Television Born Killers

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Television Born Killers – (Whether Viewing Tv Violence Causes Real World Violence) Essay, Research Paper Television Born Killers This essay attempts to evaluate the view that television violence is a cause of real world violence. Several studies supporting and opposing this view are examined as well as Gerbner’s cultivation theory, which provides an alternative view. The critique offered by Cumberbatch has been applied where relevant and his views on some major methodological problems evident in research in this field are also highlighted. The overall pattern of research findings indicates a positive association between television violence and aggressive behaviour. A Washington Post article (Oldenburg, 1992. pE5), states that “the preponderance of evidence from more

than 3,000 research studies over two decades shows that the violence portrayed on television influences the attitudes and behaviour of children who watch it.” Signorielli (1991) finds that “Most of the scientific evidence … reveals a relationship between television and aggressive behaviour. While few would say that there is absolute proof that watching television caused aggressive behaviour, the overall cumulative weight of all the studies gives credence to the position that they are related” (p. 94-95). The question is whether these generalised lab findings can be equated with real life. The experiments done in this field are all controlled. They do not correlate with real life problems. While these experiments support the argument, many do not live up to good empirical

research. Cumberbatch (1989) examined the main methodological problems he felt were evident in many major studies of the relationship between television violence and aggression. He focused on five areas that cause problems and question the validity of certain studies. Firstly, researchers have difficulty in handling non significant results. They tend to ignore these and focus only on significant findings which can lead to false conclusions about the genuine effects of television violence on society. Secondly, the effects of mass media research are viewed as a unidimensional process. The researchers do not take into account that the aggressor is only part of the equation of violence as a social problem. For example, are victims more or less vulnerable because of television

violence and are witnesses less likely to report anti-social behaviour or intervene because of violence on television? Also the term ‘violence’ is used without any distinction about what type, in what context and who views it. All these factors result in very different meanings for different viewers. An example cited by Cumberbatch is the cartoon Tom and Jerry, which appears as one of the most violent programs on television according to Gerbner, and Halloran and Croll. Thirdly, weaknesses lie in the psychological processes hypothesised to operate in any mediation of television violence. That is that the complex scripts involved in social behaviour have been ignored. There has not been a great deal of investigation into the dynamics of how the behaviour arises. Only the

effects are studied, not the processes. Fourthly, failure to consider the controversy relating to crime and violence in the media and why it is controversial is another weakness in the studies. However, Cumberbatch does mention two books which focus on the politics of research and campaigning in this field. They are Rowland, on the policy uses of communications research on television violence, and Barker, on the campaign to ban horror comic books. Lastly, close analysis of the public concerns about mass media violence is lacking. Public opinion has shown inconsistencies in earlier studies. That is that although the majority feel that there is too much violence on television, the number of complaints to broadcasting authorities do not support this. (Cumberbatch, 1989. pp. 47-50.)