A / AS Level Psychology - 1 - MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour 1. FOR EXAM IN 2014 Audrey Foster

MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour The Syllabus: The topics which must be covered Media Psychology Media influences on social behaviour

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Media and Persuasion

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The psychology of ‘Celebrity’

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Explanations of media influences on pro- and antisocial behaviour The positive and negative effects of computers and video games on behaviour The application of Hovland-Yale and Elaboration Likelihood models in explaining the persuasive effects of media Explanations for the persuasiveness of television advertising The attraction of ‘celebrity’, including social psychological and evolutionary explanations Research into intense fandom, including celebrity worship and celebrity stalking

Explanations of media influences on pro-and anti-social behaviour Media influences can be explained in the following ways:

Social Learning Theory: Bandura; observational learning: imitation, modelling

Desensitisation: we become accustomed to watching violence which reduces our responsiveness

Disinhibition: decrease of our normal inhibitions

Cognitive priming: aggressive cues on TV lead to aggressive thoughts and feelings

The question is: Does exposure to violence on TV and films (media) etc influence behaviour? If it does, then maybe it is possible to also influence pro-social behaviour MEDIA is a means of communication and includes:  Books,  Newspapers and Magazines  Music  Films and TV  Internet


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour

Exam question: Discuss media influences on anti-social behaviour

1. Summarise SLT and evaluations to include the importance of results of desensitisation, disinhibition & cognitive priming (Huesman) 2. Other reasons: Anderson – biological: Leyens field study & evaluations. 3. Study by Parke exposure to violent TV 4. Study refuting influence of violent TV – Charlton & evaluations. 5. Overall evaluations of media influence

Social Learning Theory: BANDURA (1965) One explanation of the effects of media on anti-social behaviour was provided by Bandura’s Bobo Doll research which provided empirical evidence supporting Bandura’s (1965) claim that aggressive behaviour is learned either through direct experience of by observing others. The main methods of SLT are four processes:    

Attention - children must attend to what the aggressor is doing and saying in order to reproduce the model’s behaviour accurately (Allen & Santrock, 1993). Retention – To model the behaviour, it needs to be remembered and placed into long term memory, for retention. Production – the individual needs to be able to reproduce the behaviour. Motivation – an individual expects to receive positive reinforcement for the modelled behaviour.

In terms of Media Violence & Aggression SLT leads us to consider the various ways in which children might be exposed to aggressive models, using the four processes. TV has been examined as a powerful source of imitative learning. Huesmann (2004) suggested that children may use television models as a source of ‘scripts’ that act as a guide for their own behaviour. For example, if they see a movie hero beat up the bad guys that get in his way, this may become a script for any situation in which it might be deemed appropriate. These scripts are stored in memory, and are strengthened and elaborated through rehearsal. The relationship between observation of aggression in the media and subsequent aggressive behaviour is a complex one. It appears to be influenced by several variables including:   

If the observed violence is thought to be real behaviour compared to if it was considered fictitional or fantasy violence. If viewers identify with the aggressor in some way, they are subsequently more aggressive than if they do not identify with the aggressive model. Heroes are therefore more powerful models than villains. Observing unsuccessful aggression, in which the aggressor is punished, tends to inhibit aggressive behaviour in the observer.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour Bandura’s study tested whether children would imitate aggressive models: B Bandura divided 66 nursery school children into three groups. All three groups watched a film where an adult model kicked and punched the Bobo doll. There were three different conditions: Condition1: Children saw the adult model being rewarded by a second adult. Condition 2: Children saw a second adult telling off the adult model for the aggressive behaviour. Condition 3: The adult model was neither rewarded nor punished. The children were then allowed to play in the room with the Bobo doll whilst experimenters watched through a one-way mirror. They found that in condition 1: Children behaved the most aggressively and in condition 2: Children behave least aggressively. He extended the study by offering rewards to models who behaved aggressively, and also punishing them for violent behaviour. He rewarded models that stayed calm and also punished models that stayed calm. Children who witnessed rewards imitated that type of behaviour more than children who witnessed punishment. Thus demonstrating the effects of vicarious learning on behaviour. These findings are useful to show the effects of media models and their influence on behaviour. Apart from attending, retaining, producing, motivating and reinforcing behaviour, Bandura found that individuals are more likely to imitate another’s behaviour if the model is similar in age, gender, of a high social status, ethnicity from a similar background, with same interests, thereby giving insights into the formation of peer pressure. Vicarious punishment may also occur, leading to a reduced response, e.g. if you see someone else being told off for teasing, you are less likely to do it. This is an example of disinhibition. The unacceptable behaviour has been weakened.

