Predicting Exposure to and Liking of Media Violence: A Uses and Gratifications Approach

Article excerpt

The desire to consume media is influenced by a host of social and psychological factors (Finn, 1992, 1997; Krcmar &: Greene, 1999; Weaver, 1991). Those very factors (e.g., sensation seeking, neuroticism), however, that have been implicated as motivators for media exposure have also been used to explain problem behaviors. For example, sensation seeking predicts both exposure to violent media (Krcmar & Greene, 1999) and aggressive behavior (Zuckerman, 1994). Yet many studies separately examine personality (e.g., Jessor, 1987) or media exposure in relation to behavioral outcomes. Therefore, one ongoing problem is the lack of agreement concerning the relations among personality factors, media use, and negative behavioral outcomes.

The uses and gratifications perspective attempts to address this problem by arguing personality factors might influence media use and that media use in turn might affect outcome behaviors--some of which are unintended effects. The present study utilizes a uses and gratifications perspective (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974) to examine a model of the link between relevant personality factors, media use and enjoyment, and negative behavioral outcomes (i.e., fighting, delinquency, or drinking and driving). Specifically, we (1) investigate the effect of several important personality factors on exposure to media genres (especially violent media); (2) investigate the effect of personality factors on liking of those genres; and (3) examine the way in which media exposure and media liking can moderate the link between those personality factors under investigation and negative behavioral outcomes, specifically risk taking. This study makes several new contributions to the literature. First, this research looks independently at the predictors of exposure to media violence and enjoyment of this fare, making the study novel in its contribution to the uses and gratifications framework. Second, little research has examined androgyny, as opposed to biological sex, as a possible predictor for exposure to media violence. Lastly, this study combines a uses and gratifications approach with examination of risk taking. In addition, although this study examines the personality correlates of exposure to and liking of violent media, and not the uses and gratifications of exposure to violent content per se, we reasoned that an analysis of personality factors would provide initial information about the types of individuals who choose to watch violent television. In doing so, groundwork could be laid for further study of the ways in which individuals use violent television.

In this study, we will focus on those factors (i.e., verbal aggression, argumentativeness, sensation seeking) that have frequently been used to explain both media choice and problem behavior. Although sensation seeking has been used to examine risk taking and media use, verbal aggressiveness and argumentativeness generally have not. However, aggressive tendencies have been posited as a theoretical predictor for risk taking (e.g., Jessor, 1987) and attraction to media violence. We have chosen verbal aggression and argumentativeness rather than simply physical aggressiveness because we believe that in our adolescent sample, such results would be less affected by social desirability and also, therefore, have more variance.

In the past decade, media-effects researchers have progressively reached consensus that exposure to television violence can result in aggressive behavior (e.g., Donnerstein, Slaby, & Eron, 1994; Paik & Comstock, 1994; Wilson et al., 1997). Several studies have demonstrated that television violence can cause imitation of violent acts (e.g., Paik & Comstock, 1994), desensitization (e.g., Thomas, Horton, Lippencott, & Drabman, 1977), and the conception of the world as a mean and scary place (e.g., Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1994). Although it is generally recognized that television violence affects behavior, social critics continue to argue that the effects of television violence are more subtle and insidious. …