The Influence of the Media on Antisocial Behavior

The Influence of the Media on Antisocial Behavior
There are many studies and examples to indicate that the amount of violence children witness on television or see through other forms of media are reflected in their own levels of aggression and violence. Studies into this include Bandura?s Bobo Doll study, Parke?s and Leynes? studies into teenage aggression, Black and Bevan?s study into violence and the cinema and the St. Helena study. These studies had varying results but on the whole they support the theory that prolonged viewing of violence in the media equates to increased violence and aggression in real life. Bandura conducted a laboratory experiment to see whether aggressive acts by adults towards a Bobo doll would be copied by the children watching and whether the way in which the adult was treated after, either rewarded, punished or no feedback, would affect the results.
Bandura found that children who had witnessed the model-rewarded or no consequences condition were more likely to imitate observed behaviour than the children who had witnessed the model-punished condition. However, in a second part of the study when children were offered rewards to recall the behaviour witnessed it was found that all three groups scored equally well suggesting that whilst punishment, or the threat of punishment, may stop the copying of acts it does not stop one from learning them. Bandura?s study is good because, as a laboratory experiment, it was conducted in a controlled environment and one can easily establish cause and effect. Also there is tight control over extraneous variables. However, the fact that it was a laboratory experiment means that it has low ecological validity. Although it can easily be repeated it was not in a natural setting. The results achieved may also be due to demand characteristics and the ethics of the study are also in question. Should experimenters really encourage acts of violence in children? Field experiments have far higher ecological validity than laboratory ones but there is poor control over extraneous variables as it is in a natural setting and it can only measure short term effects. Parke et al investigated boys in an institution where the amount of television and the type of television could be controlled. The juvenile offenders were shown films that either did or did not contain violence. Observers then coded the amount of violence demonstrated by the two sets of boys during that day. It was found that those who had watched the violent films were more likely to demonstrate violent behaviour. In a second part of the experiment the boys gave fake electric shocks to someone who had provoked them. The boys who had seen the violent films were found to be more likely to give more shocks. Whilst this study clearly demonstrates a correlation between media and actual violence the sample was most certainly not representative. The sample consisted of only boys and, as they were already offenders, they simply could be more inclined towards violence in the first place. An example of a naturalistic experiment into media affects of violence is the St. Helena study. Satellite television was introduced to the island in 1995 before which there was no television whatsoever. Before and after the introduction of television cameras filmed children aged 3 ? 8 in the school playground to measure the levels of aggression. Analysts noticed no difference in the children?s behaviour before and after television despite the fact that the television shown had more violent acts than that in the UK. A possible explanation for this is that there was a strong sense of community with high moral, familial and societal values on the island which would over-ride any aggressive tendencies the influence of television might create. Correlational studies look at the relationships between variables, such as criminal behaviour and personality types. Longitudinal studies can be advantageous as they look at the long term consequences. However, one major disadvantage is that one cannot establish cause and effect. It might be that people who watch more violence on television are affected by this and therefore demonstrate more violence or it may be that some people are naturally more violent by nature and therefore seek out and watch more violent television. Eron conducted a longitudinal study over a period of twenty years. He studied the correlation between the amount of television violence watched and the amount of violence displayed. The results for girls were insignificant although the more media violence the boys were exposed to, the more likely they were to be convicted of violent crime by the age of thirty. This supports that media violence can affect violence in later life but, again, the results for the boys could be explained by them being more violent first and therefore watching more violence. The main problem with correlational studies is that one cannot determine cause and effect. Also longitudinal studies may suffer from high drop-out rates due to the length of the study. Whilst most of these studies show some relationship between the amount of media violence witnessed and the amount of aggressive behaviour displayed the cause and effect can often not be determined therefore it may be a person?s aggressive nature that dictates how much media violence is witnessed instead of the amount of violence viewed causing the aggressive behaviour. Each type of study has its drawbacks and whilst results are suggestive of media affecting aggressive behaviour these studies are by no means conclusive. Also, there are other factors such as society and upbringing that can affect the development of aggressive behaviour, or lack thereof.

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