Evaluations:  A strength of the research into SLT is that it has high reliability. The reason for this is because Bandura’s research was predominately carried out in the laboratory where he had complete control over the IV (whether there was positive/negative reinforcement) and the DV (the behaviour shown by the child). This suggests that if the research carried out again then similar results could be achieved.  Further empirical support was provided by Bandura et al. (1963). They found that viewing aggression by cartoon characters produces as much aggression as viewing live or filmed aggressive behaviour by adults. This suggests that there is wider academic credibility for the notion that the entertainment industry has an influential role in the social development of children. Research support - There are numerous studies on children that back up this model.  Empirical support has been provided by Patterson et al. (1989). He demonstrated that role models are important in the development of anti-social behaviour (in both boys and girls) and that parents are the most important ones.  Weaknesses of the research centre on methodology and ethics. While the experimental method of conducting research is objective, Bandura’s SLT research lacked ecological validity. The research was carried out in an artificial environment: For example, the Bobo doll was designed to be hit so it is no real surprise that it was, and does not mean that children would necessarily hit a real person. This suggests that the findings from this research may not be generally applied in real life situations. AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour  The children experienced demand characteristics. They said that when they were in the experiment they felt they were expected to act aggressively towards the Bobo doll. This suggests that there are methodological flaws with the research.  There are also ethical problems. The experiment conducted was unethical and morally wrong because the children were encouraged to be aggressive. Thus, the children did not leave the experiment as they entered it. This suggests that reliable, well controlled research may lead to the exploitation of children.  SLT is over simplistic. Evidence from Flanagan (2000) suggests that testosterone has been cited as a primary cause of aggression and other genetic and neuroanatomical structures are involved. SLT does not stress the importance of biological factors and relies on learning and the environment. This suggests that SLT is reductionist when explaining aggressive behaviour and does not take into account individual differences.

Other Theories and Research Studies on the Effects of Media Influence on Anti-Social Behaviour

Desensitisation The desensitisation model assumes that, under normal conditions, anxiety about violence inhibits its use. Media violence, may however, stimulate aggressive behaviour by desensitising children to the effects of violence. Frequent viewing of television violence may cause children to be less anxious about the violence and perceive it as ‘normal’ and be more likely to engage in violence themselves. Boys who are heavy television watchers show lowered physiological arousal in the response to violent scenes. The arousal from viewing violence is unpleasant at first, but children who constantly watch violent TV become used to it, and their emotional and physiological arousal declines. As a result they do not respond to violent behaviour and are less inhibited to use it. A weakness of the desensitisation model is that there is contradictory evidence by Cumberbatch (2001) who argues that people might get ‘used’ to screen violence but this does not mean they will also get used to violence in the real world. Screen violence is more likely to make children ‘frightened’ and ‘frightening’. In contrast to the desensitisation model, watching violence may lead to increased (rather than decreased) arousal and thus more aggression.

Cognitive Priming Aggressive ideas shown in the media can spark off other aggressive thoughts in shared memory pathways (Berkowitz, 1984). After viewing a violent film the viewer is ‘primed’ to respond aggressively because the memory network involving aggression is activated. Huesmann (1982) also AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour proposed that children may learn problem-solving scripts through observation and that aggressive scripts may be learned through observation of violent scenes. If the children find themselves in a similar situation in real life they may recall aspects of the violent script as a solution. One strength of the research into cognitive priming is that there is further empirical support provided by Josephson (1987). He got junior ice-hockey players who were deliberately frustrated and then shown a violent or non-violent film where an actor held a walkie-talkie. In a subsequent hockey game, the boys behaved more aggressively if they had seen the violent film and the referee in their game was holding a walkie-talkie, which acted as a cue. This suggests that there is further empirical support for the idea of aggression being sparked off by media influences. Another example of cognitive priming include violent song lyrics, which increase aggressive thoughts Anderson et al (2003) study.

