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Obscenity and Pornography: Behavioral Aspects - Limits To The Findings

evidence subjects aggression effects

Researchers and commentators have found flaws in the findings the commission and studies conducted before and after the commission's report. The most important criticisms boil down to the difficulty of extrapolating from the laboratory to the real world. The key criticisms include: (1) the evidence proves only correlation, not causation; (2) laboratory samples are artificial settings that do not reflect behavior in the real world. Aggression in the laboratory is not punished, and subjects perhaps perceive that the experimenters condone (or even encourage) aggression; and subjects might not believe they are inflicting real harm; (3) duration is not established. The effects of the violent pornography typically wear off after subjects leave the lab, as some studies have indeed indicated; (4) adequate operational definitions of aggression as a behavioral response and violence do not exist; (5) no longitudinal study (measuring the effects over a long period of time) has been conducted concerning the effects of pornography; and (6) the results show, at best, only "probable causation" (i.e., pornography increases the overall incidence of sexual violence, but is not shown to be causal in any particular case), not the type of direct cause that is most worrisome. Causation is least evident in the case of degrading, nonviolent pornography.

Thus, the evidence concerning the behavioral aspects of pornography is mixed. Legal scholar James Weinstein's assessment is apt. "The truth lies somewhere in between. Although there is some evidence that violent pornography (and perhaps 'degrading' pornography as well) causes violence against women, the evidence is far from conclusive" (p. 191).

Obscenity and Pornography: Behavioral Aspects - Legal Issues And Enforcement [next] [back] Obscenity and Pornography: Behavioral Aspects - Evidence Concerning Behavioral Effects

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