THE ROLE OF MEDIA VIOLENCE IN VIOLENT BEHAVIOR
Annu. Rev. Public. Health. 2006.27:393-415. Downloaded from arjournals.annualreviews.org by UNIVERSITAT ZURICH. HAUPTBIBLIOTHEK IRCHEL on 03/22/06. For personal use only.
L. Rowell Huesmann1 and Laramie D. Taylor2
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-1248; email: email@example.com 2 Communication Department, University of California, Davis, California 95616; email: firstname.lastname@example.org 1
aggression, assault, TV, video games, imitation
■ Abstract Media violence poses a threat to public health inasmuch as it leads to an increase in real-world violence and aggression. Research shows that ﬁctional television and ﬁlm violence contribute to both a short-term and a long-term increase in aggression and violence in young viewers. Television news violence also contributes to increased violence, principally in the form of imitative suicides and acts of aggression. Video games are clearly capable of producing an increase in aggression and violence in the short term, although no long-term longitudinal studies capable of demonstrating long-term effects have been conducted. The relationship between media violence and real-world violence and aggression is moderated by the nature of the media content and characteristics of and social inﬂuences on the individual exposed to that content. Still, the average overall size of the effect is large enough to place it in the category of known threats to public health.
One of the notable changes in our social environment in the twentieth century is the advent and saturation of mass media. In this new environment, radio, television, movies, videos, video games, and computer networks have assumed central roles in our daily lives. For better or for worse, the mass media are having an enormous impact on our values, beliefs, and behaviors. Unfortunately, the consequences of one particular element of the mass media exposure has particularly detrimental effects on viewers’ and others’ health. Research evidence has accumulated over many years that exposure to violence on television and in video games increases the risk of violent behavior on the viewer’s part just as growing up in an environment ﬁlled with real violence increases the risk of violent behavior. In this review, we critically assess the research evidence that leads us to this conclusion, and we lay out the psychological theory that explains why exposure to violence has detrimental effects for both the short term and long term. Finally, we also compare the size of 0163-7525/06/0421-0393$20.00
the media violence effect with some other well-known threats to public health to estimate how important a threat it should be considered.
Before reviewing the research literature, however, we must emphasize several points. First, the weight of the evidence indicates that violent actions seldom result from a single cause; rather, multiple factors converging over time contribute to such behavior. Accordingly, the inﬂuence of the violent mass media is best viewed as one of the many potential factors that inﬂuence the risk for violence. No reputable researcher is suggesting that media violence is “the” cause of violent behavior. Second, a developmental perspective is essential to an adequate understanding of how media violence affects youthful conduct and to the formulation of a coherent public health response to this problem. Most youth who are aggressive and engage in some forms of antisocial behavior do not go on to become violent teens and adults (79). Still, research has shown that a signiﬁcant proportion of aggressive children are likely to grow up to be aggressive adults (59) and that seriously violent adolescents and...