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Television Viewing & Aggression

Television viewing has become one of the most prevalent pastimes in the United States, with violence one of the most common acts portrayed on television shows, network and cable alike. Because of this, social psychologists have studied the effects of violent television on aggressive behavior.

The two major theories concerning television aggression are frustration-aggression and social learning; each theory makes different predictions about the effects of television violence. The frustration-aggressive theory suggests that viewing an aggressive act will lessen the instigation toward future aggression. If children vicariously experience aggression by watching violence on TV, they should therefore be less likely to aggress. Social learning theory, on the other hand, suggests that witnessed aggression leads to more aggression rather than to catharsis (Worchel, et al, 1990).

Social psychology, therefore, views the question of the effects of television violence on children as a testable problem, based, for example, on cause and effect, or the analysis of the relationships between variables:

For example, in an experiment testing the effects of TV violence on children's aggression we might show some children a violent TV show and others a nonviolent show (the violence of the show would constitute the independent variable) and then observe whether the two kinds of programs have any effect on the children's aggressiveness (the dependent variable) (Lippa, 1990, 30).

Although some experimental research has concluded that the relationship between TV violence and aggression in children is tenuous at best, the majority of the sources consulted for this study make clear that there is indeed such a relationship, and that the problem requires active remedies on the part of parents and society:

Does watching all this TV violence actually influence children's behavior? Many experimental and correlational studies suggest that it does. . ...

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