and the modern instrument of visual/audible
communication called the television.
I read with great sadness the demise of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, a young girl allegedly murdered by two teenage brothers in New Jersey. This young girl was to turn 13 this coming week.
The very thought of what was done to her (strangulation) causes me a good deal of anguish, especially when I think of the parents and grandparents. As a grandfather of 15, I cannot imagine what the family is feeling right now.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t identified the teens because they are juveniles, but neighbors and relatives have identified them as 17-year-old Dante Robinson and his 15-year-old brother, Justin Robinson. (click here)
If you think about this crime, you have to admit that there is only one way such things take place at the hand of such young assailants for it's impossible for them to have come up with such a horrid thought on their own. The culprit behind this and all such acts of violence is "example." The murderous thoughts that took place in their young minds had to come from outside of themselves for young children are not, or should not be predisposed to such thinking on their own without some outside agency at work.
Another way to put this is: Monkey see--Monkey do!
Violence on Television
The question is, can repetitive visual exposure to violence on television and in the movies cause young people to commit acts of violence themselves? According to Leonard Berkowitz, author of Impulse, Aggression and the Gun, the answer to that is "Yes."
"Two series of experiments that my colleagues and I have performed on impulsive aggression bear directly on these questions. The first series indicates that even so small a matter as the casual sight of a gun can sometimes stimulate aggressive behavior. The second suggests that, contrary to what the so-called catharsis theory predicts, the sight of violence can increase the chance that a viewer will express aggression himself." Source: Impulse, Aggression and the Gun, Leonard Berkowitz, Readings For General Psycholoby, PL202/PL252, Instructors Office Of Military Psychology and Leadership, Xerox College Publishing, Lexington, Mass.
Source: The Daily CommentaryCatharsis: Psychiatry, psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up socially unacceptable emotions.
In the first experiment, a group of students from the University of Wisconsin were told that the experiment was intended to measure students' physiological reaction to stress. The students were divided into two groups. Each group was exposed to a series of electrical shocks in response to a series of marketing ideas that they had presented. One group received a low number of shocks while the other group received a much larger number of shocks, irregardless of the quality of their marketing ideas. The group that received the maximum number of shocks were what Berkowiz called "our angry group."
The Daily CommentaryIn the final phase of the experiment, Berkowitz says that some of the students from both groups were exposed to the consequential sight of a .38 cal. handgun and 12-gauge shot gun. Students were told that the guns were left there from a previous experiment and the administrator merely pushed them aside. Each student had a partner who was actually a plant. The roles were then switched where the students were asked to administer the same electrical shocks to their partner who had previously administered the shocks to them. Within the group who had seen the guns, a significant number of students showed more aggression than the control group who did not see them.
"It is quite conceivable that many hostile acts which supposedly stem from unconscious motiviation really arise because of the operation of aggressive cues. The aggression can even be thought of as a conditioned response to the stimulus. If a gun can be that stimulus, then it is a double-barreled threat--an immediate cue that also presents the aggressor with a deadly means of aggrression."
Berkowitz adds a very important point that this experiment brought out. "With our subjects, the guns did not enhance aggression unless the students were angry to begin with."
In the second experiment, young children were encouraged to play with older children who were asked to remain neutral. Berkowitz says there was no fighting or fussing going on. Some of the children were given toy guns to play with while others talked and had fun. The younger children were then told that the older children had built block houses on a series of tables in another room and that if they pressed a button on the table, these houses would shake and come to ruin. According to Berkowitz, despite the fact that all of the children hadn't quarreled and were not angry, those who had played with the guns invariably pressed these buttons, demonstrating more violent behavior than the other group who had sat and talked and simply played.
What do these experiments tell us about children and guns?
"Even given high frustration and an immediate cue, violence will not erupt unless there is a third factor as well: low inhibitions. The 'normal' level of inhibitions to violence in our society is not particularly high. We take a lenient attitude toward what is sometimes called defensive aggression," says Berkowitz.
"Nowhere is violence in the cause of good more consistently and more enthusiastically touted than in movies and on TV. Fictional representations of violence are often defended, by people in the industries that sell them and also by many consumers, on the grounds that they serve a cathartic purpose."
Berkowitz says that some psychologists still believe that it is better to enact violence while others believe that witnessed violence can actually cause children to act out violent behavior. He adds that "a little aggression, like a snowball, can gather momentum and grow."
"Results like this present an awkward problem to TV and movie censorship agencies, and to producers who want to make violent films without encouraging real violence. The modern censorhip agencies generally insist that crime and violence be used not just to entertain but to teach a lesson--'crime does not pay,' for example. How the lesson should be taught is left vague; scriptwriters usually follow the maxim of 'an eye for an eye'," says Berkowitz.
If society is really serious about curbing school violence, then they will look more to the television and movie houses than to the availability of guns. Sure, the sight of a gun on dad or mom's night stand (it ought to be locked up other than at night when mom and dad are in bed) is enough to suggest violence, but, as Berkowitz's research bares out, this alone is not usually enough to trigger violent behavior.
Take the young children experiment where those who played with toy guns reacted more violently than those who did not. At first glance, it's easy to blame the toy guns for the aggressive response of the children. However, it is the significance of the toy gun to these children that actually caused their more violent behavior, not the gun itself. What do I mean by that? Simply that by witnessing violence on their parents' television sets, they knew what the gun was for and they associated violence with the gun before them. Was it the gun itself that caused them to become more violent or was it the violence on their parents' television sets that they associated with the gun?
If you have an opinion on this issue, I welcome your input. Please use the comment portion of this post, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), or call me at 330-956-9003.