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."
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 thereafter)

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

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.

American Psychological Association

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to