Survey of Broadcasting: Assignment 2, Question 3. Discuss the differences between the catharsis theory and the stimulation theory. Which one do you consider to be more valid? Why?

Posted on June 30, 2011. Filed under: Aggression, Communications, Communications Theory, Television, Violence | Tags: , , , , , |

The catharsis theory posits that watching media violence relieves the aggressive urges of those viewers in the audience. 

 The stimulation theory posits that watching media violence stimulates aggressive acts in real life by viewers in the audience.

Laboratory experiments designed to test both theories found little support for the catharsis theory.

The bulk of the laboratory research supports the stimulation theory.

However, these early laboratory experiments were criticized for being artificial and using violent TV segments that were not typical of what most viewers saw on TV.

When more realistic violent segments and more relevant aggression measures were used in subsequent experiments, they confirmed that watching violence stimulates subsequent real-life aggression.

More recent laboratory experiments have focused on the factors that might increase or decrease the amount of aggression performed in response to violent media segments.

The general consensus among social scientists is television violence is a cause of subsequent aggression in viewers.

However, it is not the cause since there are many other factors beside TV that determine whether an individual will behave aggressively.

The other factors include age, gender, family interaction, and how the violence is presented on the TV.

In relative terms the effect of TV violence on subsequent aggression is small.

Correlation survey studies show that viewing TV violence and antisocial behaviors are linked but tells us nothing definitive about cause and effect.

 Longitudinal panel surveys that examine the same individual at different points in time.

These studies suggest that viewing TV violence causes viewers to become more aggressive.

However, the degree of relationship between the two factors is small and in a few cases too difficult to detect.

Watching TV encourages aggression, which in turn encourages the watching of more violent TV.

Meta-analysis of the results of many past studies indicates a positive link between media violence and aggressive behaviour. The greatest effect was found in laboratory  experiments and the weakest in long-term panel surveys.

The effect of TV violence on an individual behaving aggressively is small and the precise effect will be impacted by many other factors. 

Therefore I do not consider either the catharsis theory or the stimulation theory to be persuasive  The stimulation theory relative to the catharsis theory is better supported and more valid.

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