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Aggression & Violent Media

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Dr. H. C. Sinclair

on 1 February 2018

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Transcript of Aggression & Violent Media

Virtually every major theory of human aggression, including social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), cognitive neoassociation theory (Berkowitz, 1990), script theory (Huesmann, 1998), and the General Aggression Model (GAM; Anderson & Bushman, 2002), predicts that repeated simulation of antisocial behavior will produce an increase in antisocial behavior (e.g., aggression) and a decrease in prosocial behavior (e.g., helping) outside the simulated environment (i.e., in “real life”) - Sestir & Bartholow, 2010, pg. 934
Behavior learned via:
Rewards & Punishments

In Theory...
General Aggression Model
Correlational research
EXAMPLE: Delisi et al. (2013)
227 Juvenile Offenders (55% male, b/t 14-18)
Playing violent video games and/or having a preference for violent video games was correlated with rates of delinquency and violence.
Even when controlling for the effects of screen time, years playing video games, age,sex, race, delinquency history, and psychopathic personality traits
Classic example (Leftkowitz et al., 1977):
psychophysiological Research
Engelhardt et al. (2011)
Typical design:
Randomly assign participants to play violent vs. non-violent video game (matched on enjoyment & difficulty levels)
A little more complicated...
Mediated Effects Model
SO Let's Review the Evidence & you can decide for yourself
Examining links between violent media and aggression
Are we DOOMed to be aggressive?
Therein lies the controversy.
Social Learning THeory
The Controversy
still many believe there is no link…
Some say consider the sources...
Initially addressed familial influences on the transmission of aggressive behavior, but was been extended to address influence of the media
Does violent media exposure increase the likelihood of violent behavior?
What do you think?
Thought Question:
When children sit down to watch Sesame Street, do they learn?
Do they stop learning when media isn't specifically "educational?"
By the time an American youth is 18 years old, s/he will have witnessed an average of 200,000 acts of violence.

Does this have any effect?
What are the contributing factors?
Do you believe condom use reduces the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases?
Do you believe exposure to lead reduces children's IQ scores?
Or that asbestos exposure or secondhand smoke exposure increases cancer risk?
The effect sizes for all of those correlations are smaller than the effect size generated from meta-analyses of studies examining the link between media & aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 2000).
“Even a small effect can have large societal consequences…”
Bushman & Anderson, 2001
Some Critiques
Focus on lack of immediacy of (extreme) effects
That's just an anecdote, right?
An n of 1.
Early Critiques
Belief in the Catharsis Hypothesis
And yet anecdotes are fine when claiming "I watch violent media/play violent games and I'm not violent..."
Other critiques
Remember "Third person effects?"
That research claims media ONLY factor
Additional Misinterpretations
Actually it is a little more complicated than that...
Other Errors
Of the fundamental sort
"Fundamental Attribution Errors"
General Criticism
Of the methodology of individual studies...
As opposed to looking at the convergence of evidence across multiple methods.
But it is a little more complicated than just media violence = violence
So Are we Doomed to be Aggressive?
Let's revisit the GAM
Consider protective factors as well
So when violent events happen we point first to identifying "what is WRONG with that person!?" We underestimate the influences of the environment.
Critics focus on "violence."
Advocates focus on "aggression."
Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA)
One of many "risk factors"
This is your brain on video games
Now Available in fMRI
Limitation: Correlation does not equal causation
Limitation: New area, unknown if these activations (or lack thereof) are directly linked to behavior
Typical survey of various samples
Just cut to the Meta-Analysis
Violent media exposure (e.g., video game play)
Enjoyment of violent media
Anti-social (vs. Pro-social) behavioral history
Aggressive affect & arousal (e.g., anger, fear, hostility)
Aggressive personality
Aggressive cognition
Accessibility of aggressive thoughts
Hostile Attribution Bias
Hostile Perception Bias
Hostile Expectation Bias
Aggressive scripts
Desensitization towards Violence
then control for various confounds
Linked to desensitization:
Participants reported their media habits and then played one of eight violent or nonviolent video games for 20 min.
Next, participants watched a 10-min videotape containing scenes of real-life violence while heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR) were monitored.
Participants who previously played a violent video game had lower HR and GSR while viewing filmed real violence, demonstrating a physiological desensitization to violence.
Carnagey et al. 2007
Also Linked to Sleep Disruptions (Ivarsson et al., 2013)
Effects on behavior may be limited to short term (but effects on cognition endure, see Hasan et al., 2013b)
And are they really measuring aggressive behavior in a way that generalizes to violence?
Effects may be explained by variables other than violence level:
competitiveness of game (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011)
level of game frustration (controlled by challenge level of game) (Williams, 2013)
extent to which individuals get lost into the game (e.g., experience "presence") or level of SELF investment (Williams, 2013)
Individuals get aggressive after highly competitive, highly frustrating games, especially when they identify with characters.
Aggressive behavior (e.g., white noise, hot sauce...)
Aggressive thoughts
Aggressive affect
Example Study
Hasan et al. (2013a) investigated whether violent games increase aggression by inducing stress in players.
Participants randomly assigned to 20-min of violent or non-violent game play
Stress was measured using cardiac coherence (i.e., the synchronization of the rhythm of breathing to the rhythm of the heart).
Aggression was measured with duration and intensity of noise blasts
Violent crime in the U.S. has dropped about 27 % since 1993, murder 50%.

