Influence of Media on the Youth

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PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
VOL. 4, NO. 3, DECEMBER 2003
Copyright © 2003 American Psychological Society
81
Summary—Research on violent television and films, video
games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior
in both immediate and long-term contexts. The effects
appear larger for milder than for more severe forms of aggression, but the effects on severe forms of violence are also substantial (
r

.13 to .32) when compared with effects of other
violence risk factors or medical effects deemed important by the medical community (e.g., effect of aspirin on heart attacks). The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings. The evidence is clearest within the most extensively researched domain, television and film violence. The growing body of video-game research

yields essentially the same conclusions.
Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically
and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and
aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including
physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely
violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with
larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much
habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the
risk for extreme violence.
Well-supported theory delineates why and when exposure
to media violence increases aggression and violence. Media
violence produces short-term increases by priming existing
aggressive scripts and cognitions, increasing physiological
arousal, and triggering an automatic tendency to imitate observed behaviors. Media violence produces long-term effects
via several types of learning processes leading to the acquisition of lasting (and automatically accessible) aggressive
scripts, interpretational schemas, and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and by reducing individuals’ THE INFLUENCE OF MEDIA
VIOLENCE ON YOUTH
Craig A. Anderson,
1
Leonard Berkowitz,
2
Edward Donnerstein,
3
L. Rowell Huesmann,
4
James D. Johnson,
5
Daniel Linz,
6
Neil M. Malamuth,
7
and Ellen Wartella
8
1
Department of Psychology, Iowa State University;
2
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin;
3
College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, University of Arizona; 4
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan;
5
Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina-Wilmington; 6
Department of Communication and Law and Society Program,
University of California, Santa Barbara;
7
Department of Communication/Speech, University of California, Los Angeles; and
8
College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
normal negative emotional responses to violence (i.e., desensitization). Certain characteristics of viewers (e.g., identification with aggressive characters), social environments (e.g., parental influences), and media content (e.g., attractiveness of the perpetrator)

can influence the degree to which media violence
affects aggression, but there are some inconsistencies in research results. This research also suggests some avenues for
preventive intervention (e.g., parental supervision, interpretation, and control of children’s media use). However, extant research on moderators suggests that no one is wholly immune
to the effects of media violence.
Recent surveys reveal an extensive presence of violence in
modern media. Furthermore, many children and youth spend
an inordinate amount of time consuming violent media. Although it is clear that reducing exposure to media violence
will reduce aggression and violence, it is less clear what sorts of interventions will produce a reduction in exposure....
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