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Notes on Media Violence by Barrie Gunter (2008)

GUNTER, B. 2008. Media Violence. American Behavioral Scientist 51, 1061 –1122.

Some overall points
• Gunter paper is a review of behavioural research on media effects on violence - extensive and useful, goes over the different types of research, etc
• The most fundamental difficulty is that everyone is different, media effects get filtered through individual cognitive and cultural screens, "certain forms of media violence can exert certain kinds of effects on some media consumers some of the time." (p1113)
– Real or fiction: people more likely to respond and be affected by real violence (or violence said to be real, e.g. in experiments)
– Also legitimacy: when violence is shown as legitimate, people more likely to repeat/be violent
– The lab experiments (mostly with college students) tend to show effects (violence analogue, electric shock, 'angered' subjects) - aslo the Bandura one - tend to support media violence causality, but these are always artificial situation (altho eg when children left to play after the experiment has 'finished' then arguably natural, socially complex, environment) (see also p1111)
– More effects on younger children - hardly surprising
– Tend to be more males apparently affected, but this leads to on bias present in many - people who are already violent probably prefer violent media content and therefore there is not necessarily a causal link, only an associational one
– Literacy: positive results when children taught to interpret the texts - this implies that without such training, there is more likely to have negative effects
– Statistical significance: what does it mean exactly? Correlation /= correlation... (pp1109)
– Many studies done on violence, and on youth - why? (Ruddock's political point). Somewhere in Gunter he speaks of this bias also, and one (meta analysis I think) showed that depending on initial assumption (violence, neutral, or non violent) the outcome tended to support the assumption (see also p1111)
– "A simplistic, unidirectional model of media effects therefore may hamper the achievement of a comprehensive understanding of why individuals respond to media violence the way they do." (p1112)

A Prezi which summarises the main points

Remote control, children, and television

I often hear parents telling me that television is a good way for their children (infants, toddlers) to educate themselves. I usually shudder inwardly and then tell them about this research that shows how too much television for infants is likely to cause short attention spans and possibly also slow learning of language, etc. (By the way he specifically mentions ‘Baby Einstein' DVDs as being a bad idea; also note that Disney had to *remove* claims that Baby Einstein was educational and offer refunds after legal action was brought against them in the USA.) One of the main problems is that the editing of TV programmes is so snappy, with new scenes every 10 seconds or less. We have not had television for a few years now, and when I do see television, I start to get annoyed at the way in which everything moves so quickly.

One of the reasons for this is the need to keep people interested, and to stop them zapping onto another channel if they are not stimulated in the next 15 seconds. So, imagine a world without the remote control - it's an interesting way to think of the effects of technology on our lives.

The inventor of the remote control just passed away, and he could reasonably claim to have been a major contributor to the current short attention span-friendly TV programming, with his invention of, as his patent application put it "a system to regulate the receiver operation without requiring the observer to leave the normal viewing position" (Rosen)

On the other hand, and in a good example of the need to avoid plain technodeterminism (i.e. the argument that technologies cause social change), it is instructive that one of the selling points of the ‘Flash-Matic' was its ability to "tune out annoying commercials" (by reducing the volume, Rosen), and the ability to avoid advertisements is still a motivating factor for most TV viewers.

Toddlers want control, they need it. Which is why they keep saying ‘No'. It's an important part of how they develop a sense of their own individuality in the world. So it doesn't surprise me that they (apparently) pick up the use of a remote very quickly, and one research reported that
One subject, three-year-old Jimmy, was incapable of articulate conversation and could neither recognize numbers nor tell time, but he "had mastered the basics of RCD use." He "primarily used the RCD to change channels on the TV in order to watch his favorite programs," and when told the time, clever Jimmy "knows if his program should be airing." (Rosen)

Frankly, I can't help thinking that if poor Jimmy hadn't been given free reign of the remote he might have learnt more words, numbers, and the time. Let's hope that he eventually managed to learn to read.