudes and behaviour through norm setting agenda. It reinforces conformity to social norms and discourages non-conformist behaviour (Brown, 2005, p.169). It also provides other information that the society feels important like weather and health. However, conflict approach declares that the media controls ideas and thoughts of the society through agenda setting and gate keeping (Brown, 2005, p. 169). In addition to that, the media used to enlarge the news of crime and violence to keep people occupied with these issues. For example, attacks older people, stabbing, raping and gang fights get over reported (Brown, 2005,p. 182). Thompson’s theory of audience models stated that interaction between media and people is “mediated quasi-interaction” which means there is no face to face or direct connection. So, it leaves the viewers in a discussion of unanswered questions. This promotes ideology and influence of what media wants on people (Giddens, 2006, p. 604). The gratification model audience uses the media for what they want and ignore the rest. Instead, hypodermic model audience what they hear, see or read without thinking about it (Giddens, 2006, p. 608&609). So, physically or emotionally “excited” viewers become easily stimulated by violence (Anderson & Wartell, 2003, p. 85). According to Brown (2005), “estimates suggest young viewers will see around 13000 murders on television”. Osofsky & Eisenberg (1995&2000) stated that exposure to violence undermine the development of emotion regulation skills. This leads to aggressive behaviour, attitudes and loss of problem solving strategies (cited in Funk et. al., 2004, p. 24). It also effects moral evaluation, as a result the viewer fails to perceive or respond to signs (Eron, 2001, cited in Funk et. al., 2004, p. 26). Researchers and sociologists refer these effects as “desensitization”. Desensitization occurs due to repeated exposure to real life violence (Ceballo et al., 2001, cited in Funk et. al., 2004, p. 26). Likewise, fictional violence like movies and video games also contribute to the violence behaviour (Funk et. al., 2004, p. 26). The media produces "a powerful desensitization intervention on a global level” (Science Daily, 2006). Furthermore, desensitization is divided into two...
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