The first of these theories suggests that rather than be harmful violence in the media actually has a positive effect on society. The central assumption of the Catharsis Theory is that people, in course of daily life, build up frustrations. Vicarious participation in others' aggressions help release those tensions.
In other words, every day we frustrations in us build up. Without a release valve we risk the chance of becoming violent, or at least aggressive. You do poorly on a test. You have to park to far away from the classroom. Some jerk cuts in front of you on the freeway. You get home and your significant other, or a child, starts demanding your attention. You snap back by yelling or hitting. That counts as violence as much as shooting someone. It is only a matter of degree. The Catharsis theorist would say that by watching violence in the media you release some of that tension and are less likely to be aggressive or violent. But can you say the same thing about sex in the media?
Aggressive Cues Theory
Then there is the opposite view, that violence DOES have an impact. Probably most prevalent of these theories is the Aggressive Cues Theory that has as its central assumption this: Exposure to aggressive stimuli will increase physiological and emotional arousal, which will increase the probability of violence.
In other words, all that violence gets the adrenaline juices in us flowing and makes us more edgy, increasing the chance that we'll be more aggressive or more violent. Aggressive Cues theorists are quick to point out that watching violence does not mean we'll always be more aggressive or violent, but it increases the chances.
And the way in which the violence is presented will have an impact on us, too. If we can relate to the protagonist committing the violence, or if the violence is presented in a justifiable way, we can be led to aggressive behavior.
If a bratty kid gets spanked in a media portrayal ‐‐clearly an aggressive and...