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Media Violence

N.B The following notes do not include extracts from your readings

Intended Media Effects (McGuire in Perse 2001)

  • Effects of Advertising on consumer behaviour
  • Effects of political campaigns on voting
  • Effects of Public Service Announcements on personal behaviour and social improvement
  • Effects of propaganda on ideology
  • Effects of media ritual on social control

McQuail's Summary of Media Effects (1994)

  • Knowledge gain and distribution throughout society
  • Diffusion of Innovations
  • Socialisation to societal norms
  • Institution and cultural adaptations and changes

Media Effects are described as... (Perse 2001)
Cognitive (or about knowledge acquisition)
This includes theories of:
  • social learning (violence is learned from the media)
  • Information-processing (viewers will cut-&-paste violent scenarios to suit a given purpose)
  • Priming effect (accounts for short-term aggressive behaviour for example after a soccer match)
  • Attitude change (viewers become disinhibited towards violence)

Affective (or producing an emotional reaction)

This icludes theories of:

  • Cultivation (where viewers think that there might be more violence in the world than their really is).
  • Justification (where seeing violent images might help aggressive people believe their own thoughts and actions are acceptable).
  • Catharsis (where watching violent media purges violent thoughts and feelings).
  • Physiological responses similar to when a horror film makes us feel scared (pleasurable to some) or an action film makes us feel excited.
  • Habituation desensitisation (makes viewers develop 'callused perceptions and reactions').

Behaviourable Response

  • Pro-social observable actions
  • Anti-social observable actions


Unintended Media Effects (McGuire in Perse 2001)

  • Effect of media images on the social construction of reality
  • Effects of media bias on stereotyping
  • Effects of erotic and sexual material on attitudes and objectionable behaviours
  • How media forms affect cognitive activity and style
  • Effect of media violence on aggressive behaviour

Gauntlett's '10 Things Wrong with the Effects Model'

Available in full at

(you might have to 'manually' enter this address as the link often comes up as 'effects/htm' not 'effects.htm')

1.The effects model tackles social problems backwards

2. The effects model treats children as inadequate

3. Assumptions within the effects model are characterised by barely- concealed conservative ideology

4. The effects model inadequately defines its own objects of study

5. The effects model is often based on artificial studies

6. The effects model is often based on studies with misapplied methodology

7. The effects model is selective in its criticisms of media depictions of violence

8. The effects model assumes superiority to the masses

9. The effects model makes no attempt to understand meanings of the media

10. The effects model is not grounded in theory

Some Useful Texts

Barker, M., & Petley, J. (2001). Ill Effects: The Media /Violence Debate. London: Routledge.

McQuail, D. (1994). Mass Communication Theory: An Introduction. London: Sage Publications.

McQuail, D. (1997). The Audience in Communication Theory. In D. McQuail (Ed.), Audience Analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Media Watch ‘Media Violence’ Parts I & II, GU Call no: P96.V5 M31 1991

Perse, E. M. (2001). Media Effects and Society. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.

Wartella, E. A. J., N., (2000). 'Children & Computers: New Technology - Old Concerns'. The Future of Children, Volume 10.

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Notes for Kate Liley's lecture delivered on 24/03/03