Television Violence Can Impair Memory For Commercial Messages, Says New Research

November 30, 1998

Besides Other Harmful Effects, Advertisers Should Be Wary of Showing Their Products During Violent TV Shows

WASHINGTON - Violent television programming impedes the viewer's memory of the commercial messages run during the program, according to new research in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, published by the American Psychological Association.

In research which may effect the media buying habits of product manufacturers, psychologist Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., of Iowa State University found after conducting three experiments that watching violent television programs can impair a person's ability to remember what is being advertised during the commercials.

The first experiment tested 200 students' (100 male and 100 female) ability to recall the brand names of items from two commercials that advertised for Krazy Glue and Wisk laundry detergent after watching a violent or nonviolent film clip. Both types of film clips did not differ in pre-test measures of self-reported arousal (exciting, boring and/or arousing) and measures of physiological arousal (blood pressure and heart rate). Those who watched the violent clips recalled fewer brand names and commercial message details than did those who watched the nonviolent clips, said Dr. Bushman. "Violent programming seems to impair memory for commercial messages even when the level of program arousal is controlled."

The second experiment tested another 200 students (100 men and 100 women) on brand recall, commercial message details and visual recognition of the brand marketed in the commercial, said Dr. Bushman. "These students were also given a distracter task where they had to recall other glue and detergent brands immediately after watching a violent or nonviolent video. The results match those of the first experiment. Those watching the violent videotape did poorer on recalling the brands, remembering the commercial messages and visually recognizing the brands from the slides."

"Finally, in the third experiment, 320 students (160 men and 160 women) reported their moods after watching four videotapes to determine whether anger obstructed their ability to remember the content of the commercials," said Dr. Bushman. After viewing either violent or nonviolent videotapes, the students completed a mood form that assessed their anger and positive emotions (alertness, determination and enthusiasm).

"The anger incurred after watching the violent videotapes did seem to have a lot to do with impairing their memory for the commercials because those who watched the violent videotape reported feeling more angry. They also had lower scores on the brand name recognition, brand name recall and commercial message recall measures," said Dr. Bushman.

"I can say," concluded Dr. Bushman, "that the negative effects of television violence on memory for commercial messages can be partly due to the anger induced by the violent content. This is not good for advertisers because in the time they hope viewers are absorbing their commercial messages, viewers may actually be trying to calm their anger brought on by what they just watched."
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Article: "Effects of Television Violence on Memory for Commercial Messages," by Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., Iowa State University, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol.4, No. 4.

(Full Text available from the APA Public Affairs Office before November 30 and www.apa.org/journals thereafter)

Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D. can be reached at 515-294-1472 or bushman@iastate.edu

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.
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American Psychological Association

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