Influence of mass media  

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This page Influence of mass media is part of the mores series. Illustration: Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Catholic Church.
This page Influence of mass media is part of the mores series.
Illustration: Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Catholic Church.
Frontispiece of "Pernicious Literature" (1889)
Frontispiece of "Pernicious Literature" (1889)

"As the monster confessed it, it was from reading Suetonius and the descriptions of the orgies of Tiberius, Caracalla, etc., that the idea was joined of locking children in his castles, torturing them, and then killing them."--Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) by Richard von Krafft-Ebing

"One of the earliest known associations between the media and suicide arose from Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. In the book, Werther shoots himself with a pistol after he is rejected by the woman he loves, and shortly after its publication there were reports of young men using the same method to kill themselves in acts of hopelessness. This resulted in the book being banned in several places. Hence the term "Werther effect", used in the technical literature to designate copycat suicides."--Sholem Stein

"The novels of the Marquis de Sade have killed more children than could kill twenty Gilles de Rais, they kill every day, they will continue to kill, they kill their souls as well as their bodies. What's more, while Gilles de Rais has paid his crimes during his lifetime: he died by the hands of the executioner, his body was delivered to the fire, and his ashes were scattered to the wind, what power could incinerate all the books of Marquis de Sade? That is what nobody can do, these are books, and thus crimes that will never perish."--Jules Janin in Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture, translation J.-W. Geerinck

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In media studies, media psychology, communication theory and sociology, media influence and media effects are topics relating to mass media and media culture effects on individual or audience thought, attitudes and behavior.

Media influence is the actual force exerted by a media message, resulting in either a change or reinforcement in audience or individual beliefs. Media effects are measurable effects that result from media influence or a media message. Whether that media message has an effect on any of its audience members is contingent on many factors, including audience demographics and psychological characteristics. These effects can be positive or negative, abrupt or gradual, short-term or long-lasting. Not all effects result in change: some media messages reinforce an existing belief. Researchers examine an audience after media exposure for changes in cognition, belief systems, and attitudes, as well as emotional, physiological and behavioral effects.

There are several scholarly definitions of media. Bryant and Zillmann defined media effects as "the social, cultural, and psychological impact of communicating via the mass media". Perse stated that media effects researchers study "how to control, enhance, or mitigate the impact of the mass media on individuals and society". Lang stated media effects researchers study "what types of content, in what type of medium, affect which people, in what situations".

Media violence

The effects of media violence upon individuals has many decades of research, starting as early as the 1920s. Children and adolescents, considered vulnerable media consumers, are often the target of these studies. Most studies of media violence surround the media categories of television and video games.

The rise of the motion picture industry, coupled with advances in social sciences, spurred the famous Payne Fund studies and others. Though the quality of the research has been called into question, one of the findings suggested a direct role between movies depicting delinquent adolescents and delinquent behaviors in adolescents. Wertham (1954) later suggested that comic books influenced children into delinquent behaviors, provided false worldviews and lowered literacy in his book Seduction of the Innocent. This research was too informal to reach a clear verdict, and a recent study suggests information was misrepresented and even falsified, yet it led to public outcry resulting in many discontinued comic magazines.

Television's ubiquity in the 1950s generated more concerns. Since then, studies have hypothesized a number of effects.

Behavioral effects include disinhibition, imitation and desensitization.

  1. Disinhibition, a theory that exposure to violent media may legitimize the use of violence, has found support in many carefully controlled experiments. Men exposed to violent pornography behave more aggressively towards women in certain circumstances.
  2. Imitation theory states individuals may learn violence from television characters. Bandura's Bobo doll experiment, along with other research, seems to indicate correlation even when controlling for individual differences.
  3. Desensitization refers to an individual's habituation to violence through exposure to violent media content, resulting in real-life implications. Studies have covered both television and video game violence. Desensitization has become an issue with Hollywood adaptations in regard to crimes. It is very easy for a movie to become caught up in making its films look artistic that they begin to make their audiences indifferent to the true horror that is taking place on screen.

Cognitive effects include an increased belief of potential violence in the real world from watching violent media content, leading to anxiety about personal safety.

See also

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