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As a lifelong “gamer” I know that my opinion about media violence influencing societal violence is somewhat biased. Although this may be true I find it very interesting that the majority of the peer-reviewed articles concerning the influence of media violence are correlational in nature. I’ve heard too many times in my educational career that a correlation does not imply causation, I think as critical thinkers we need to realize that there may be a bias behind the research concerning media violence. I am completely against the assertion that media violence causes violent behavior, much of the research I did find failed to report a conclusive operational definition of violence.

Read Part 2 of our research series.

I had a very hard time finding any articles that have been able to show that after manipulating independent and dependent variables media violence was a statistically significant factor in influencing violent behavior. According to Harris (2010) hundreds of studies have shown some negative psychological effects of media violence, much of these studies were tested in a laboratory and were short term studies. I feel this fact does not allow us to assert that media violence can influence real-world violent behavior, besides the measurements for these conclusions are based on attitudinal reports.

Studies from 1977 and 1984 are in no way related to changes in media we see today. The recent research in this chapter also points to research in 2003 but again it is correlational in nature, furthermore they obtained data on the violent TV they watched. Are we to assume that their definition of violence fully explains violent behavior in itself? Is tapping my pencil or typing on my keyboard too hard considered violence, I feel that virtually any behavior can be labeled violent. Even in my response to this discussion, my feelings about this topic could in some way be construed as violent. I have a very hard time thinking that we are all passive zombies to media, not every individual will be influenced by media or violent media in the same.

Although Harris (2009) states that violent media does have several negative behavioral and attitudinal effects, especially with modeling and desensitization he also states that the effects, “are not uniform and frequently are moderated by others variables” (Harris, 2009). Harris goes on to explain that, “no one but the most strident media bashers seriously argue that violence in media are to blame for all societal violence”. As a scholar practitioner I am more inclined to believe in peer-reviewed research and not rely on “media bashers” for conclusive evidence that media violence causes violent behavior. Research by Ferguson (2010) concluded that there was no link between violent video games and aggressive behavior, the results actually suggested that violent video games reduced depression and hostile feelings through mood management.

Recent research has argued that many of the negative effects of violent are exaggerated by the scientific community (Ferguson, 2010). I feel that we should not assume many of the claims concerning the effects violent media as being statistically significant, reliable or valid. Additional research by Ferguson (2010) has found that many studies are based on unpublished studies; this simple fact shows us that we should not assume every study about violent media is reliable or valid. I think it’s important to note that increases in the use of violent video games have actually been correlated with dramatic decreases in youth violence (r=-.95, an almost perfect correlation), I’m again aware that correlation does not imply causality but this relationship is far stronger than the reported r=.15 estimate of Anderson (2004) who reported that violent video games imply outward violent behavior. The meta-analysis by Anderson (2004) found only weak effects and much of their research overestimated and over interpreted the influence of violent video games on aggression.

Recent research by Ivory (2007) concluded that although violent video games,” increased players’ sense of presence, feelings of involvement, and arousal” they did not significantly affect aggressive thoughts or feelings. Additionally, longitudinal research by Williams (2005) examined changes in aggressive cognitions and behavior in individuals who played violent video games. The results of the study did not support the assertion that a violent game usage causes increases in real-world aggression. Lastly, research by Wei (2007) suggests that the link between aggression and exposure to violent video games was non-significant, concluding that that playing violent video games better explains attitudinal outcomes as opposed to overt violent behavior. I hope this has made you think critically about how media violence “causes” violent behavior.
By Jim Crenshaw


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