Innovative technological advancements result in many positive improvements to our society as a whole as well as in relation to other societies, but they consequently lead to inevitable negative aspects such as weapons of mass destruction. In return, the presence of aggressive behavior in our society continues to rise in part because of our continual exposure to it via the media, movies, and video games, and also in part because of our innate, primitive drive toward instinctive aggression.
Behind the Wheel of Aggression
Freud's psychoanalytical theory that almost all of humankind's actions can be traced to sexual instinct is formulated around the idea that unfulfilled sexual desire leads to frustration, which is expressed by aggression. In Frustration and Aggression by John Dollard, et al. (1939), Freud's theory is further developed with the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which proposes that whenever something prevents a person from achieving a goal, it's perceived as an obstruction, whether animate or inanimate, and needs to be injured, hence the aggressive drive.
Steering the Wheel of Aggression
Almost all reported instances of violence, whether in newspapers or on the local news network, fail to give the complete history of the aggressor. More often than not, the chain of events that led up to the eventual crime is pertinent information in attempting to trace the nature of aggressive behavior. The snowball effect, which begins with repressed frustration and leads to a buildup of destructive behavior patterns that manifest themselves in a variety of hostile ways, comes to an end with an ultimate, barbaric act. If the root of this eventual act is not discovered, understood, and treated, the cycle may be triggered and the sequence will begin all over again.
From a biological standpoint, arousing specific regions of the brain causes equally specific aggressive reactions. Stimulating different regions of a cat's hypothalamus causes the cat to react either in a wild display of aggression by hissing and striking out or in a sophisticated form of premeditated hunting that results in the prey's death. Monkeys, on the other hand, follow a hierarchy of dominance and act accordingly based on recollections of past experiences.
Since parents possess the most influential power over their children by constantly being observed by their children in natural settings, the way they treat violence and the frequency with which they resort to aggressive behavior is likely to be imitated by their children.
In Chapter 2 you learned about one famous experiment in which children observed an adult beating up and abusing an inflatable doll. When children were later placed in a room with the same doll, many of them imitated the aggressive behavior they observed previously. The children were even more likely to mimic the angry actions if they had observed the adults being rewarded for this type of behavior.
The Effect of Television and Video Game Violence on Children
As seen in the experiment with the Bobo doll, young children often imitate viewed aggression because they associate people on television with being role models for adulthood. Children believe the action is justified because a “grownup” did it, and therefore understand it to be a part of “growing up” in today's society. Television violence's effect on children results in aggressive behavior for a number of other reasons, including the following:
Elevated levels of arousal — D. K. Osborn and R. C. Endsley's study published in the journal Child Development (1971) shows how children are more apt to become emotionally aroused while viewing violent programs by measuring the increase in their galvanic skin responses. The increase is notably higher when viewing violent behavior.
Excessive exposure leads to desensitizing people to violence — The shock of violent behavior subsides after repeated incidents of violence are experienced, thus stunting our ability to react appropriately and effectively to real-life situations and provide help when needed.
Mixed messages on settling conflicts — Children don't often recognize whether a situation is fictional or based in reality, so when they see the timeless struggle of good versus evil played out on television by their favorite cartoon characters, they also develop a positive image of how good triumphs over evil through violent means.
The potential impact of video game violence has become a hot topic among psychologists, educators and, parents. In one study by Craig Anderson and Karen Dill (2000), researchers found that participants who played a violent video game scored higher on a measurement of aggression than those who had played a nonviolent video game. Some psychologists suggest that the influence of violent video games may even be more pronounced than television and movies since children are actually taking on the role of the aggressor during game play. In a 2005 report, the American Psychological Association concluded that, based upon their research, exposure to violent video games increases aggressive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.