Discuss about the Psychology for Media Violence and Aggression.
Aggression is termed as the behavior that is hostile where a person exerts power over others in manner that violates the rights of others Generally speaking, aggression refers to any form of behavior that is directed to harm or cause injury to another living being who is motivated to avoid such hostile treatment. Analyzing the types of behaviors an individual exhibit, aggressive behaviors can be categorized into two broad categories encompassing reactive or proactive attitude. Reactive aggressive behaviors are generally unplanned and impulsive reactions to certain circumstances expressing anger, fear or desire to retaliate against somebody. Contrarily proactive aggressive behaviors are calculated, measured and intended actions that have specific motives other than just harming someone. In this regard, the concept of bullying may be cited as an example of proactive aggressive behavior (Krahé, 2013). In general aggressive behaviors are characterized by behaviors and practices ranging from physical violence, verbal hostility, and nonverbal intimidation, to destruction of property in many cases. However, these aggressive characters in a person are not the resultant effect of just one day and seem to precipitate over many day time and warning signs include social exclusion or withdrawal, losing of temper, expression of violent behavior through writing or other art forms, unfair and unrealistic attitudes towards person.
The aggressive forms of behaviors according to the social psychologists may be studied by virtue of many approaches. Self report, archival report and direct observational study methods both in the natural context as well as laboratory setting are some of the procedures followed to understand and analyze these types of behaviors in persons (Miller, 2015). Relevant studies also reveal that factors such as personality types, environmental types, upbringing conditions and certain intrinsic cultural values might influence the development of aggressive behavior in a person. However, the genetic component of aggressive behavior is a debatable issue and needs further exploration (Vassos, Collier, & Fazel, 2014). In recent times, the influence of media violence in increasing the likelihood of aggressive behavior in a person have been extensively studied and theories, principles and models relating to such behavior need to be critically analyzed to get a better understanding of such behavioral projection that will be addressed elaborately in the subsequent sections (Anderson et al., 2003).
The technological advancement in modern times has paved the way for the vast expansion of user accessibility to virtual and mass media sources. This seems to have impacted the behavioral pattern in persons who are exposed to these avenues of communication. One such aspect is evident in mass media’s penetration to everyday life of people and evoking aggressive responses. Studies corroborate these findings that suggest through meta-analyses that violent media can accentuate angry feelings, physiological arousal, aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Such behaviors are attributed to the vision of the world as a hostile place by the concerned persons (Bushman, 2016). Instrumental aggression is the pivotal behavior getting affected in such persons and can be explained under the light of the cognitive neo-associationist model of aggression. This model highlights the effect of unpleasant event including frustration, social stress, pain and others that contribute to the inception of feelings like irritation, annoyance or anger (Smith, Mackie, & Claypool, 2014). Evidences from empirical researches reveal that violent TV shows, playing violent video games or involvement in low levels of aggression during sports activities, listening to music with harsh and violent lyrics account for aggressive behaviors in persons through communication media serving as the point of generation of aggressive behaviors. However, only media exposure to violence is not the solo reason affecting how a person reacts and responds to a specific situation. Other confounding factors such as individuality of a person, socio-cultural upbringing and environment might also generate aggression in persons. A contradictory picture to what has been showcased through most of the investigations that media violence negatively affect person’s behavior, a potent optimistic view has been opined out of other relevant researches where media promoting helping, educational and presocial messages can cause the aggressive behaviors to reduce and facilitate empathy and helping attitudes. Children are found to be much more prone to the effects of media violence due to increasing availability of multimedia portable devices. Adults exhibit practices of assault, gang fighting, intimate partner violence and robbery due to violent media exposure (Anderson et al., 2015).