 However different age groups do not perceive song lyrics in the same way.  Pre-existing tendencies. Anderson, et al (2003) said the children at greatest risk of influence from anti-social media are those who have an aggressive predisposition (temperament). One of the most thorough studies of physical and verbal aggression demonstrating aggressive predisposition was a field study was reported by Leyens et al (1975):

The participants were juvenile delinquents at a school in Belgium. Boys in two dormitories (one high in aggression, the other low in aggression), watched violent films only, whereas boys in the other two dormitories watched only non violent films. There was an increased level of physical aggression among the boys who saw the violent films, but not among those who saw the nonviolent films. Verbal aggression increased among boys in the aggressive dormitory who saw violent films, but decreased among boys from non-aggressive dormitories.

Evaluations: What ethical issues are there? Biological explanations: Possibly boys with high testosterone levels could be more aggressive, which is why they were in a school for delinquents.

A further study by Parke et al (1977) aimed to show increased aggression as a result of exposure to violent TV programmes. Sample: young offenders living in different cottages in an institution; Design: field experiment Method: Normal TV service was discontinued. Participants in one cottage saw only programmes with violent content (e.g. ‘Batman’, ‘The Untouchables’). Participants in another cottage saw only non-violent programmes . Institution staff observed and recorded behaviour of the Participants. Findings: an increase in aggression was observed in the ‘violent programmes’ group. Conclusion: exposure to violent programmes led to increased aggression levels. There is the possibility that some of the participants had an aggressive nature. AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour Evaluation  Field Studies/Experiments have few demand characteristics since participants are often unaware of taking part in a field study;  High ecological validity;  However Low population validity as difficult to generalise outside the particular situation.  Also in these situations it is not surprising that the participants were aggressive considering they were in institutions for offenders.

However there is research evidence refuting that watching aggressive TV leads to aggressive behaviour:

Study by Charlton et al (2002) Aim: To study the impact of the introduction of TV on antisocial behaviour Method: In 1993, two years before TV was introduced, Charlton studied the total number of children aged 3-4 (23 boys and 24 girls) asking teachers to comment on their levels of anti-social behaviour using a pre-school behaviour checklist. The incidences of anti-social behaviour pre television was very low. In 1995 television was introduced with CNN which broadcast news reports. Cartoon Network was added in 1996, followed by Movie Magic, BBC, Discovery and Supersport channels in 1998. In 1998, Charlton et al asked the children now aged 8/9 to keep a 3 day ‘viewing diary’ recording all the TV they watched. This was content analysed for each child to provide a measure of the amount of violence they had been exposed to. The average amount of television watched during the three day period was 3 hours and 10 minutes and children had viewed an average of around 95 acts of violence during this period. Boys chose to watch more violence on average than girls. Findings: There was no overall increase in aggressive behaviour after introduction of television, but specific relationships existed between programme content and anti-social behaviour. Children with higher anti-social behaviour scores before television were most likely to consume heavy amounts of cartoons. Boys displayed more anti-social behaviour than girls at the second assessment. Children were again assessed by teachers using Rutter’s Behaviour Questionnaire

Evaluation  Methodology - This was a natural experiment so independent variable occurred naturally. Proper comparisons can be made as assessment of antisocial behaviour before and after introduction of TV.  High level of ecological validity  However, problems establishing cause & effect;  Low Population validity: Involve a one-off situation that is not typical and therefore difficult to generalise from. The St Helena study involved an isolated, close-knit community where antisocial behaviour is difficult because ‘everyone knows everyone knows and watches you’.  Ethical issues – parental consent and debriefing  Most studies of aggression using young people are correlational.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour  Reductionist - studies often fail to consider a range of variables such as age, gender, class and ethnicity. When these variables are taken into account, they usually have a stronger relationship to aggressive behaviour than viewing habits

The influence of the viewing habits in childhood on anti-social behaviour in adulthood:

Study by Huesmann et al - Aim: To study how viewing habits in childhood affected antisocial behaviour in childhood and adulthood. Methodology: Huesmann et al carried out a longitudinal study of 557 American children. In 1977, the children, aged then between 5 and 8 – were asked about their favourite TV programmes and which characters they most identified with. Common answers included Starsky and Hutch, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Bionic Woman, which were popular shows at the time. Of the original sample, 398 were followed up in 1991 in their early twenties. They were asked to identify their 3 favourite programmes and to say how often they watched them. Each participant was also asked to name three people who knew them well and researchers carried out an interview with one of these. The ‘friend’ was asked to comment on topics such as how often the participant lost their temper and, whether or not they hit or shoved other people. Huesmann also examined official records to assess which of the sample had been involved in crimes of all kinds. Findings: Huesmann et al found that viewing of TV violence in childhood correlated significantly with adult aggression in both men and women 15 years later. The more a child identified with same-sex violent models, the more likely they were to be aggressive in later life. Men who were classed as high violence viewers in boyhood had 3 times the crime conviction rate of low violence viewers.

