Violent media not to blame for violent people

December 11, 2000

Violent movies and television programs do not create violent viewers, says a University of Toronto professor who has just completed a comprehensive review of all of the research on the subject.

"The results do not support the hypothesis that exposure to media violence causes aggression or criminal behaviour in people," says psychology professor Jonathan Freedman, author of a detailed analysis of every published English-language study in existence on the effects of media violence. "The scientific evidence simply does not show that watching violence either produces violence in people or desensitizes them to it."

Fewer than half of the approximately 200 studies Freedman reviewed provide any evidence that violent shows evoked aggression in viewers, and when the studies found a correlation it was extremely weak. Yet it is considered common wisdom that violent media breed aggression and many public interest groups have reinforced this perception with distorted presentations of the scientific data, he says.

"The most likely explanation for the studies where exposure to violent media appear to cause increased violence in people is that those with aggressive personalities simply prefer violent shows," he says. Freedman's research was funded by the Motion Pictures Association. His study is under contract to be published by the University of Toronto Press.
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CONTACT: Professor Jonathan Freedman, Department of Psychology, 416-978-3142, freed@psych.utoronto.ca or Megan Easton, U of T Public Affairs, 416-978-5948, megan.easton@utoronto.ca.

University of Toronto

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