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The Effects of the Media on Criminal Behaviour

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Introduction

The Effects of the Media on Criminal Behaviour The Hypodermic Syringe Model This theory is a passive audience model, and states that the media almost 'injects' the audience with the contents of the media, which are opinions, or a message and then the audience accepts the attitudes, opinions and beliefs. In some cases, the audience responds to the message in terms of their behaviour, they may end up repeating violent behaviour that they have seen in the piece of media. If this behaviour is deemed as criminal, and members of society are repeating it, then ultimately, a criminal or violent society may be created. This means that it is individually deterministic and that we are almost being 'brainwashed' into acting in the way of the message. The audience has no active part in interpreting the message, and the theory suggests that the mass audience are like 'sheep'. We are easily led and not self-aware. However, if the message becomes corrupted, i.e. through perhaps, culture bias, then the message may be interpreted in a different way to which the sender has encoded it. E.g. If the message is about two white male criminals, then it may be internalised by white males, but not by Jamaican males, meaning that the behaviour would be repeated in certain members of society. This model was a response to the German fascists and capitalist societies, explaining how propaganda works. The Two-Step Flow Theory This theory states that a message is not simply interpreted by an individual; it is interpreted in a social setting. The first step is that the mass audience receives the message. ...read more.

Middle

Psychological theories on media and crime Studies such as the Bobo Doll study by Bandura show that there is some link between media and crime. Groups of children were shown videos of an adult being violent towards a Bobo Doll, and when the children saw the adult being rewarded for their actions, the behaviour was repeated when provided with a Bobo Doll themselves. When they saw the adult being punished for being violent towards the doll, they did not repeat the behaviour. This shows that children can learn behaviour through watching media products. This study highlighted the role of reward and punishment, so, as long as criminal characters are seen to be punished, behaviour should not be repeated, meaning that this cannot explain a violent society. However, in some media products, where criminal characters become popular, likeable, or are seen to be rewarded for their criminal actions, then the mass audience may repeat criminal behaviour, in order to gain the same rewards. Deindividuation, Disinhibition, and Desensitisation Deindividuation is a psychological theory where someone loses his or her sense of individuality. This theory is used to explain group behaviour, where if people committing criminal acts surround you, you feel like you cannot be identified as an individual, therefore cannot be punished or 'caught', and you are therefore more likely to commit the same acts. Disinhibition is where, in terms of aggression perhaps, people see so much of it they become accustomed to it, and it weakens those person's inhibitions towards aggression. This means, because it is more acceptable to them, they are more likely to be aggressive themselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Robert Thompsons case, he was found to have had a difficult upbringing. His father had left for another woman while he was young and his mother had taken to alcohol. He was the fifth of six children and was bullied by his older brothers. He lived in a violent household where one of his brothers had asked to be placed into care after being threatened with a knife. However it cannot be said that his crime was down to lack of love as his neighbours say his mother was still very loving towards him, and in fact stopped drinking two years before the crime. It was said that Robert was not known for violence, although Venables was. He was known for skipping school and stabbing other children with pencils. His parent's denied all the accusations by the media of him watching Child's Play 3. Neither child lived in a rough area, and so perhaps both children were born with predispositions to violence, such as heightened testosterone levels, which have been accounted for aggression. Conclusion Not one audience theory on it's own can provide enough evidence to prove that violence in the media could have caused Thompson and Venables to commit such a terrible crime. Perhaps a mixture of audience theories and several other environmental factors all play certain roles in the cause of someone becoming a criminal offender, and it is only when certain factors coincide that criminality is caused. Perhaps some people are born with predispositions such as higher levels of testosterone, or abnormalities in brain structure, but an environmental stimulus is needed to trigger it. This may have been the movie that they watched, or in Thompsons case, his upbringing, but it is unlikely that there will be enough strong proof to say which one was more influential. ...read more.

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