Evaluation – Add your own comments  Methodological – Longitudinal study with lengthy follow up is good but drop-out is often an issue; Uses a wide range of methods  Ethical - Correlational so avoids many ethical issues associated with experiments.  Practical applications - has the approach led to practical real world applications? How beneficial have these applications been? Very useful to demonstrate how early behaviour may unconsciously have a psychological influence on adult behaviour. This illustrates that some behaviours may be cognitive imitation rather natural biological behaviour.  Benefit to psychology/society - How has the approach benefited psychology?


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour OVERALL EVALUATIONS OF STUDIES ON AGGRESSION Most studies are correlational: difficult to prove cause and effect. Reductionist - they often fail to consider a range of variables such as age, biological influences and class. When these variables are taken into account, they usually have a stronger relationship to aggressive behaviour than viewing habits. Some young people may have a lot of testosterone, which if not targeted towards positive pursuits such as sport may be used in antisocial ways. Studies looking at young offenders are finding what they expect to find and not discovering any new insights. Further, their backgrounds should be examined, in terms of type of education: Is it relevant and meaningful? Their sociocultural experiences: For example if certain young males in parts of Eastern Europe were judged by ethnicity many of them would be considered violent. In these studies the same groups are always targeted therefore we do not get a true picture of whether aggression is due to social learning, biology , unfair discriminatory practices of our society or combinations of all.

Discuss Media Influence on Pro-Social Behaviour

The effect of the media can be positive and lead to pro-social behaviour EVIDENCE: FRIEDRICH AND STEIN studied American schoolchildren  Some watched pro-social TV  Some watched neutral or aggressive TV  The pro-social group behaved more helpfully, especially if given a chance to role-play behaviour.

The term pro-social covers behaviours such as identifying with someone, empathy (putting yourself in somebody’s place) and altruism (helping without thought of cost or reward to yourself). According to Rushton (1979), something pro-social is “that which is desirable and which in some way benefits another person or society at large”. The most successful pro-social programme was Sesame Street. This television show aimed to provide preschool children at home something that would both entertain them and foster intellectual and cultural development. Some of the earliest research investigating the effects of pro-social AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour media looked at the issue of whether exposure to appropriate social models might affect the likelihood of engaging in pro-social acts. Social learning was helpful in explaining the influence of anti-social media, therefore it should apply to the learning of pro-social behaviour too. Sprafkin et al (1975) studied 6 year olds. One group watched an episode of Lassie where Lassie rescued a puppy; another group watched an episode without a rescue scene; a third group watched an episode of The Brady Bunch. Afterwards, all the children played a prize-winning game during which they came into contact with some distressed puppies. Those who had seen the rescue scene spent more time trying to comfort the puppies than the other children, even though it would interfere with them winning. Sprafkin et al concluded that this was evidence that experiencing helpful media models can create a social norm which encourages pro-social behaviour.

