Psychological Perspectives on Media Violence

Douglas A. Gentile, Patrick K. Bender, Courtney Plante, Casper Schmidt, Soyoung Park

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Given the ubiquity of digital media and the thousands of hours people spend consuming digital media each year, it is hardly surprising that researchers devote considerable effort to understanding media effects. Although many other aspects of media effects have been studied (e.g., advertising, educational media, etc.), the most-studied effect in the psychological literature is that of violent media. Most of these studies have focused on effects associated with the exposure to violent television shows and films. In the 1970s, researchers converged on the conclusion that violent television increased consumers’ risk for aggressive behavior, a consensus begun by the 1972 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on television violence. It is important to note that the vast majority of this research involved aggressive behavior, not violence. Although news reports and critics often use those words interchangeably, the distinction is critically important. Research typically involves aggressive behavior, defined as any action (verbal, relational, or physical) intended to harm someone who would not wish to be harmed, as well as the precursors of aggression (e.g., emotions, attitudes, thoughts). Such measures do not constitute “violence,” an extreme subtype of physical aggression that would, if successful, cause severe bodily damage or death. As such, it is important to examine the language surrounding any claim about violent media effects carefully, to avoid falling into the trap of manipulative rhetoric. With the advent of interactive digital media, the topic of media violence has once again risen to prominence and controversy. Researchers and laypersons alike questioned whether the interactive nature of video games meant that violent games would affect people in a different way than traditional media. Although the consensus among most media researchers and public health officials is that the effects of violent video games are no different than for other violent media, misconceptions and misrepresentations of the research persist. Those motivated to believe that violent content effects do not exist narrowly focus on the limitations of individual studies or measures and rely on studies that themselves suffer from serious methodological limitations. However, when the literature is viewed as a whole, with an emphasis on converging evidence and methods with overlapping strengths, the literature converges on the conclusion that violent video games, like violent television, are one risk factor for aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies in Psychology
EditorsDana S. Dunn
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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