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Study Notes

Aggression: Media Influences & Cognitive Priming

A Level

To read about the other Media Influences, click here.

Cognitive Priming

Children as young as ten may have been exposed to 8,000 murders and up to 100,000 other acts of violence on television alone (Huston et al., 1992). Cognitive priming is an explanation that proposes that the influence of aggression in the media and in computer games provides individuals with 'scripts' for their responses and behaviour when they perceive an environmental stimulus as aggressive. Cognitive priming maintains that there is a priming effect of media images on previously learnt behaviours or cognitive schema. This priming effect can activate memories and make aggression more likely.

Violent computer games may increase the likelihood of aggression in players who have learned aggressive responses in the past and/or who hold aggressive schema. A child may play a computer game where aggression is rewarded; when they find themselves in a potentially aggressive situation, rather than trying to defuse the aggression the child will have an internal script (schema) that the way to 'win' is through an aggressive response. Therefore, the violence in computer games has the effect of 'priming' an individual to violence. Children from a very early age have a potential gamut of violent scripts to guide their behaviour. They select the script depending on the situation and then take part as an actor in the situation. This process can occur without conscious thought and become an automatic response to cues in the environment.

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