«Medievold avler vold» reell frykt eller moralsk panikk?
The various media have for long been accused of having contributed to violence in society and to violent crime. From the beginning of the 19th century and upto the present time, the potentially dangerous effect of books, rock music, films, radio, comic, television, the internet and PC games have all been sources of concern. While some regard this as little more than a moral panic and a fear of the new media, there is a broad range of scientific and political communities which consider certain media forms as injurious. This applies particularly to the media which portray violence. There are various viewpoints within the debate concerning media violence. At one extreme we find those who consider that media violence can be exceptionally harmful, and in the most extreme cases are a factor in aggression and violent criminal behaviour. At the other end of the scale are those who consider that there is no significant evidence that media violence is detrimental. In this report we summarise and discuss the findings from research concerning the association between violence in the media and personal violence in practice. The study is based on a review of the literature covering the period 1995 until 2010 together with contributions from the years prior to 1995 which are of particular interest. The choice of literature is restricted to this period as this covers the majority of publications, but also because earlier research literature is characterised by considerable methodological and conceptual weaknesses. In addition, such major changes have occurred in the media world that recent research literature is more relevant to the current situation than earlier contributions in this field. The objective of the study has been to provide a survey of research into media violence and, as far as has been possible, to investigate whether there are any grounds for concern whereby exposure to violence in the media has had a negative effect. It has been particularly important to focus on young boys and men, although this has only been possible to the degree that existing research has had such a focus. The report provides a review of the various theoretical approaches in research concerning the relationship between media violence and aggression. A variety of theories are utilised to explain how individuals are affected by exposure to media violence. Some have been used previously in other areas while other theories have been especially formulated with a view to utilisation in this field. A majority of theories are associated with psychological processes as, for example, cognitive development, fear, imitation and frustration. A number of theories focus on the socialisation function of the media through learning or formation of a picture of the world. Others attempt to explain how biological processes affect the individual’s response to media violence while cultural–theoretical theories attach importance to how the individual interprets the content in the media. Some have also developed a more superior framework wherein several of the approaches mentioned are incorporated into a larger model. The large variety of theoretical approaches which research involves can largely be explained with regard to two aspects. The first is the professional background of those working within the field; the other is what is attempted to be explained. It goes without saying that it is difficult to explain both the findings on the association between exposure to media violence and aggression, finds which point in the opposite directions, and â€˜none-findings’ based on the same theories. This disagreement is not only related to different theories but is more characteristic of much research in this area, both concerning objectives, findings and methodological approaches. Violence is not an unambiguous concept. In Store Norsk Leksikon , violence is defined as â€˜physical or psychological molestation with the aim of exercising one’s own will through the use of force, or in order to give vent to aggression’. Criminal studies refer to the concept of open threats and use of power resulting in personal injury, damage to property, reputation, or illegal acquirement of effects (Mulvilhill & Tumin 1969). The Norwegian psychologist, Per Isdal, defines violence as â€˜any action undertaken against another individual who, by inflicting injury, pain, fright or insult, forces that person to undertake an action against his/her will or cease to do something against their will’ (2000). However, sociological theory regards violence as a means of communication and that violence is more or less a rational expression for underlying problems (Downes 1982). The definitions vary with regard to whether or how the violence is described, and whether there is some underlying reason or intention behind the violent expression, the context of the violent behaviour and its effect. Since psychology dominates much of the research into the association between violence in the media and the individual’s violent behaviour, the psychological understanding of violence characterises the studies. In this understanding, violence is closely associated with aggression. Within research, aggression is considered to be an assumption for violent behaviour and is used by many as a direct or indirect measurement of violent behaviour. In other words, violence is correlated to a certain extent with aggression in the research literature. On the one hand this is due to the theoretical convictions that aggression fosters violent behaviour, but is also linked to practical and ethical challenges associated with data collection and choice of method. Since the concept of aggression can be at least as diffuse as the violence concept, the correspondence between aggression and violence is not particularly clarifying. Two factors require to be studied in order to ascertain the relationship between violence in the media and personal violent behaviour. First, it is necessary to know something about exposure to violence in the media. Secondly, it is necessary to know something of the individual’s violent or aggressive behaviour. The basis of most research in this field is the hypothesis that increased exposure to violence in the media results in an increased possibility that the individual becomes aggressive, and that this is used as a measure of true violence or crime only to a limited extent. Our study of the literature revealed that there are more than thirty measures of aggression. The report presents some of the most commonly encountered measures as well as some of those less frequently