Provide a critique of standard research into the effects of exposure to media violence. Outline ethical issues associated with this research.
In this essay I shall look at the meanings of media effects and violence within psychology, the different methods used to study this phenomena and the ethical issues involved in each of these methods.
The term media effects is concerned with the development of anti-social behaviours in those who are exposed to these on television, films or other types of media . The definition of violence within psychology changes between pieces of research, as the issue is subjective. When looking into how much violence there is on television, Cumberbatch (1987) defined violence as "any action of physical force with or without a weapon against oneself or another person, animal or inanimate object, whether carried through or merely attempted and whether the action caused injury or not" . Other psychologists have used different terminologies for violence but a basic definition could be unrestrained or unnecessary force. The unclear definition of violence may weaken the research, if there are alternative behaviours being studied.
Firstly I will look at laboratory experiments which provide the researcher with the highest possible level of control as s/he can control independent, dependant and confounding variables. This methodology is used to determine a causal effect, in this case, of being exposed to violence in the media. The most famous laboratory experiment into the effects of media violence on children is Bandura, Ross and Ross" (1961, 1963) Bo-bo doll study. Participants were children and they were placed in a room with an adult sized doll and a model who either displayed violent behaviours towards the doll or displayed pro-social behaviours. The children were then left on their own in a room with the doll and other toys and their behaviours were then monitored for anti-social and pro-social actions.