Evaluation  This study gives the ages of the participants and specifically explains what they watched. As a laboratory experiment variables are being controlled and the study replicable, generalisable and reliable. However this method may cause a higher chance of demand characteristics, and makes the research less natural.  This is only one study where children were asked to react immediately based on what they saw. Their own cognitive processes would prime them of the expected behaviour, which is to conform to expected behaviour.  Also, it does not give the amount of participants used, and may highlight some ethical issues, such as deception and informed consent. Like Sprafkin et al, Friedrich and Stein (1973) hypothesised that if television programs can cause children to imitate anti-social behaviour, then the opposite may also be true: Over 90 children in a summer nursery school session were randomly assigned to watch one of 3 types of TV shows each day for 6 and a half hours for a period of 4 weeks. The aggressive cartoons included Batman and Superman, and the pro-social programmes included Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood. The neutral programmes included Farm and Animal scenes. Groups of children came to a room to watch the films for a half hour period each day. Before, during and after the children experienced the conditions, their aggression and prosocial free play behaviour in the nursery school were observed and recorded. To study the effects of the different viewing, the children’s behaviour before watching the programmes were compared to their behaviour during and after the television viewing. They found that television conditions had a dramatic influence on children’s behaviour. Children who were exposed to pro-social programmes displayed high levels of task performances, obedience and tolerance of delay. They also exhibited positive interpersonal behaviour.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour Evaluations  This study goes into vast detail of the number of participants used, the length of time they were under conditions and specific names of the programmes used. It was also completed over a longer period of time, which makes the results stronger. Again, this is a laboratory experiment where variables are being controlled, but may cause a higher chance of demand characteristics, and makes the research less natural. Once again this study may highlight some ethical issues, such as deception and informed consent.  A question often asked when researching media influence is: Does the effect last?  Hearold (1986) reviewed 100 studies of pro-social TV. It was concluded that pro-social TV does make children more helpful, but the behaviour was assessed shortly after viewing. Therefore a weakness could be that it would not really be possible to conclude that the influences from prosocial TV affect us for a long period of time.  Sagotsky et al (1981) allowed 6 and 8 year olds to watch co-operative behaviour being modelled. Both showed increased co-operative behaviour, but only 8 year olds still showed it 7 weeks later.  Most research only focuses on short-term effects, but what matters is whether the beneficial effects are long lasting. We are more likely to imitate behaviour if we understand why people are behaving in a certain way. Further, Rosenkoetter (1999) argued that pro-social television will influence children’s pro-social behaviour only if they understand the moral message being communicated but the Social Learning Theory does not explain this.  The General Learning Model (GLM) Buckley and Anderson (2006) attempted to explain this and proposed that learning from the media is a mix of personality and people’s different situations and experiences. As a result people have to think, feel and become aroused (the readiness to react). Pro-social acts are very common in TV programmes: A large scale content analysis was carried out by Smith et al (2006) where they analysed over 2000 entertainment shows randomly selected from a week of programming on 18 US TV channels. Nearly 3/4 of all programmes contained at least one pro-social act, whilst approximately 50% of programmes contained anti-social acts. On average, viewers would have been exposed to 3 pro-social acts an hour. Pro-social acts were found to be more common in children’s shows. Further research however shows that whilst children are likely to encounter more pro-social than anti-social acts on TV, anti-social behaviours were more concentrated. This increased the impact of exposure to anti-social behaviours, which has the advantage over pro-social media in that it is much more explicit and immediate.

Strengths of this study are that the number of shows analysed were randomly selected and it gave the number of TV channels used. However it was not specified which channels were used, and no examples of the shows were given. They did not give a definition of a “pro-social” or “anti-social” act. Further, content analysis is not scientific and can lack validity and reliability. Another area that has been researched is the part that parents play in how media affects their children. Pro-social morals in television and film are generally much harder for children to understand than violent acts. Pro-social situations generally have more dialogue and less action, and have plots that are more challenging to follow. It has been proposed that the most successful pro-social programme was Sesame Street first shown in 1969. This television show aimed to provide preschool children at home something that would AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour both entertain them and foster intellectual and cultural development. Although it was aimed at inner-city children, research suggests that children from the higher socio-economic backgrounds benefitted the most, probably due to the mediation of their parents. Singer and Singer (1990) suggest that parents who watch programmes containing pro-social behaviour can enhance their child’s understand by explaining and discussing moral content. This serves to reinforce the pro-social message which is often essential if younger children are to understand it. There has been research linked to this theory: Mckenna and Ossoff (1998) asked children ages 4 to 10 years about the moral messages contained in an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Whilst most of the children understood that there was a lesson to be learned from the programme, only the 8 to 10 year olds were able to identify it. Younger children tended to focus on the fighting more than the message. Similar to the suggestions of Singer and Singer, it was concluded that if parents help children to think more critically about what they are watching, the impact of anti-social media content can be reduced and the impact of pro-social messages can be maximised. This study gives the ages of the participants and specifically the TV show used in the study, but does not highlight the number of participants used. Also when children are used in studies, ethical issues often arise, such as informed consent and the actual content of the programme. Research suggests that factors that affect pro social behaviour are social norms, social responsibility, equality, reciprocity. These factors are mediated by cognitive development, and learning by imitation. According to Yancey et al (2002), children readily identify with characters they encounter on screen, and can develop quite close attachments to them. This fondness for media characters can persist into adolescence. In a study nearly 40% teenagers questioned named a media figure as a role model- similar to the figure for a parent or relative.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour

