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Mass Media and Crime - Entertainment

exposure criminal television world

The possibility that exposure to mass media entertainment—from comic books to the Internet—can inspire criminal behavior was the subject of research, speculation, and debate throughout the twentieth century. Some content is considered more suspect than others, particularly depictions of violence. Since 1950, violent television fare has been the subject of a great deal of research, and meta-analyses of this body of research tend to conclude that there is a consistent, moderate causal relationship between exposure to televised violence and aggressive behavior in the real world (Hearold; Paik and Comstock; Hogben). Various theoretical explanations for the link have been offered, notably including social learning (Bandura), excitation transfer (Zillmann, Hoyt, and Day), and disinhibition, or desensitization (Berkowitz and Rawlings; Thomas, Horton, Lippincott, and Drabman).

Not all aggressive behavior is criminal, of course. The laboratory studies that lead to the conclusion that exposure to televised violence causes more aggressive behavior in real life are frequently criticized for not being sufficiently realistic to be generalized to the potential for truly dangerous, criminal behavior outside the laboratory. This criticism is deflected somewhat by research using other methods, including large sample surveys, quasi-experiments (using a more realistic setting with naive subjects unaware that they are under observation) and "found experiments" (in which public records are searched for evidence of pre- and post-exposure effects) (Phillips), all of which tend to support the conclusion that a persistent but moderate effect on aggressive behavior can be traced to exposure to violent media.

Three particular subjects receive the bulk of research attention where entertainment-related effects are concerned: (1) the effects of any violent media on children; (2) the "cultivation" of beliefs about crime and the criminal justice system that results from viewing television; and (3) the effects of pornography on adults. It is frequently noted that by the time an American child reaches adolescence he or she is likely to have seen thousands of murders depicted on television (e.g., Huston et al's, calculation that by the time a child leaves elementary school he or she will have seen eight thousand murders) (cited in Bogart, p. 351). In the 1990s the increasing popularity of computer games that simulate wholesale slaughter of human beings (e.g., Doom and Quake) has led to speculation that the wave of school shootings of the late 1990s has roots in part in the skills (such as arming, evaluating killed or wounded status, and strategizing) cultivated by playing such games and in the indifference toward suffering that leads to success in the games (Grossman).

Cultivation theory hypothesizes that television's depiction of the world leads heavy viewers of television to believe that the real world resembles the television world in key respects, including the likelihood of crime and the proportion of people involved in the criminal justice system (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, and Signorielli). Carlson (1985) studied the content of crime shows in the late 1970s and the attitudes toward the criminal justice system held by viewers of these shows. He found that the crime shows on television in the late 1970s presented a very unrealistic view of the criminal justice system, specifically including the effectiveness of police, the rights of suspects and defendants, and the general level of criminal activity in the world. People who watch these shows report more support for authorities such as police, less support for civil liberties, and more political cynicism. Carlson notes that the consistent messages of crime shows may result in "an increase in demand for police protection" (p. 195) since police are portrayed as extraordinarily effective and crime as rampant. It should be noted, however, that the sort of crime shows Carlson examined were qualitatively different from the shows that emerged in the 1980s, beginning with Hill Street Blues. These later shows, many produced by Stephen Bochco, have featured flawed police who often fail to catch their suspects, and open criminals as recurring characters who appear immune to capture. The effects of such programs would, by Carlson's logic, result in mistrust of police and perhaps even more generalized cynicism.

Shrum and Mares each have attempted to explain the psychological processes by which cultivation occurs. Shrum points to the accessibility of heuristics, whereby it is easier for heavy viewers of television to rely on the impression TV makes on them when they answer questions about the real world than it would be for heavy viewers to search their minds and make a more elaborate—and perhaps accurate—calculation. Mares argues that respondents are not always aware of where their information comes from, and thus "source confusion" accounts for people's tendency to describe the real world in television terms. Potter, Warren, and others point out that even if viewers limit their exposure to non-fiction programs, such as news and news magazines (e.g., 20/20), they are likely to end up with distorted impressions of the real world. The authors compare nonfiction TV depictions of antisocial behavior to real-world statistics. "If we rely on non-fiction programming to tell us about the parameters and nature of our society, that programming is constructing narratives that are not particularly useful for that purpose. Nonfictional television presents a very high rate of antisocial activity, and the most serious forms of that activity (physical violence and crime) are presented at rates far above the rates in the real world" (p. 86).

While fears regarding children's exposure to violent media are mostly centered on the likelihood that children will imitate or learn the criminal behavior they see, concerns about adults' exposure to pornography also include the impact of such exposure on such decisions as jury verdicts in rape trials (Linz, Donnerstein, and Penrod) and acceptance of "rape myths," for example, that women only pretend to resist rape (Allen, Emmers, Gebhardt, and Giery). Adults play many roles in the criminal justice system that make their attitudes toward crime important. If, as Linz and others demonstrate, exposure to pornography can affect jurors' decisions, voir dire in rape cases might benefit from questions about such exposure (if potential jurors could be counted on to respond to voir dire inquiries on this subject truthfully).

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over 8 years ago

Now Balika Vadhu has taken a new turn. It is showing children being crippled and forced into begging. Perhaps it has something to do with success of 'Slumdog millionaire'. For a foreign movie downgrading India is understandable. But when such crime is shown in a popular Indian serial, it gets some creditability. Does such crime of maiming children for begging exist in our society? If no then such thing should not be shown. It is not a thing to enjoy and feel proud about. This crime is certainly worse than rape, kidnapping and murder. How can our politicians, police, and people turn a blind eye and say 'Jai Ho'?
It could be your child.

Do you think maiming children and forcing them into begging really exist?
Do you think showing such crime on TV/ Cinema for entertainment is right?

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over 1 year ago

i like monks