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Media Influence

5) Media influences on anti-social behaviour

Anti-social behaviour is any behaviour that is detrimental to society; the media can influence people in negative ways, causing ant-social behaviour. Most psychologists agree that media has the greatest influence on young children. Huesmann and Moise identified 5 ways in which the media could lead to aggression in children.

Cognitive Priming

This is explanation says that children take the violence they see on the television, and are primed with that response to a certain situation; this is known as a ‘script’. This means that when they are faced with a similar situation to that they saw on TV they will respond in a similar, violent way.


In normal situations we are innately anxious about violence. However, if a child watches a lot of violent television they can become used to it, and it isn’t as shocking, this is known as desensitisation. So, after watching a lot of violent television we can become less sensitive to violence, and it becomes normal to act violently.

Cumberbatch disagrees with the idea of desensitisation. He said that television violence is more likely to lead to children being scared of violence rather than desensitised to it.

Lowered physiological arousal

Many psychologists, such as Huesmann and Moise believe that there is a physiological reason for this sensitisation. As children watch more violent television their bodies are less and less stimulated with lower physiological arousal. This means they are less aroused by violence, which can explain why they become desensitised to it.

However, some psychologists argue that watching violence actually leads increased physiological arousal. But similarly to the theory about lowered arousal, this change still leads to higher aggression as violence is closely linked to high arousal.

Observational learning

Children learn by imitating those around them and the things they see. Most of the time this is very useful, even vital; for example a child couldn’t learn to talk was it not for imitation. However, children can also imitate what they see on television, and if this is anti-social behaviour then they could soon learn negative behaviour.

Bandura’s research supports this view. When children watched adults attack a Bobo doll they immediately copied, even though there was no justifying reason. This suggests that children do learn violent behaviour through imitation and observation.


Violent behaviour on television may provide a justification for a child’s own violent behaviour. A child might think that their violent behaviour isn’t right, but when they see it happening on television they change their mind, and suddenly it’s acceptable. This means the child won’t stop acting violently or anti-socially because the television is telling them it is fine.

Of course, not all television programmes promote anti-social behaviour; many do the opposite and promote pro-social behaviour. This means that not all television will justify violent behaviour as some will show it as something bad and unacceptable. This means we shouldn’t categorise all television as something that increases anti-social behaviour.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


One thought on “5) Media influences on anti-social behaviour

  1. OMG I looooooooovvvvvveee this!

    Posted by katbeth | June 25, 2013, 2:09 pm

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