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Surprising Science

New Consensus Links Viewing Media Violence With Acting Violently

Long considered an area in which willpower reigned supreme, new scientific analyses suggest there is a positive correlation between viewing violence and acting violently.

What’s the Latest Development?


Long considered an area in which willpower reigned supreme, new scientific analyses suggest there is a positive correlation between viewing violence on the screen or page, or listening to it through speakers, and acting violently in real life. “In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990, the psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paik found that the short-term effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength.” The researchers liken the correlation to contracting lung cancer through secondhand smoke—a tenuous position, but one that is gaining ground.

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What’s the Big Idea?

While meta-studies show broad scientific trends over many thousands of people over many years, what is missing in the media-violence-causes-actual-violence debate is evidence showing a direct link between media content and physical behavior. To be sure, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association all consider media violence exposure a risk factor for actual violence. While exposure to violent media isn’t the strongest risk factor for violence, “it’s more easily modified than other risk factors (like being male or having a low socioeconomic status or low I.Q.).”

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Read it at the New York Times


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