Explanations of media influences: Cognitive Priming

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  • Created on: 13-06-22 14:27
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  • Cognitive Priming
    • refers to a temporary increase in the accessibility of thoughts and ideas.
      • The more accessible a thought or idea, the more likely it is to be used to interpret social information
      • Frequent activation through prolonged exposure to violent media may result in a lowered activation threshold for these aggressive thoughts, allowing them to be accessed more readily and so used to process and interpret information.
    • Berkowitz (1984) proposed that when people are constantly exposed to violent media, this activates thoughts or ideas about violence, which, in turn, activate other aggressive thoughts through their association in memory pathways.
      • P - Bushman (1998) tested the cognitive priming hypothesis that exposure to violent media makes aggressive thoughts more accessible to viewers.
        • E - In this study, undergraduate participants watched either a 15 minute segment of a violent film or a non-violent film.
          • E - Participants who watched the violent film subsequently had faster reaction times to aggressive words than did those who had seen the non-violent film. Video content did not, however, influence reaction times to nonaggressive words.
            • L - This suggests that exposure to violent media primes memories related to aggression.
      • P - A real world application of research in this field is the introduction of age restrictions on computer games.
        • E - All games are age-rated by the Video Standards Council (VSC) and retailers that sell titles with ratings of 12, 16 or 18 years to children below the age limits will be subject to prosecution.
          • E - Games are rated 18-years and over if there is a "gross" level of violence likely to make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.
            • L - This means that the influence of media should be contained and not affect children's levels of aggression.
      • P - Atkin suggests that film or game realism is an important factor in the relationship between exposure to violent media and the priming of aggressive thoughts and behaviours.
        • E - Atkin found that higher levels of aggression resulted from the viewing of more realistic or realistically perceived violence.
          • E - The fictional violence in some computer games, for example, may not have the same priming effects as in games with more realistic violence.
            • L - This suggests that exposure to more realistic and intense forms of aggressive versus cartoon or animated forms of aggression may influence the types and intensity of activated thoughts and ideas, which may then manifest themselves in different ways.
      • P -  The relationship between media influences and aggression is deterministic as it suggests playing violent video games leads to an increase in aggression.
        • E - However, many studies in this area are correlational
          • E - If a positive correlation between playing violent computer games and aggressive behaviour is found we cannot conclude that playing violent computer games causes people to become more aggressive. It may be that people who are already aggressive are drawn to violent computer games.
            • L - This means that a major limitation of this method is the inability to draw cause and effect conclusions about media influences and aggression.


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