- Gratuitous Media Violence Can Increase
Violent Responses To Provocation, Acceptance Of Violence, Studies Show
- Blacksburg, VA - Two studies show that
prolonged exposure to gratuitous violence in the media can escalate subsequent
hostile behaviors and, among some viewers, foster greater acceptance of
violence as a means of conflict resolution.
- The two studies were conducted by James
B. Weaver III, head of the Department of Communications Studies at Virginia
Tech, and Dolf Zillmann of the University of Alabama. In one study, published
in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology (1999, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp.
145-165), people were exposed to gratuitously violent or nonviolent feature
films over four consecutive days.
- One the fifth day, approximately 24 hours
after viewing to the last film, research participants took part in another
project that was not ostensibly a part of the film study. Weaver and Zillmann
found that, when treated either neutrally or abusively by a research assistant
and then put in a position to harm this assistant, both provocation and
exposure to violent films markedly increased the expression of hostile
behavior toward the research assistant.
- The study showed that prolonged exposure
to gratuitously violent films is capable of escalating hostile behavior
in both men and women and of instigating such behavior in unprovoked research
- In a second study, published in the journal
Personality and Individual Differences (1997, Vol. 22, No. 5, pp. 613-627),
Weaver and Zillmann exposed research participants to four types of films
-- nonviolent, old-style violence (e.g., "Glory"), gratuitous
violence (e.g., "Death Warrant"), and horror (e.g., "Howling
- They found that men who perceived themselves
as socially deviant and egocentric were more likely to accept violence
as a means of conflict resolution after watching four movies with gratuitous
violence. Watching old-style violence or horror movies did not have that
effect. The affected men also more strongly endorsed the death penalty
after watching such movies.