Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence

By Cantor, Joanne | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence


Cantor, Joanne, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


* Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence. Jonathan L. Freedman. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. 227 pp. $50 hbk. $24.95 pbk.

"In 1999 I was approached by the Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA] and asked whether I would consider conducting a comprehensive review of all the research on media violence," says Jonathan L. Freedman in the Preface to Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression. The media's cultivation of academics who disparage research showing that their products are harmful is not new: It goes back at least as far as Will Hays' lavish support of Mortimer Adler in the 1930s (Adler 1977, 193-94; Vaughn 2003). Freedman, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has never conducted his own research on media violence, claims that the financial support has not affected his objectivity, although he does not hesitate to see ulterior motives in the scientists and professionals who disagree with his conclusions.

Freedman expresses outrage at social scientists and public health organizations for wrongly (in his view) concluding that media violence promotes aggressive behavior. His criticism essentially boils down to two arguments. The first is that the professional organizations have exaggerated the number of scientific studies that have been conducted on the topic. The second is that a study-by-study analysis reveals that there is no consensus in the findings.

Freedman is correct that the number of studies has sometimes been overstated. Although some organizations have cited a number as high as 3,500, recent meta-analyses have placed the number between 200 and 300. Freedman explains that the inflated number originally referred to all types of articles about media effects, not just scientific studies of media violence. Somehow this number was picked up by others and misapplied. Freedman considers this "the worst kind of irresponsible behavior" and finds the use of this figure to be as "sloppy" as an economist saying that his research was based on data from "over 150 American states"!

Freedman never says how many more studies he would consider necessary. If we look at research findings in other areas, however, 200 would seem quite sufficient. For example, the finding that calcium intake increases bone mass is based on thirty-three studies (Welten, Kemper, Post, and van Staveren 1995); the conclusion that exposure to lead results in low I.Q. scores is based on twenty-four studies (Needleman and Gatsonis 1990).

The bulk of the book includes a tedious, close analysis of every published scientific study of the effects of media violence on aggression or desensitization that Freedman could find. (See the Reference List for some he missed and more recent compelling evidence). Not surprisingly, Freedman considers many studies unconvincing. Although some of his criticisms of individual studies are justified, he seems strongly motivated to find flaws. Moreover, after giving an exhaustive explanation of research methods, he forgets one basic principle: that the lack of a statistically significant difference is not the same as a finding of no effect. In addition, he disputes the fact that meta-analysis, which statistically combines all the findings in an area and eliminates the subjective interpretation of individual studies (Mann 1994), is an appropriate way to discover a research consensus. Freedman discusses two meta-analyses (Paik and Comstock 1994; Wood, Wong, and Chachere 1991) that report a clear conclusion that media violence promotes aggression, but he dismisses them. Two recent meta-analyses (Anderson and Bushman 2001; Bushman and Anderson 2001) are not included. Freedman also chooses not to cover research on media violence's effect on fear, simply claiming that "the research has not provided much support for it."

Why does Freedman think there is so much bias in the interpretation of media violence research? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.