Violent media not responsible for aggression

The link between consuming violent media and the propensity for aggression has long been a controversial topic. Now new research from Griffith University has found that personality and frustration are better predictors of anger and aggression in the context of media exposure.

“We found no difference in both anger and aggression following exposure to a book, violent video game, television and non-violent video game,” says Professor Grant Devilly from the School of Applied Psychology and Griffith Criminology Institute.

“What we did find was that people with high levels of impulsivity, increased emotional reactivity to the media, and frustration with the content of the media are more likely to have a higher anger response to media exposure.

“These results are in direct opposition to traditional models of aggression which suggest a causal link between trials of violence and aggression risk.”

The researchers analysed the responses of 151 participants who completed a questionnaire and then either watched a short video designed to induce anger or neutrality, before being exposed to one of four conditions: reading a sexually violent passage from a book (American Psycho); viewing a violent, sexualised video game (Duke Nukum Forever); playing a non-violent, non-sexualised video game (Portal 2); or watching a violent and sexualised television episode (the first episode of Game of Thrones).

“Behavioural aggression (physically acting more aggressive) was higher for those participants less disturbed by the media and with higher trait anger than those who were more disturbed by the media and with low levels of trait anger,” Professor Devilly said.

“Trait anger is how susceptible people are to anger as a personality trait compared episodes of anger caused by a situation.

“Results from this study suggest that media habits do not appear to influence response to media once personality variables are considered, but this doesn’t discount the possibility that years of media consumption have previously influenced these dispositions.”

He said the study’s varied use of media reduced the likelihood of biased conclusions regarding violent video games.

“Despite the book (American Psycho) being rated as the most immersive media type, it did not vary significantly in post media anger or behavioural aggression.”

“It seems it is what we bring to the game that matters rather than what the game brings to us.”

The study is published in the Journal of Psychology, Crime and Law.

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