However, self-reported violent offending by American youth has not declined (US DHHS, 2001), school violence is up, & homicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 24.
Violent media exposure breaks down barriers to aggressive actions (e.g., through desensitization), increases accessibility of aggressive scripts for responding, and heightens perception that world is threatening.
Does this heighten the risk for aggressive behavior?
Are these mediators or moderators?
Example Study
Recent Example
Willoughby et al. (2012) surveyed 1,492 adolescents annually from Grade 9 - 12 about video game play and aggressive behaviors.
Directly assessed the

violent video game play predicts aggression over time
aggression predicts violent video game play over time.
Sustained violent video game play was significantly related to steeper increases in adolescents’ trajectory of aggressive behavior over time.
Higher frequency violent video game play predicted higher levels of aggression over time, after controlling for array of variables (e.g., previous levels of aggression, peer deviance, sports involvement, etc),
supporting the socialization hypothesis.
No support was found for the selection hypothesis.
Nonviolent video game play also did not predict higher levels of aggressive behavior over time
This research started long before violent video games, still longitudinal research is hard to come by. This is cited as a limitation by opponents, but an ethical constraint by proponents.
In a 22 year long study, they found that, among boys, amount of TV violence watched during 3rd grade was positively correlated with aggressiveness 10 years later (whereas the correlation between aggressiveness in 3rd grade and violent media watched a decade later was near zero).
A later Follow-up
Subsequently, Huesmann et al. (1984) followed up with the sample and found:

Seriousness of the crimes for which males had been convicted at age 30 was significantly correlated with:
Amount of television watched
And their liking of violent programs as 8-year olds.
Again, aggressiveness at age 8 was not related to violent media viewing preferences at age 30.
Now you be the judge: What do you think?
Is there a harm? Is there a benefit?
Enrique's dog, Loca, has not been coming when he calls her. He tells his friend that he thinks Loca is intentionally ignoring him to make him feel bad for having been gone on a business trip the preceding week. (When, in fact, Loca is going deaf.) Enrique's interpretation of Loca's behavior is an example of what?

A) Hostile Attribution Bias
B) Hostile Perception Bias
C) Hostile Expectation Bias
D) All of the above
A decrease in activity in the _________________ indicates that the individual may be more likely to make risky decisions, particularly the more challenging the situation.

A) The locus coerulus
B) The vACC
C) Amygdala
D) Left inferior frontal gyrus
Believe that relationship is illusory correlation due to individual difference variables.
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