Explanations of media influences: Desensitisation

  • Created by: 0045253
  • Created on: 13-06-22 13:58
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  • Desensitisation
    • assume that media violence may lead to aggressive behaviour by removing the anxiety that people usually feel about violence.
    • Someone who becomes desensitised to violence may therefore perceive it as more ‘normal’, and be more likely to engage in violence themselves
    • One indication that desensitisation has occurred is a reduction in physiological arousal (heart rate) when individuals are exposed to real violence
      • Other indications are a change in the cognitive reactions that would otherwise have occurred in the absence of desensitisation
        • For example, desensitised individuals are less likely to notice violence in real life, they feel less sympathy for the victim of violence and they have a less negative attitude toward violence, all of which would increase the likelihood of aggressive responses in real life
      • P - There is support for desensitisation as an explanation for the effects of media on aggression by Carnagey et al. (2007.)
        • E - Participants played either a violent or non-violent video game for 20 minutes and then watched a 10 minute film clip containing scenes of real-life violence while their heart rate and skin conductance response were monitored.
          • E - Those participants who had previously played the violent computer game had a lower heart rate and skin conductance response while viewing the filmed real-life violence.
            • L - This demonstrated a physiological desensitisation to violence, as predicted by this explanation
      • 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 - Desensitisation can be adaptive for individuals, for example, for troops, desensitisation to the horrors of combat makes these individuals more effective in their role.
        • E - However, desensitisation to violent stimuli may also be detrimental for both the individual and society. Busman and Anderson (2009), for example, suggest that there are worrying consequences when individuals are desensitised to violence. 
          • E -  They found that violent media exposure can reduce helping behaviour that might otherwise be offered to others in distress.
            • L - They claim that people exposed to media violence become ‘comfortably numb’ to the pain and suffering of others and are consequently less helpful and therefore the relationship between desensitisation and aggression is mixed.
      • 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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