SOC 2280 Lecture Notes - False Consciousness, Research On The Effects Of Violence In Mass Media
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Aggression, Violence, and the Media
• Violence is portrayed in music lyrics, music videos, video games, cartoons, television shows, and
movies. A 1996 report found that 85 percent of premium channel shows, 59 percent of basic cable
shows, and 44 percent of broadcast channel shows included at least one act of violence.
• Such media images may desensitize individuals to violence and serve as models for violent behavior.
Exposure to television violence is associated with increased aggressive behavior and decreased
sensitivity to the pain and suffering of others.
• There are a number of ways to understand the connection between mass media images and real-life
1) Although most scholars do not believe that the media directly cause aggressive behavior in people,
some studies have shown a relationship between short-term aggressive behavior and media depictions
2) Other studies have suggested that the media may actually prevent acts of violence by providing
people with an outlet for pent-up feelings and emotions. According to this cathartic effect hypothesis,
the media offer people a vicarious outlet for feelings of aggression and thus may reduce the amount of
violence engaged in by the media consumer.
3) Still other analysts have suggested that continual depictions of violence tend to desensitize viewers
and create values that contribute to aggressive behavior and feelings of fear and frustration.
Theories of Media Effects
1) Functionalism – Functionalists examine the functions performed by the mass media that help to
maintain social stability:
a) Coordination – The nationwide distribution of newspapers, magazines, movies, and television shows
cements the large, socially diverse, and geographically far-flung population of the United States.
b) Socialization – Once the exclusive domain of the family, the mass media are now significant agents of
socialization; they reinforce shared ideals (e.g., democracy, competition, justice) and transmit messages
about norms, values, and social roles.
c) Social Control –The mass media help to ensure conformity by paying much attention to crime and
praising those who apprehend and convict criminals. By exposing deviants and showcasing law
enforcement officials and model citizens, the mass media reinforce ideas about what kinds of people
deserve punishment and what kinds of people deserve rewards.