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Assess the view that the mass media creates violence.

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Introduction

Assess the view that the mass media creates violence. There is much debate on whether the mass media creates violence among its audience. There are some views that think that violence in the media does indeed create violence amongst the audience, whilst other views think otherwise. One view, or sociological model, that thinks violence in the media creates violence amongst its audience, is the stimulation effect model. This model assumes that viewing violence is likely to create violence in the viewer. The sociologist Berkowitz (1962) maintained that watching violence stimulates emotional and physiological responses so that the likelihood of aggressive behaviour is increased. However, the stimulus response model is far from simple as Berkowitz argues that it depends on the individual having feelings of aggression or frustration before viewing begins. On the other hand, a model, which argues against the view that the mass media creates violence, is the catharsis model. This model is a psychological approach, grounded in Freudian psychoanalytic theory. It believes that the stresses of daily life build up such a high degree of frustration in the individual that it may lead to aggression. The sociologist Feshbach (1961) argues that viewing violence may in fact act as a deterrent to real life violence because watching violence on our screens relieves our feelings of frustration. ...read more.

Middle

Both sociologists Bandura and Walters argue that audiences are far more likely to imitate violent screen behaviour if they perceive that the behaviour is rewarded by others. The reinforcement model is another model that disagrees with the view that the mass media creates violence within its audience. As its name implies, this perspective argues that violence on television will reinforce any propensity for violence that already exists within the viewer. Media violence neither increases nor decreases the possibility of audience aggression. The sociologist Klapper (1960) argues that violence is not created by the media, rather it results from a complex interaction of norms and values, peer situations, family life and social roles. It is these factors, which determine how violence is understood and reacted to by the audience. Halloran (164) developed a more critical approach. He rejects the media centric position and argues that the media are only one of many factors that influence the audience. This model is more sociological than psychological, as it locates the media within the social situation of the individual. People do not watch television in a social vacuum as they are influenced by their experiences of family life, schooling, religion, policing and so on. ...read more.

Conclusion

However it has recently been argued by European researchers that the concept that the media exert direct effects is too deterministic and ignores the extent to which people are a sophisticated and active audience. Most sociologists today would totally reject the notion that the media is all powerful, because it is extremely simplistic to argue that any given media text will have the same effect on everyone in its audience. Most media texts are read differently by different members of the audience according to their subjective experience, cultural knowledge and social characteristics. In conclusion, we cannot assume that violence shown in the media will affect everybody, and in the same way. In assessing the effects of the media, the nature and structure of the media audience need careful consideration. It cannot be assumed that the audience is a homogeneous mass and that all members of that audience will respond in the same way. Rather, the audience must be considered as heterogeneous - a highly differentiated group of individuals who will respond in a variety of ways to media output. Also, to date, no definite conclusions can be drawn regarding the assessment of the influence of the media on its audiences. Whilst it is true that the media cannot be studied in isolation, studying it within its social context is no easy task. ...read more.

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