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Does Violent Media Make Us Violent?

Researchers have studied the links between media violence and violent behavior for years without coming to a definite conclusion about this.

Correlating crime data and film release schedules between 1995 and 2004, researchers found that on weekends when violent films were in theaters, the number of assaults in the US increased by about 1,000. In the February 17th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Rebecca Keegan quotes the researchers as saying, "The results emphasize that media exposure affects behavior not only via content, but also because it changes the time spent in alternative activities."

In a surprising reversal, in 2008, economists at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego presented a paper that credits violent films with making the nation SAFER--basically because potential criminals get violent tendencies out of their systems this way.

But the opposite has also been deduced: In a 2009 study called "Comfortably Numb," psychologists at the University of Michigan, Amsterdam and Iowa State University found that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain and suffering of others.

Some people are more sensitive to screen violence than others, often due to life experience. Keegan quotes Lori Pearson, who runs a website that reviews films for kids, as saying, "We get a lot of email from women who've been victims of sexual violence and don't want to see those kinds of scenes (in movies). We get email from people who've been in a car accident and don't want to see a movie with a car accident. And a lot of people just can't tolerate torture--including me."

San Francisco psychologist Elaine Aron estimates that 15% to 20% of people are "highly sensitive."

Keegan quotes her as saying, "Sensitive people have more active mirror neurons. These are the parts of the brain where if you see somebody kick a ball, you feel as though you're kicking the ball yourself. Then there are other parts of the brain that tell you, 'No, it's not you.' But the experience of empathy still happens, and for some people, it's very intense."

Keegan quotes psychologist Joanne Cantor as saying, "Our brains are made to respond negatively to depictions of violence. The fear response is designed to keep us alive. Some people say, 'Why am I such a baby? What's wrong with me? This gives me nightmares, but this is what my boyfriend wants me to watch.' I tell them, 'You're human, there's nothing wrong with you.' Our brains evolved to respond this way before there were movies."

We don't know about sensitivity to violence, but we DO know that a large number of our readers are sensitive to VISITORS and see them regularly. We give our subscribers a chance to hear from these fascinating people--24 of them so far. This is a very special repository of information that you just won't find anywhere else!



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