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Oh, and Tarantino Isn’t Making You Crazy Either

February 25, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky

movie violence

Here is the abstract from a 2009 report from Oxford University Press on movie violence and whether that violence has any significant effect on real-life violence. (I’ve bolded certain parts for emphasis):

Laboratory experiments in psychology find that media violence increases aggression in the short run. We analyze whether media violence affects violent crime in the field. We exploit variation in the violence of blockbuster movies from 1995 to 2004, and study the effect on same-day assaults. We find that violent crime decreases on days with larger theater audiences for violent movies. The effect is partly due to voluntary incapacitation: between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m., a one million increase in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.1% to 1.3%. After exposure to the movie, between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m., violent crime is reduced by an even larger percent. This finding is explained by the self-selection of violent individuals into violent movie attendance, leading to a substitution away from more volatile activities. In particular, movie attendance appears to reduce alcohol consumption. The results emphasize that media exposure affects behavior not only via content, but also because it changes time spent in alternative activities. The substitution away from more dangerous activities in the field can explain the differences with the laboratory findings. Our estimates suggest that in the short run, violent movies deter almost 1,000 assaults on an average weekend. Although our design does not allow us to estimate long-run effects, we find no evidence of medium-run effects up to three weeks after initial exposure.

If you want to read the entire report, its unfortunately password protected and only retrievable by payment or membership with the university. However, if you scroll down, there are some other articles that cite this one and provide some useful info of their own. I share this here mainly because of the reaction, mostly positive, to my article on video game violence. Most of this has been positive, but some readers have made some astute observations like “Correlation does not equal causation. This is a correlative link, NOT a causal link. There is no more evidence to imply games have caused a drop in violence than there is evidence to imply they have caused a rise in violence.” While this abstract and the study it’s derived from does not provide an absolute knock-down to arguments such as these, at the very least it should keep us open to the fact that violent media provides an outlet for a certain element of the human consciousness that Pixar movies and romantic comedies don’t quite reach.

Another instructive piece is a recent LA Times article that states very clearly that “to fault films for forcing us to consider that humans commit atrocious acts, that evil exists in far too many hearts, is to blame the messenger…Within the mayhem, there is nearly always a message. Movies are our cautionary tales, fictional reminders of the true nature of humanity’s baser basic instincts. And moviemakers — by that I mean every name above and below the title, for it takes a village — are the seers, the interpreters, the illusionists, the entertainers.

They are not the instigators.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. PJK permalink
    February 26, 2013 7:45 am

    plus good


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