The positive and negative effects of computers and video games on behaviour

Essay: Violent video and computer games are often blamed by victims, victims’ relatives and others for the real life violence in modern society. Discuss with reference to psychological research, the effects of video and computer games on young people (24 marks)

Computer / video games and aggression Video games are the world’s largest entertainment medium and are a multi-billion pound market. Lenhart et al (2008): A sample of US teens found 94% girls and 99% of boys played video games. Since the late 1970s when computer game playing joined television as a preferred childhood leisure activity, one of the main concerns that has constantly been raised is that most games feature some kind of aggression. This has led some to believe that children become more aggressive after playing such games (Koop, 1982; Zimbardo, 1982) There are basically five varieties of video games including sports, general entertainment, fantasy violence, educational games and human violence. Research has shown both good and bad effects and consequences on children playing video games, according to the type of game they play and their level of exposure. Therefore media reports of excessive aggression could be exaggerated, whilst downplaying beneficial effects.

Good and bad effects There are basically five varieties of video games including sports, general entertainment, fantasy violence, educational games and human violence. Extensive research has been conducted since the time of its inception to study the effects of video games on children. The results of these studies have shown that there are both good as well as bad effects and consequences on children playing video games, according to the type of game they play and their level of exposure. Stone and Gentle (2008): Video games can have 5 effects:     

Amount of time played affected school performance and obesity levels. Content of games helped improve reading; aggressive games led to aggressive behaviour Effects of the games changed with the context, e.g. in some games people interacted in virtual reality. The Structure of the game, e.g. constant looking helped to improve visual attention skills. Mechanical devices, such as guns, instead of keyboard made game more real.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour Overall findings on video games are similar to research into TV violence. There is the general prediction that according to the social learning theory, young people will imitate behaviours and that playing over a long time may lead to desensitisation and disinhibition.

Effects of Video Games and Computers on Aggressive Behaviour Modern games have greater interaction. Today’s games are more realistic than those of the1980s. One point of view is that they have undesirable physical, psychological side effects and preoccupation. Some critics say it has corrupting influence on the young. There is nothing constructive in the games. Everything is eliminated, killed, or destroyed.

Research by Gentle et al (2007): 70% 8 to 16 year olds play M-rated games; 61% owned mature games; half preferred M-rated game. Many youngsters bought their own games. Only 27% said their parent stopped them from buying a game. Findings on video games are similar to research into TV violence. There is the general prediction that according to the social learning theory, young people will imitate behaviours and that playing over a long time may lead to desensitisation and disinhibition.

Research Studies:   

Anderson et al (2007): 9 to 12 year olds playing either violent or non-violent video games for 20 minutes. Grusser et al (2007): Excessive gaming related to aggressive attitudes and behaviour. Peng (2008): violent video games might have effect on aggressive personalities: Violent computer games: Godfather and True Crimes.

Other studies: Van Schie & Wiegman (1997/8) carried out studies using samples of children living in the Netherlands. In 1997, a group of 346 children from year 7 and 8 were studied to assess their playing habits and observed in free play after game playing. They found no relationship between the amount of time a child spent playing computer games and levels of aggressive behaviour.

 They also found that time spent gaming was positively correlated with intelligence, which demonstrates the positive aspect of playing video games. Responses also depend on the type of video game being played.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour  Some so-called violent video games involve making strategic choices. Results did not lead to disinhibition or desensitisation as predicted by the social learning theory.  The lack of response could have been due to the children not taking the film seriously; also they were passively watching a film not taking part as they would have when playing a video game.

Carnagey et al: a key study examined the effect of playing violent computer games on later responses to real life violence. A sample of participants was asked about their normal playing habits and was then randomly allocated to one of two conditions. The experimental condition involved playing a randomly selected violent game for 20 minutes and the control condition involved playing a non-violent computer game for 20 minutes. Following this, both groups watched a film which depicted graphic realistic violence. Whilst watching, they were wired up to measure physiological response including heart rate, and galvanic skin response. Those who had played the violent game immediately before watching had lower heart rates and galvanic skin response. Carnagey et al concluded that they had a reduced physiological response to real violence implying that game playing leads to desensitisation of physiological responses.

Evaluation This research is considered to be reliable because it responded to real life violence. It is also in an experimental condition meaning it has controlled extraneous variables therefore it can be replicated making it more reliable. It can however be criticised because: It lacks ecological validity as it controls the variables to a large extent. It only looks at an immediate response, not how people respond in the future.

