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1. Laboratory studies: These occur in carefully controlled environments in the hope that a causal link can be found between watching violence and behaving aggressively.…
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  • 1. Laboratory studies: These occur in carefully controlled environments in the hope that a causal link can be found between watching violence and behaving aggressively. Imitation of Film-mediated aggressive models, Bandura, Ross & Ross, (1963) – please refer to notes from the aggression module for the detail on this study Violent programme study – Liebert and Baron, (1972). 2 groups of children were randomly assigned to either a: • Violent condition – watched a violent episode of a detective show • Non-violent condition – watched an equally arousing sports event. • Afterwards, during periods of play, those in the violent group were assessed as behaving more aggressively than those in the non-violent group. However, not all the violent condition children acted aggressively and aggression levels were measured quantitatively (amount), not qualitatively (type). Karate Kid study – Bushman (1995) Randomly assigned students viewed 15 minutes of aggression from the film Karate Kid III (experimental group) or an equally arousing non-violent clip from Gorillas in the Mist (control group). After this, each participant completed a 25 trial reaction time task against an (imaginary) opponent. If they ‘won’ the reaction time trial, they could ‘punish’ their opponent by subjecting them to white noise. They could select the ‘punishment’ level (65-105 decibels) each time they ‘won’ a trial. Trials were actually fixed so that they won 50% of the time. Participants who had watched the violent Karate Kid III video clip delivered more punishment (longer duration and higher intensity) than those in the non-violent control group. (KKIII was rated PG, so may not be that violent…)
  • 2. E valuation of laboratory experiments • Ecological validity: the lab situation is different from real life and violence within the lab is different from violence outside the confines of the lab. The removal of all possible extraneous variables may enhance the methodological aspects of the experiment, but at the expense of creating a ‘real-life’ situation for the participants. • Legitimised aggression: in the lab, the aggressive behaviour is legitimised by the experimental situation. Participants are told that the use of electric shocks and/or white noise is part of the experimental process. • No punishment as a consequence of actions: performing aggressive behaviours in the lab never results in punishment (unlike in real life). • Intention to harm: many lab studies don’t involve any intention to harm. • Applies to some aggressive individuals: however, it may be the case that some aggressive people neither fear punishment nor worry about the possible consequences of their violence. Therefore, lab results may be applicable to such individuals. • Demand characteristics and compliance: the lab situation may provide clues as to how participants are expected to behave. Compliance is also likely since: 1.) Behavioural standards expected in the situation are unclear 2.) The experimenter is likely to appear an influential figure 3.) Participants wish to present themselves in a psychologically healthy light (Rosenberg, 1969) Synopticity…. Ethics???? Howitt (89) – how can researchers justify showing participants violent or aggressive stimulus material? Surely, such research should not be conducted (it may be socially sensitive or contravene the ethical guideline of protection from psychological harm?). Howitt argues that researchers don’t actually belief in any long-term effects of watching violent video clips.
  • 3. . Field experiments: These involve the manipulation of the independent variable in a real-life setting Hockey Game study – Josephson, (1987) Josephson showed groups of boys either a violent or a non-violent film. Later, both groups took part in a game of hockey. The boys in the ‘violent film’ condition were rated as most aggressive during the game. It was suggested that their behaviour was due the effects of ‘cognitive priming’ since there were ‘cues’ in the violent films that mirrored aspects of the game. E valuation of Field Experiments • Few demand characteristics: since participants are often unaware of taking part in a field study, there can be no demand characteristics. • Mixed findings: meta-analyses have failed to find clear-cut results. Wood et al (1991) found that in: o 16 studies participants acted more aggressively after watching a violent film o 7 studies participants in the control groups acted more aggressively o 5 studies there was no difference between control and experimental groups Natural experiments: These involve a naturally-occurring event. The independent variable is not manipulated by the experimenter. Notel study – Joy et al (1986) Joy et al examined the change in children’s aggression after the introduction of TV in a remote Canadian town (called Notel). Results were compared with 2 other towns that already had TV. Physical and verbal aggression levels increased in all 3 towns but were most marked in Notel.
  • 4. E valuation of the Notel study • Sample: the sample size was small (n=45) and selective (only children aged 6-11) • Uncontrolled variables: prior to the introduction of TV, the children in Notel were just as aggressive as those in other communities, suggesting that media effects don’t explain aggressive behaviour. After all, you’d expect the Notel children to be less aggressive if TV was such a powerful influence. This suggests that there were other differences between the 3 communities. St Helena study – Charlton (2000) This study examined the effects of the introduction of TV to the island of St Helena in the Atlantic. A total of 859 children were examined and behavioural measures recorded. These was no increase in anti-social behaviour five years after the introduction of TV, but pro-social behaviour had actually increased. E valuation of natural experiments • Design considerations: natural experiments take advantage of a naturally occurring event and as such involve no manipulation of the independent variable. • Methodological criticisms: there are many uncontrolled (confounding) variables in these natural experiments. It’s therefore difficult to draw any firm conclusions about media influence on violent behaviour. • Cause and effect: any relationship between introduction of TV and increased levels of violence many not be causal. Longitudinal studies: These generally use correlational analysis whereby measures of viewing behaviour are measured against levels of aggressive behaviour. In addition, participants are followed over a long period of time. High school study – Milarvsky (1982) A total of 3,200 students identified the TV programmes they watched over a 4 week period and then measures of aggression were obtained. This procedure was repeated over a number of years. There was little evidence of a correlation between exposure to TV violence and aggressive behaviour. All the correlations were positive, but not to a statistically significant level. Support for this was also provided by Wiegman (92) in the Netherlands.
  • 5. Cross-National study – Huesmann & Eron (1986) This was based on earlier work where Eron et al (1972) reported that the amount of TV violence viewed at age 8 was positively correlated to aggressive behaviour 10 years later. However, this relationship was only found for boys using peer aggressive rating scale measures. This peer rating measure included anti-social measures, not merely aggression. Using similar methodology, a 3 year longitudinal study of primary school children in 5 countries purported to show some positive correlations between aggression and the viewing of violence. Cumberbatch (1997) questions much of the research, arguing that some correlations were not significant, or actually negative – that is, the more TV violence watched the less aggressive the students were! E valuation of longitudinal studies • No consistent findings: longitudinal studies have not shown a consistent pattern of results. There are as many negative findings as positive ones. The conclusion remains that these studies ‘have not demonstrated a relationship between the amount of violence viewed on TV and subsequent aggressive behaviour’ (Felson, 00) • However, after Johnson et al (02) published substantive evidence (700 participants tracked over 17 years) of a correlation between viewing violence and subsequent aggressive behaviour, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that ‘the debate is over…. TV violence has been shown to be a risk factor to the health and well-being of the developing child’. • No cause and effect: even if the findings were consistent, we’re still left with the major problem that correlational studies cannot prove cause and effect. There may be other variables that can explain any correlational relationship found.
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