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Four Major Theories Of Television Violence

Updated on March 29, 2015

Television Violence

How and why does television influence people? Being specific, how does television violence cause aggression, or does It? The sociological point of view includes the Arousal Theory, the Social Learning Theory, the Disiinhibiton Theory, and the Aggression Theory. There are other theories such as the Social Comparison Theory and the Modeling Precision Theory, which I am excluding due to the length of this article. No one theory has dominated and the debates on television and violence has become heated over the years.

The Arousal Theory

P. H. Tannenbaum is the leading advocate of the Arousal Theory, which states that exposure to television violence increases aggression because violence increases excitation, or arouses viewers.This hypothesis has been supported by studies that demonstrate that erotic, violent, and other causes of substance hypothesized to be arousing and will increase physiological measures of excitation among college aged subjects; that exposure to humor, erotica, and.other types of visual portrayals lead to subsequent aggression on the part of college age subjects than less excitatory fare. Tannenbaum is very much the advocate of testing a hypothesis in order to construct theory. he believes in rigorous laboratory experimentation in order to deduce cause and effect.

Children and the Negative Impact of Television Violence

Be Aware of What Your Children are Viewing
Be Aware of What Your Children are Viewing | Source

The Social Learning Theory

Bandura is the leading supporter of the Social Learning Theory. His central proposal is that ways of behaving are learned by observing others, and that this is a major means by which children do aquire unfamiliar behavior. Although, performance of acquired behavior will depend at least in part on factors other than acquisition. Bandura, like Tannenbaum believes strongly in the testing of the hypothesis in order to construct the theory. He also believes in rigorous laboratory experimentation in order to infer the cause and effect. However, unlike Tannenbaum he has focused on the acquisition of the behavior. Bandura's Social Learning Theory, has been one of the most refiined and well tested theories in the Social Sciences. This theory has been one of the two most influential sources of research on television and aggression. It is not limited to acquisition but also encompasses the attributes of the individual, the observed stimuli, and the environment.

Disinhibition Theory

Berkowitz, has been the leading investigator of the Disinibition Theory. This theory states that television violence in certain circumstances will result in increased interpersonal aggression because it weakens the inhibitions against such behavior. Tannenbaum, Bandura, and Berkowitz all believe in testing their hypothesis in order to construct theory. All testing was done under rigorous control in order to surmize cause and effect. However, unlIke Tannenbaum he was interested in the direct contribution of television violence to to the performance of aquiref behavior. In addition, unlike Tannenbaum and Bandura, Berkowitz's research involved naturalistic field experiments on the effects of television violence on interpersonal aggression.

Aggression Reduction Theory

Feshbach is conventually identified as a promoter of the catharsis hypothesis, which is Aggression Reduction Theory. This theory holds that under certain conditions exposure to television violence will reduce subsequent aggression. Feshbach, like Tannenbaum, Bandura, and Berkowitz believed in the testing of the hypothesis in order to construct theory in a rigorous control in order to understand cause and effect. However, unlike the other three he focused on the circumstances under which television violence leads to reduction in subsequent Aggression. Besides the ambiguities in linking violence on television with actual aggression. What is it that we mean by aggression? Aronson points out that the term aggression is used regarding the Boston Strangler, a football tackle, or a go-getter insurance salesperson, a child who clobbers their sibling or even a jilted boyfriend who threatens suicide. Aronson applies the term aggression only to behavior aimed at causing harm or pain. There is no agreement on whether aggression is instinctive as opposed to learned behavior. There is also no certainty on whether or not aggression can be a good thing.

The Impact of Television Violence on Adults

Over all, we are very protective of our children and because it is children who watch the most television they view violent cartoons, most of the studies have focused on children. Aronson does point out that there have been similar effects on adults. He cites the 1993 film "The Program," in which college students lay down on the center of the highway to prove their courage. Two students lost their life in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while performing this stunt. Aeon son also refers to the systematic research of David Phillips regarding the significant increase in the number of incidents following publicized prize fights. The more publicity, the more the increase in subsequent homicides. After white boxers lost, more white men, not black men were murdered; after black boxers lost there were more murders of black men than white men. Even less plausible that his story about "The Program, " Aronson spoke of the Killeen, Texas cafeteria mass murder of 22 peopl by a crazed gunman with ticket stubs to the film "The Fisher King" which presents a lunatic shooting and killing of people in a bar. The cause and effect is simply not plausible here.

Acquired Behavior


Statistics and Specifics

* Children watch an average of over 28 hours of television per week.

* By the age of 12 years old your child has witnessed over 8,000 murders.

* Children's television contains five times more violence than your average prime time hour of adult


* By the age of eight years old aggression becomes so ingrained in a child that it predicts adult


* Children who spend more time watching violent television programming are rated more poorly by

their teacchers, rated more poorly by their peers, possess fewer problem solving skills, and are

more likely to get in trouble by breaking the law as teenagers and young adults.

* Those children at more risk are the ones that prefer television violence. More aggressive children

watch more violent television than their less aggressive peers.

Impact of Television Violence on Children

How Much Television are Your Children Watching?

How much time do your children or grandchildren view television per day?

See results

Alfred Bandura

Alfred Bandura
Alfred Bandura | Source

Which Media Type is Most Damaging?

This brings us to the issue of which media has the greatest impact on our culture. In the past televisioms displaced film and radio.. However, I simply do not believe television to be the only media offender. Children are influenced by violent video games. When a child plays a violent video they become an active participates rather than spectators. I believe it to be worse for a child to play Mortal Combat and rip out his opponents heart or slice off a man's head than to watch a television show. It's also been shown that music choices our children are making also play a role in aggression that's we are seeing in America. The lyrics to music that some of our children are listening to are atrocious. All of these media types definitely influence our children but we must remember that television violence is a child's reality and aggression is a part of life.


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