encountered. Some of the aggression measures concern actual violence or crime. Others take up the problem through different forms of indirect aggression. Naturally, this is partially associated with ethical problems linked to studies of violence, particularly among children. This dilemma applies especially to experiments which are an essential element of studies in this field. Even though this is understandable, the range of measures encountered by which aggression can be measured is one of the problems met with in these studies. First, there is the question of the validity of the indirect measures employed as an indicator of actual violence. Secondly, the different forms of aggression measures make it extremely difficult to compare the results of the different surveys. The essential question in the research literature is whether an association is to be found between an exposure to media violence and personal violent behaviour or aggression. That is to say whether the level of exposure to media violence is correlated with the degree of personal violence practiced, and whether this can be shown statistically. A number of non-experimental studies also exist which attempt to illustrate this association including correlation studies, cross-section studies, time series analyses, population studies and longitudinal studies. Correlation studies, cross-section studies and population studies investigate the association between exposure to media violence and aggression at a given point in time, while time series analyses and longitudinal studies investigate how this relationship changes over time. Common to these is that they are based on quantitative research methods, and only exceptionally do they show a causal relationship. This is to say that few of these studies contain material which indicate the extent to which media violence alone is the basis of aggression. The studies frequently take their point of commencement in questionÂnaires which register the media customs of a group of respondents, both in respect of preferences and the degree of exposure. Some studies also make reference to specific TV programmes, films or games. Many also register aggression levels in the questionnaire. In others – frequently smaller, statistiÂcal studies, peer nominations or other persons’ evaluations of aggression are used. A number of studies show a statistical relationship between exposure to violence in the media and personal aggression and employ a wide range of measures. The strength of the relationships varies, however, between the studies. Some indicate that exposure to media violence at a certain point in time determines the level of aggression later in life. A considerable number of experiments have been carried out where it is maintained that persons exposed to media violence are accompanied by more aggressive thoughts and emotions, and that those who are exposed to media violence have lower empathy with others. In spite of conflicting findings, much of the research literature maintains that individuals who have been exposed to media violence develop aggressive cognitive structures in the brain, and consequently interpret ambivalent situations, dilemmas or conflicts as more aggressive in nature than do other individuals. Many researchers interpret this as a manifestation of the development of chronic aggressive script which affects the individual’s behavioural pattern. The consensus appears to be greatest in respect of short-term effects while there is broader disagreement concerning long-term effects. A number of meta-analyses have increasingly been carried out in this research area. Meta-analyses are employed to combine and compare the results of studies which utilise the same measurements for the same phenoÂmena. The assumptions for a meta-analysis are that all analyses included in the study have considered the statistical relationship between the same independent variable (for example media violence) and the same dependent variable (for example expressions of violence). When the studies reveal a relationship, it is important to know the strength of the relationship. Simply stated, meta-analyses comprise statistical calculations which aggregate and weigh up the findings of different studies. Those carrying out meta-analyses extract the relevant and comparable statistical information from each study, and calculate the combined effect of the results. To the extent that the combined effect has a strength above a given level, this is regarded as an indication that the observed relationship is statistically significant. There are certain differences between meta-analyses. Most report findings showing a small to medium effect of exposure to media violence on aggression. In general it can be stated that all meta-analyses show significant results, but on closer inspection there is a certain variation which varies from no effect to a medium effect. There is a considerable debate concerning how significant the effect of media violence is for personal violence. In addition to the large disagreement on the appropriateness of many mega-analyses, some also argue that media violence is attributed excessive attention in the debate on violence. On the basis of the relatively small effects revealed in, among other things, the meta-analyses, some researchers express caution whereby the effects of PC games, for example, are exaggerated and draw attention away from more important causes of aggression and violence such as poverty, peer-group influence, depression, domestic violence, and hereditary and genetic circumstances. Exposure to media violence does not necessarily have the same effect on all. A number of studies suggest that the effects of media violence are particularly manifest among boys, children, individuals with behavioural problems, those with aggressive or psychotic personality symptoms, and persons who identify themselves with violent characters in the media, even though studies do exist where the findings are not completely in accordance with these. Even the form of violence, and the media which disseminate violence, is also assumed to be significant, but even here there is dissention and widely contrasting research findings. In large parts of the research community devoted to studies of media violence, especially in North America, a form of consensus exists where exposure to media violence is considered dangerous. In this report we present a number of studies where exposure to various forms of media violence results in certain individuals reacting more aggressively towards others, choose aggressive or violent solutions to social conflicts, are