The differentiating responses under diverse media exposure may be discussed relating to the Social Learning Theory proposed by Bandura et al. The theory states that it might not occur always that frustration will lead to aggression but instead prepare an individual to cope up with a demanding or threatening situation. In this context aggressive response learning may find its application through reinforcement or by imitation or by modeling. Thus social learning emphasizes on the roles of modeling, identification and human interactions at the centre of its guiding principle. According to the proponents of this theory behavior is essentially a net effect of the interplay between cognitive and environmental factors, an ideology referred to as reciprocal determinism. Operant conditional learning as suggested in the theory can contribute to acquisition of different behaviors achieved through direct or indirect observation method (Argyle, 2013). Thus media violence generate out of multiple issues that culminate in showing aggression among persons.
A deeper probe into the empirical researches concerning media violence and association with aggressive tendencies has indicated certain crucial aspects. Study suggests longitudinal cross-lagged relations between prosocial TV (content and duration) and prosocial and aggressive attitude during adolescence, and the mediating acts for empathic concern and self regulation. Behavior and prosocial personality are found to influence the media selection choice among the adolescents and feasibility of the target of the prosocial behavior need to be assessed in this matter. Results procured out of the study implied that media violence prompted aggressiveness among adolescents compared to their neutral counterparts (Padilla-Walker et al., 2015). Similar studies focusing on the impact of violent entertainment on viewer propensity to develop specific behavioral pattern mostly of aggressive nature did not report any conclusive statement at least with respect to short term influences within an experimental setting. Violent TV programs accounted for influencing the cooperative behavior in a person to a wide extent although short term impact was found to be negligible. However, long term exposure to violent TV programs data did not predict the level of cooperative behavior that got affected in the process. Motivational factors affecting the association between violent media exposure and cooperative behavior were also assessed in such studies but failed to draw any strong evidence in support of the fact that these factors positively influenced behavior in persons (Ramos, Ferguson, & Frailing, 2016). Another relevant study cross examined the behavioral effects of witnessing physical aggression in the media and the findings exhibit that viewing relational aggression on TV is longitudinally linked with future relational aggression. A bidirectional linkage between TV violence and physical aggression was established in course of time in the study (Coyne, 2016).
Accumulating all the data from these prospective studies, the development of aggression through violent media viewing can be attributed by virtue of General Aggression Model (GAM). Integrating empirical evidences from psychological approaches carried out by means of correlational, experimental and longitudinal studies the basis of this model can be understood. GAM conceptualizes aggression as a consequence of personal and situational input variables eliciting affective, cognitive, emotional, physiological responses and behavioral outcomes (Sherif, 2015). Thus the model shows that development process is applicable to risk as well as resilience to human aggression. Aggressive personality generation is linked to repeated life encounters of varied types as per this model. Further, the model indicates that intrinsic aggressive behavior emanates from a combined effect due to integration of factors related to immediate situation and person posed circumstances. Hence, these findings can be corroborated to the issue of media violence where desensitization procedures culminate in extinction of fear and anxiety reactions to violence in addition to decreased perception of injury severity, decreased attention to violent events, decreased sympathy for violence victims, reduced negative understanding about violence and increased belief that violence is normative thereby accounting for more aggression in those persons.
Scrutinizing the effects of media over the altering behavioral outcomes in the concerned persons imply on the reality of harmful media violence affecting children and adolescents. Studies indicated high consensus regarding effects of screen media violence upon aggression particularly in the vulnerable population of children and adolescents that corroborate with the other exploratory researches. However, dearth of literature impeded the investigations concerning the harmful effects of print media violence on aggressive behaviors (Anderson et al., 2015). The negative impacts of media violence resulting in aggressive behaviors among the susceptible groups have been the topic of research in other investigations as well that violates the existing psychological and learning theories (Gentile, 2015). The combinatorial effect of violent media exposure and family conflict are also found to have a buffering impact in expressing aggressive behaviors in persons. These implications have been the focal theme in a pertinent study (Fikkers et al., 2013).
