Culture and violence, graphed

I missed my own R and R deadline, but this is worth a look. Bill Gardner, responding to an e-mail from me, reminds us that even if the culture has become more permissive of violent language, games, movies, and the like, actual violence is down. Here are the two graphs he provides as evidence:

About the graphs, Bill writes,

So, does that mean the experimental social psychology studies have been done wrong, and that media violence has no effect? No, and No. It is entirely possible that if we hadn’t had violent videogames during the last 15 years, the assault rates would have dropped even further. That said, the Figures above suggest that the effects of violent videogames on actual violence may be small relative to other social forces that have reduced rates of assault and rape, and similarly for the effects of pornography on sexual aggression.

By the way, if you have read this far, stop and give thanks for the improvement in our quality of life that is reported in these Figures.

So what do we make of this? It’s plausible to me that, as Austin suggests, the effect of violent rhetoric is something like the effect of violent videogames or pornography. The data suggest, then, that if media exposure to violent political rhetoric has an effect, it’s likely to be harmful, but if so the harm may be small.

Bill is doing good, evidence-based work here, and this is typical of his style. Readers of this blog may enjoy his as well. Try it.

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