Monday, December 27, 2010

Violent media can desensitize the minds of young males

According to a study published in the October 2010 edition of the journal of Social Cognitive and  Affective Neuroscience the more adolescent boys absorb violence in media throughg movies, television shows, and video games, the less sensitive certain areas of their brains become to these images. The area of the brain that is most affected is the frontal lobe which controls behavioral inhibition and aggression.

The frontal lobe is important for all forms of social problem-solving and this part of the brain is still developing through adolescence. In this study 22 boys, aged 14 to 17, watched a series of four-second segments of violent videos. The boys rated the degree of violence they saw in each clip. The boys responses were measured in two ways.The first method was skin conductance responses or sweat levels. The study reports  that people who are shown emotionally provocative pictures or videos have exaggerated sweat responses. The participant's brain were also scanned to measure blood flow in different areas of the brain, the idea being the more blood flow, the more active that part of the brain.

According to Jordan  Grafman, the lead researcher on this study, the subjects became desensitized over time to mild and moderate aggressive scenes. The subjects produced a lower amount of sweat and the brain activity in the frontal lob showed a decrease in activity. Given the adolescent brain is malleable, chronic exposure to violent imagery may shape the brain in a manner that can affect future behavior in the real world.

There is a debate within the field of brain development and video game exposure as to the degree to which video games actually influence human behavior. There is research that suggests the majority of teens who play video games have no adverse effects. There is also research that suggest there is a subgroup of teenagers who seem to be vulnerable to violent imagery, which is expressed in aggressive behavior. The working hypothesis is there is a subgroup of teens who have underlying psychological or psychiatric problems which creates a vulnerability to violence video games. In other words, the video games themselves may not be the defining issue but rather the vulnerability of each teen.

The bottom line conclusion from this study is that the brain of a teenager is malleable, the experiences that the brain takes in influences physical development in the brain, and there is a subgroup of teenagers who are more vulnerable to becoming aggressive or violent based on repeated exposure to violent images through movies and video games.

The  critical issue for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals is to identify teens who fall within this vulnerable subgroup of teens. If a clear identification is made, extreme caution should be exercised in terms of their access to violent films and video games. These teens would likely stand out by virtue of problems with mood regulation, socialization, conflict resolution, and substance abuse. The intersection of violent video games and underlying psychiatric/psychological problems may create a perfect storm for addictive behavior with video games and aggressive behavior in the real world.

No comments:

Post a Comment