Since the 1960s, various scholars have contended that exposure to violence in movies, video games, television, cell phones, and the internet has detrimental effects on children. In particular, it has been presumed that excessive exposure poses higher risks of violent behavior among the viewers. The ultimate outcomes of this supposition are that children who are accustomed to violence in the media may become more fearful of their environments, less sensitive to suffering and pain of other people, and more likely to act in harmful and aggressive ways toward others. Through the theoretical evaluation of the short-term effects and long-term effects, it is indeed factual that long-term exposure to violence in electronic media can lead to increased aggressive behaviors and violent deeds among audiences.
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Psychological scientists agree that, among all philosophies that attempt to address the short-term effects of exposure to media violence, priming is supposedly the most perceptible theory. Priming refers to the process through which the exposure to one stimulus affects the response to a different stimulus. For instance, the sight of a gun can be inherently related to the concept of aggression, where the sight of the gun and the concept of aggression are symbolic of the external stimulus and the cognition respectively (Berkowitz & LePage, 1967, p. 202). The external stimulus can present anything that is inherently neutral, like a certain culture or racial group. A case in point is the connection between African Americans and certain behaviors and beliefs. Thus, the viewers are more likely to portray behaviors that are linked to the primed concepts. If the media primes violent concepts, violence is expected to be more rampant among the audience.
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Secondly, mimicry, which refers to the imitation of specific behaviors, is a special case in the long-term process of observational learning and an applicable theory in the case of long-term exposure to media violence. Accumulation of evidence regarding this theory shows that human beings have a tendency to mimic fellow humans, particularly the ones that they observe on a regular basis (Huesmann, 2005, p.257). When children continually observe specific social behaviors in video games, cell phones, films, and television, they are prone to mimic them without discerning them according to the harmful impacts they pose to other individuals. Although scientists do not comprehend the neurological process behind this phenomenon absolutely, research verifications point toward “mirror neurons” that fire when one observes an action or when the same action is shown in an act or play.
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Thirdly, it is possible that long-terms effects of exposure to media violence are attributable to the principle of desensitization. This denotes the way different media channels affects the emotions of the audience. It appears that repeated exposures to emotionally-activating content can lead to the habituation of particular emotional reactions. Widely known as desensitization, this process can offer a valid footing for the increased violence among long-term viewers of media violence. A living proof of this is when viewers experience negative emotions in response to a particular violenct scene. Repeated exposure to the same scene or one that is similar in nature reduces the intensity of their emotional reactions thus desensitizing individuals. For instance, perspiration and increased heart rates along with a feeling of discomfort are commonly experienced when one is exposed to blood and gore. Nevertheless, recurrent exposures of scenes that exhibit the same conditions of carnage lead to the habituation of the cited emotional responses. The ultimate outcome of this desensitization is that individuals under who are exposed to violence can plan and engage in violent acts without considering or experiencing the destructive effects.
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Although priming, mimicry, and desensitization may occur on their own, the actuality of the matter is that they do not occur independently in a psychological point of view. In the society, children and teenagers are constantly reinforced and conditioned to act in certain manners. This form of enactive learning is also plausible in the case of media violence exposure. For instance, those who actively take part in playing video games are also “active” participants in violence because they are compelled to use violence in order to gain designed goals and achieve specified milestones in the game. In this way, they are reinforced to act violently. What is more, since people play video games in groups of at least two participants, more complex social conditioning processes may manifest.
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In conclusion, it is evident that through the theoretical evaluation of short-term effects and long-term effects, it is indeed factual that long-term exposure to violence in electronic media can lead to increased aggressive behaviors and violent deeds among audiences. The paper has used priming and mimicry as conceivable theories behind the short-term effects, and desensitization and enactive learning as reasonable models for the long-term effects. Altogether, the four illustrations have proven that minimizing long-term exposure to violence or eliminating aggressive scenes in different electronic media can decrease the occurrence of violence in the society.
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