A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Violence: Watching All That
Mayhem Really Matters

Q: What is the overall conclusion from the research about the effects of watching media violence?

A: Of the 3,500 research studies conducted since 1950 studying the effects of watching media violence, all but 18 (i.e., 99.5%) show negative effects of violent entertainment. (Grossman & deGaetano, 2001).

Q: How many murders has the average child seen on TV by the time he or she finishes elementary school?

A: Eight thousand, plus 100,000 other acts of violence (Huston et al., 1992). If they happened to have seen the film Die Hard 2, they saw 264 murders in that movie alone!

Q: How many hours per week do eighth graders spend playing video games?

A: Boys spend 4.2 hours and girls 2 hours, mostly at home (Funk, 1993a).

Although specific figures depend on our precise operational definition, the reality of media, especially television and film in the United States, Japan, India, and elsewhere, is a highly violent world. Around 60% of American TV programs and 90% of the movies on TV contain some sort of violence (National Television Violence Study, 1997). On U. S. television, there are 14 violent acts per hour on children's programming (Strasburger & Wilson, 2002), and children's programming overall has the most violence, much of which is trivialized, glamorized, and sanitized (Wilson, Smith, Potter, Kunkel, Linz, Colvin, & Donnerstein, 2002). Considerable violence even occurs in programming we do not immediately associate with aggression, such as news, music videos, and even commercials aimed at children. Also, the large majority of video games (85%) are violent (Funk, 1993b; Provenzo, 1991).

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