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Study Notes

Aggression: Media Influences & Disinhibition

A Level

To read about the other Media Influences, click here.


A further theory to explain how the media can influence aggression is through a process of disinhibition. Disinhibition theory proposes that our normal restraints are loosened after exposure to media violence. Aggressive behaviour becomes normalised and the norms governing our behaviour become altered from non-acceptance to acceptance and therefore aggression is seen as a 'normal' response in certain circumstances. One aspect of aggression that is particularly believed to become normal and acceptable is an aggressive response as a result of a real or imagined wrongdoing. So if the viewed aggression is seen as a revenge response, this is deemed to be 'normal', and thus it is justified. This type of viewed aggression is believed to have a greater disinhibitory effect on consequential aggressive behaviour.

Most people agree aggressive behaviour is harmful and antisocial. This is learnt through social learning. Bandura (1977) proposed that we learn how to behave from observational learning of role models, such as parents and significant others in our lives. However, as a child grows, the media becomes an increasingly powerful role model. Superheroes can provide an aggressive role model, albeit in the name of justice. Adult films can present such role models as James Bond which children may look up to and imitate. However, when aggression levels are normalised in these role models, the child can grow up with norms that aggression is socially acceptable as a response and therefore more likely. This process of disinhibition is more powerful if violence is rewarded. Many computer games reward the player for initiating violence and in this format any negative consequences from aggression are minimal.

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