Summarizing from the results obtained from these studies it was found that other contributing factors apart from exposure to media violence account for the development of aggressive behavior in some persons. The reasons for such behavioral patterns in the concerned persons may be discussed referring to Instinct Theory of Aggression formulated by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. The theory asserts that human behaviors are driven by sexual and instinctive desires and aggression is the repression of such libidinal urges (Langevin, 2014). Therefore, the aggressive behaviors arising out of a definite situation is the resultant effect of an innate, intrinsic response that finds its root in the biological system functioning. The biological approaches for understanding the aggressive behaviors comprise of the ethological concept, sociobiological aspect, behavior genetics and hormonal rationale for explaining aggression. Ethology states aggression in terms of internal energy released by external cues and relates to steam boiler model. Sociobiological aspect of aggression considers aggressive behavior as the product due to natural selection. Behavior genetics refers to aggression as being transmitted through genetic make-up. Hormonal explanation for aggressive behavior accounts for the influence of the male sex hormones and cortisol that stimulate aggressive tendencies under specific situations in the concerned individuals. Thus, instinctive behavior under relevant circumstance seems to profoundly impact the aggressive built up in persons.
On further exploring the issues of media violence in arousal of aggressive behaviors in persons, certain key aspects were revealed that accounted for better insight into the matter. Studies relevant to this premise identified media violence as a key causal risk factor for aggressive behavior. The individual differences to attention problems and impulsiveness according to research evidences suggest a possible link between violence media and development of aggressive behavior. Attention problems and impulsiveness were particularly associated to instinctive aggression thereby registering a significant role in violent media effects on aggressive behavior (Swing & Anderson, 2014). Other studies concerning impacts of media violence on aggression brought to the forefront the moderating effects of media violence and family conflict in contributing to elicitation of aggressive responses in adolescents conducted out of longitudinal studies. Double dose and buffering effects of family conflict was the moderating influence of media violence on aggressive behaviors. (Fikkers, Piotrowski, & Valkenburg, 2015). These empirical results can be analyzed with the help of Frustration Aggression Hypothesis. The theory states that the frustration is a condition in which the goal response undergoes impediment which in turn evokes aggressive behavior in the relevant subjects. Frustration seem to hamper as person’s goal oriented attitude thereby thwarting his self esteem and depriving him of opportunities to achieve his targeted outcomes. This theory put forward by Miller Bollard identified that aggression is necessarily a direct consequence of frustration. Thus mitigation of frustration can harbor positive benefits in persons to eradicate the aggressive tendencies and other related mental health issues.
The Zillman’s Excitation Transfer Theory can be mentioned with respect to the expression of frustration that eventually leads to the production of aggressive reactions depending upon the situational demands. According to this theory, the presence of arousal from neutral source as well as absence of awareness with respect to the source of awareness account for the transfer of arousal in the forms of either intensified or un-intensified anger together with the stimulus received from frustration or provocative behaviors culminate in the development of aggressive tendency (Krahé 2013). Hence, the frustration level kept in control will imply for less aggressive behavior generation. Media violence and other factors that might indirectly hamper the mental balance of a person therefore require to be adequately checked to evade the negative consequences of aggressive behavior.
Comprehending from the discussions carried out in the preceding sections, scope for future intervention and research can be recommended utilizing suitable approaches and referring to relevant theories and principles. Media violence and its impact on aggression were found to be influenced by a common factor of frustration that severely challenged a person’s behavior. In this context, a study concerning the adolescents highlighted the use of a 5 week school based intervention to drastically reduce the use of media violence, aggressive norms and behaviors sustained over several months (Möller, 2012). Further implications suggest that mindfulness based intervention can also account for generating improved outcomes in persons exhibiting aggressiveness due to media violence (Fix & Fix, 2013). Considering the effects that media violence imparts upon person’s behavior in terms of eliciting aggressiveness the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be suggested to modify and bring about positive changes in a person’s attitude and perceptions. Violence due to media interference resulting in aggressive behavior can only be resolved taking into consideration all the possible confounding factors that debilitate the condition.
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