Finals week included student presentations in my Introduction to Mass Media class. We've all heard that continuous exposure to violent behavior through visual, audio and print sources will cause violent behavior in the persons being exposed. We've all heard that this is not true. What is the truth behind this issue?
Unfortunately, there is still no definite answer. Whether or not there is a correlation between violent media and actual real world violence depends on what researcher you're talking to.
What are the causes of violence, and because of the subject we are discussing, especially the causes of violence in adolescents? Many factors make up these causes. First is upbringing. How was the subject raised? History of domestic/community violence, how aggressive behavior was dealt with by the parents, etc. Did they grow up in a good economic situation? Another consideration is substance abuse history, psychological disorders, and other personal elements. These make up the fundamental causes of violence.
It is my belief that exposure to violent media is only one small factor in real life aggressive behavior. Reading back on my post Aggressive behavior and environmental causes, you can see that I point towards parental influence only slightly increasing the chances for aggressive behavior. In my opinion, violent media does not breed violence. However, it can aid to catalyze violent behavior IF the subject has violent tendencies to begin with. I do not believe that any amount of violent media can create a violent person.
I'm not sure that this issue will ever be formally resolved. When a person gets an idea, they will oftentimes not change their thinking. If a person--especially a prominent researcher, states that exposure to media does NOT play a role--they likely will not take the opposite stance because they don't want to have been wrong, even if they see evidence to the contrary. At the same time, certain groups/persons have much to gain if media is not believed to play a role in aggressive behavior. For example, a video game design company who wants to create First Person Shooter games would definitely prefer people to believe that simulated violence will lead to real world violence.
The issue is just too controversial to ever become unanimously agreed upon. The best we can do is look at the research, look at the facts, and use their own common sense to come up with the best opinion on the issue that they can.
4 hours ago