less sensitive towards others, and consider violence as an appropriate or less dangerous means for achieving one’s own ends. But other research findings have gradually emerged which are strongly critical in part of the existing research. Among other things the criticism is directed towards â€˜traditional’ research as experiencing methodological deficiencies and that it is generally unwilling to consider the ambiguities expressed in many of the results. Some of the criticism is concerned with the fact that good control variables are frequently absent in research into media violence. Questionnaires naturally contain a larger number of control variables than other types of survey, but the interest for other explanatory factors than media violence is generally limited. In typical American experiments, gender, age and school-year are frequently the only control variables that are included. Some also include personal characteristics (for example, aggression, psychotic ailments, sensation-seeking, risk-taking). Nevertheless, a number of other factors which are not able to be registered can be of considerable significance for the individual’s level of aggression as, for example, what occurs within one’s own family. For example, it is maintained by the critics that family violence explains more of the variation in own violence than does media violence. Other studies have shown that crime (not necessarily violent crime), males, narcotics, family poverty and anti-social parents are the strongest assumptions for the development of violence among youth. When such variables are included as control variables to only a limited degree, this implies an inherent weakness in the conclusions of research concerning the relationship between exposure to media violence and personal aggression. Some critics also search for a stronger focus on biological explanatory factors. Aggression is a natural feature of the human character, and environÂmental factors (for example, the media) play no important part in aggressive behaviour. According to these critics some individuals are (naturally) more aggressive than others, and it is these who participate in violent games and exhibit aggression more so than others. The problem with arriving at clear and unambiguous conclusions is essentially linked to the aggression measures: the majority of studies employ more than one such measure. This applies in particular to experimental studies. It is seldom that these studies find an association between media violence and aggression on all the aggression measures which are employed in the study. This implies that many studies have conflicting findings where exposure to media violence is correlated with increased aggression on one scale but not on another. These inconsistencies could be discussed more broadly and to greater advantage than is the case in the research literature, which scarcely includes any unexpected results in the formulation of the theoretical basis. Neither does it seem that conflicting findings are included in subsequent studies. This implies that the literature consists of a number of studies which not only contradict themselves but also contradict each other. Some maintain that the strong focus on the injurious effects of media violence can be attributed to moral panic. This is created through fear and the human inclination to turn away from complex and visible social problems, and arise when the reaction to a phenomenon is disproportionate to the factual threat it represents. The moral panic associated with media violence is regarded by some critics as a new expression for concern for youth. Even by the 1950s, a moral panic had arisen concerning youth crime alleged to be a consequence of TV, comic strip series and rock music. By the 1980s this panic had become associated with pop music, while rap music became the focus in the 1990s. After the Columbine school massacre in 1999, several maintained that films and PC games, the internet and pop music were some of the causes of tragedy, but which does not appear to be the case. The moral panic can also be regarded as an expression whereby participants in the debate clearly have their own personal interests. For example, it is maintained that moral panic associated with media violence has arisen as a consequence of the interplay between a conservative value-ideology and personal interests of politicians, the press and researchers. These groups benefit from a moral panic associated with media violence, For politicians, media violence provides a good possibility to display the ability to act and provides an easy approach in the battle against crime. Both politicians and the press can benefit from the so-called negative news as these attract more attention and sell more than positive news. The research literature on media violence has been an important weapon in the American politicians’ campaign against youth crime and health problems. On the basis of the studies which provide the foundation of this report we do not, however, find any reason to exercise extreme caution in giving advice or making recommendations. A prudent conclusion would be that media violence can be injurious for some. The uncertainty associated with this is nevertheless so large that it is difficult to defend comprehensive and costly measures which would reduce media violence to a degree whereby such measures would be possible to carry out at all. On this basis, we cannot base our relation to media violence on the extent to which it can be maintained that such violence is injurious. An evaluation of media violence should preferably be controlled by those values which society wishes to promote, and which ultimately cannot be measured empirically.Denne rapporten er skrevet på oppdrag fra Barne-, likestillings- og inkluderingsdepartementet. Spørsmålet som belyses er om eksponering for vold i media fører til at forbrukere av slike medier blir mer voldelige enn dersom de ikke hadde valgt å eksponere seg for vold i media. Rapporten gir en omfattende gjennomgang av internasjonal forskningslitteratur fra midten av nittitallet og frem til i dag som gir svar på dette spørsmålet. Selv om det ofte konkluderes med at det er en slik sammenheng, er forskningsresultatene ved nærmere ettersyn mer tvetydige. Forskningen på feltet har også en del metodiske svakheter som bidrar til at konklusjonene blir usikre. Andre omstendigheter som familievold, relasjoner til egne foreldre og familiefattigdom har sannsynligvis en større betydning for at voldelige handlinger finner sted blant unge mennesker.
- NOVA - Rapport 
Frøyland, Lars Roar
Bjerkan, Kristin Ystmark