Thoughtless Vigilantes

Media Violence and Brain Activation Patterns in Young Viewers

John P. Murray


There is a long history of research on the topic of the impact of media violence and children. Concerns first surfaced in the early 1900s with questions about comic books, and then concerns about films, radio serials, and television programs emerged. More recently, concern has been focused on the graphic violence in videogames. In each instance, there have been valid reasons for the concerns and various studies have shown some link between media violence and aggression. However, the recent debates have become particularly heated because the nature of the violence presented to children and youth has become especially graphic and pervasive in various media formats. This review provides a description of the evolving consensus on research findings as the nature and specificity of research strategies have evolved over the past century. The review ends with a discussion of findings from the most recent research which points to neurological evidence of changes leading to disruptions in processing video violence and changes in attitudes, values, and behavior. The resultant pattern of neurological processing leads to the production of what may be called “thoughtless vigilantes” who lack remorse and understanding of the effects of violence on others.

Viewing Video Violence

A 16-year-old male who was an “accomplished” player of the violent videogame, Grand Theft Auto (GTA), carjacked ...

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