Monday, January 5, 2009

Proof That Violent Media Affects The Brain

Slashdot has a story about a new study that used MRI technology to show that areas of the brain responsible for suppressing unwanted aggressive acts are less active when the subject was exposed to several clips of movie violence.

In other words, when the brain is exposed to a stimulus, the part of the brain related to that stimulus reacts. Is this really news? Humans are predators. We have the basic fight or flight instinct hardwired in. Is it really any surprise that when exposed to violence, the brain takes a preparatory step towards being ready to experience violence? It’s a long way from this study to any conclusion that violent media causes violent behavior.

In fairness, nobody associated with the study is making that connection. However, don’t be surprised if some group tries to make that connection in the next week or so. It’ll be good press for that all important last minute tax deductible donation pitch.

Bureau of Justice statistics show that violent crime is down significantly over the last 15 years. Maybe getting out your aggressions shooting monsters in a video game makes it less likely you’ll take out your aggressions at the mall?

We may some day establish a clear link between violent media and violent behavior. However, until we do we should tread very carefully around policy decisions based on an assumption of a risk that may or may not exist.

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