The most popular theoretical perspective on media violence is the social learning theory as it addresses the immediate impact on exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior. Albert Bandura’s 1963 study looked at the evidence in which children mirrored aggression after observation. The children involved in his study were shown acts of aggression, and then were individually measured for aggression. The result was that the children exhibited angry behavior while playing with various toys.
The subjects in the research included 48 boys and 48 girls ranging from three to six years of age (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963, pp2). The children were evenly divided into four groups which consisted of three experimental groups and one control group. The first group witnessed real-life aggressive models, the second group viewed these same models depicting aggression on film, the third group watched aggressive cartoon characters and the control group was not subjected to the aggressive behavior (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963, pp 7, 9).
Upon completion of his experience, Bandura concluded that, The results of the present study provided strong evidence that exposure to filmed aggression heightens aggressive reactions in children. Subjects who viewed the aggressive human and cartoon models on film exhibited nearly twice as much aggression than did subjects in the control group who were not exposed to the aggressive film content (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963, pp 7, 9). Researchers Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman would agree with Bandura’s conclusion based on the research they conducted in 2001.
Anderson and Bushman’s examination offers proof of an association between exposure to violent video games and an aggressive demeanor. The researchers examined 33 separate tests and determined that the connection between extreme violence in video game and high levels of aggression is persuasive. In 2001, Joanne Steward and Franco Follina co-authored an article entitled “Informing policies in forensic settings: A review of research investigating the effects of exposure to media violence on challenging/Offending Behavior.
” It was published in the British Journal of Forensic and stated that Bandura’s study suggests that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal, hostility, aggressive cognitions and, subsequently, aggressive behaviors. The researchers also found that playing violent video games had a detrimental effect on pro-social behavior. These results are found when using both experimental and non-experimental methods” (2006, pp 7).
Bandura’s 1963 research combined with Anderson and Bushman’s 2001 study are consistent in demonstrating that exposure to media violence increases aggressive behavior in children. Evidence collected by this research is supported by instances of specific violent crimes. One such crime occurred in Paducah, Kentucky. A student shot eight fellow classmates and succeeded in hitting one student each time he fired his weapon. The student had never fired an actual weapon – his only weapon experience occurred through playing video games. (Smith, Barry 2006 p. 2).
Positive Affects of Media Violence In contrast to Anderson and Bushman’s research, Paul Lynch’s 1994 findings rejected the claim of a link between exposure to media violence and increased physiological responses. In addition, Lynch’s findings contradicted the assumption that playing violent video games increased cardiovascular responses in adolescent males over those of a control group playing non-violent video games. Finally, Lynch’s information suggested that there was no distinction between the heart rate and blood pressure of the two groups (Steward J, Follina F, 2006 pp4-5).
Doctor Daniel Linz, Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of California, Santa Barbara conducted a separate study in 1988. This study disclosed that media audiences often subjected to violence had reduced anxiety levels, diminished depression, and a more effective response to violence. These results insinuate that audiences who are consistently subjected to violence become desensitized to it. Censorship of media violence could increase individual reactions by eliminating this desensitization (Steward J, Follina F, 2006 pp 5).