Anderson and Bushman (2001) did a meta-analysis of studies on violent video games. Their findings strongly supported the General Learning Model (GLM):  First, the situational cues provided by violent video games were associated with aggressive behaviour. The effects were similar in both men and women; children and adults.  Second, aggressive thoughts play a central role in the development of the aggressive personality. Therefore exposure to violent video games increased aggressive cognitions (thoughts, attitudes, memories).  Third, exposure to violent video games produced aggressive emotion and increased physiological arousal.  Fourth, the effects on aggressive thoughts are usually greater when the graphics and situation are more realistic.  Fifth, although there is evidence of addiction, it is not clear that such addiction leads to more aggressive behaviour.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour

The positive effects of Video Games and computers The positive effects of Video Games and computers were outlined by De-Lin Sun et al (2008) who found that positive effects lasted longer; improvement of cognitive skills, such as visuo-spatial and attentional skills, which can lead to long-term changes in the brain. Advantages of virtual games were the improvement of coordination skills and confidence. This does not correspond to the claim that computers are responsible for real life violence in today’s society.

Research studies on the link with health  Gentle et al found video games benefited pro-social behaviour.  However a link was also found between obesity and low activity levels for 6- 11 year olds. (In US 15% overweight). Video games also have negative effects on the physical health of children. Sitting for hours before the video game consoles can increase the risk of obesity, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscular diseases and as well as skeletal and postural disorders in kids.  Other more severe health effects of video games include increased heart rate and high blood pressure. As some video games are highly active they might reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle (always sitting down).  Research by Mellecker (2008) found that children playing active games such as bowling and running burnt four times the amount of calories as those during seated games.  However video games should not replace traditional forms of exercise, where real sports burned off four times as many calories.

Evaluation Most research on effects of video games on young people has focused on aggression. However they may have other effects on social behaviour.  Padilla-Walker (2009) said: using video games leads to poorer relationships, as children removed themselves from social settings,  The internet has led to “addiction”. However, there has not been much research done on this. Also it is difficult to define what addiction is.  Psychologists say that the benefits of being on the net outweigh the negative. Much on-line activity is social. Networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter have encouraged communications with friends. This suggests that computers are not used only to play computer games; they have a much broader appeal.  Lara Croft in Tomb Raider started the Lara phenomenon, in which powerful female characters play central roles in video games. In other video games women have appeared in leading parts as frequently as men. Research has produced interesting and important findings, most of which can be understood in terms of the General Learning Model:  First, the effects of violent games depend on both the situation and the characteristics of the person playing them.  Second, playing violent video games has several effects: increasing arousal, hostile emotions, and aggressive behaviour.  Third, exposure to violence influences the individual’s interpretations. AAFoster

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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour  Fourth, the effects on aggressive thoughts are usually greater when the graphics and situation are more realistic.  Fifth, although there is evidence of addiction, it is not clear that such addiction leads to more aggressive behaviour.  There are limitations to the research into violent video games. Many of the studies have only looked at short-term effects. Many studies have reported a positive correlation or association between amount of playing of video games and aggression. We cannot be sure about causality. It is also possible that naturally aggressive children choose to spend far more of their time playing violent video games.  Despite the Lara phenomenon, video games often promote unfortunate stereotypes.  There are obvious ethical reasons why researchers should not expose children to violent video games. The APA in 2005 called for a reduction in the levels of aggression in video games.


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MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY: Media Influences on Social Behaviour Exam Questions 1. Discuss what psychological research has told us about the influence of the media on pro-social behaviour. (24 marks) 2. Outline and evaluate two explanations of media influence on anti-social behaviour. (8 + 16 marks) 3. Discuss what psychological research has told us about some of the effects on young people of playing computer and/or video games. (8 + 16 marks) 4. Discuss what psychological research has told us about some of the effects on young people of playing computer and/or video games. (8 + 16 marks) 5. ‘It has been suggested that people who watch violent media images may be encouraged to imitate the violence. Television and film producers frequently reject this view.’ Discuss what psychological research has told us about some of the media influences on anti-social behaviour. (8 marks + 16 marks) 6. Violent video and computer games are often blamed by victims, victims’ relatives and others for the real life violence in modern society. Discuss with reference to psychological research, the effects of video and computer games on young people (8+ 16 marks)


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