Aggression and media violence - new study

A link between aggression and media violence has been suggested by a new study. Published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour, the research found those who witness such behaviour on screen may be more likely to cause harm to others, be this through verbal, relational or physical means.

Carried out by the Media Violence Commission - appointed by Craig Anderson, Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University - the investigation revealed violent images such as those seen in video games, movies and comic books, can trigger aggressive feelings and thoughts that have been stored in the memory.

It was demonstrated that repeated activation of these emotions through exposure to violence makes them increasingly accessible and more influential when it comes to everyday behaviour.

The authors - which recommended parents take a greater interest in the media their kids are using - noted: "One may also become more vigilant for hostility and aggression in the world and therefore begin to feel some ambiguous actions by others are deliberate acts of provocation."

However, Chartered Psychologist Dr Simon Moore from London Metropolitan University questions the importance of these findings:

"These results from the states reveal nothing really new to add to the media violence debate. For every study that finds a positive association others do not. If there was a simple causal link between film or game violence why are we not seeing more reported incidents in cinemas or the home?

"The more pertinent question is what percentage of people engaging in age appropriate material are involved in significant acts of aggression against anither person? I would think that of the millions of households that regularly use a gaming system there are relatively few incidences of aggression that we should worry about.

"Much of the frustration supposedly reported to be attributed to game players  in such research can actually be placed more at the foot of the methods employed rather than direct causal behaviour. For example many studies researching game behaviour fail to give participants a choice of what games to play when they measure behavioural consequences - which is obviously lacking in ecological validity. Other studies report evidence of aggression to games - without assessing if the frustration seen is actually more of a consequence of poor, awkward or hard game controls than violent content.

"We must also remember that all games and films have been given appropriate age guidelines - so it really is down to the parents to regulate their children's access to age inappropriate material. Yes, some individuals will be affected by such material - but there again give 100 people a ruler and three of them will use it as a weapon,"