By Melody Wright.
Thrilling chase scenes, exciting plot twists, horrifying screams… horror movies have it all! There is a lot to love about horror movies; in fact, they are my favorite genre of film. I have seen all of the SAW films and am currently making my way down the list of classics such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. Feeling your heart race and a chill go down your neck is a thrill that not many everyday experiences can bring. In a horror movie, you experience many things that you probably would not be able to survive in reality. And the brilliance of it is that you can turn off the tv with a laugh and a new love for your own life. Being such an avid horror fan, I wanted to know if there was another lasting effect of horror movies; specifically slasher films: a subgenre for movies with murder and gore.
People have been worried about the effect of violence in the media for a long time. Due to this, there have been many experiments done on the topic. One of these dates all the way back to the 1960s. During this experiment, preschoolers were shown a video of a man beating up an inflatable doll with a mallet. After the video, the children were brought to a playroom with many different toys and the same doll. The children then imitated the actions done on the video to the doll as well as adding new ways to beat up the doll. This experiment showed that when exposed to violence, children imitated the aggressive behavior as well as playing more aggressively. Despite the information in the previous experiment, not all are prone to violence and recreate violence. Although children in the above experiment were all mild mannered and still acted aggressively, most researchers reject the idea that one factor such as violent movies could cause someone to become violent. This violence would definitely not escalate into murder such as a school shooting. The effect of violence would also be much different in adults due to their emotional maturity and knowledge of repercussions.
Adults are much different than children. Unlike children, adults understand the actions of their consequences. So when a new study was conducted on 54 healthy men, they didn’t lead them to a playroom to recreate the scenes they had witnessed. Instead, they monitored their blood pressure and attached PET scanners to survey their brains. These people were scanned while doing nothing, watching an emotionally charged video, and watching violent movie scenes. Also, to monitor the influence of personality on their reaction to the violence, some of the men they collected had had violent pasts such as a history of fighting whereas the others had no aggressive past.
While watching the emotionally charged videos both groups of men had similar responses. However, their brains reacted very differently during the violent scenes. During the violent scenes, the calmer men’s orbitofrontal cortices, which manage impulse control and decision making, sparked brightly while their blood pressure rose. The more aggressive men’s brains were much quieter and had little to no rise in blood pressure. Some of their blood pressures even dropped. This lack of activity shows that the aggressive men were not shocked by what they were viewing. They were relaxed and saw the violence as normal. This shows how important the person’s own morals and personality influence their response to violence.
After reading the studies, it seems like violence in the media immediately sparks violence in other people which is just not correct. The response to violent media differs from person to person. Violent movies may also lead to anxiety, fear, antisocial activity, or little to no change in mood. In the above experiment, the calm orbitofrontal cortex may even mean that the aggressive men are unable to control their mood when angry. The orbitofrontal cortex does monitor impulse control after all. Due to this emotional immaturity it is understandable that they would react to violence.
As a result of the experiments, it is clear that violent movies do affect a person’s aggressiveness. However, according to the person’s personality and morality, they may or may not act accordingly. Violent movies are not for everyone and should be watched with caution. Horror movies, especially slasher films, require an emotional maturity to view so the viewer can discern fact from fiction and fully understand the consequences of the actions portrayed in the film. Horror is not for everyone and it is especially not for people who can not separate what they view in the media from their reality.
Carroll, Linda. “Do Violent Movies Cause Aggression? The Answer May Depend.” NBCNews.
Published 17 Sept. 2014. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/do-violent-movies-cause-aggression-answer-may-depend-n205556. Accessed 17 March 2019.
LoBue, Vanessa. “Violent Media and Aggressive Behavior in Children.” Psychology Today.
Sussex Publishers, Published 8 Jan. 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-baby-scientist/201801/violent-media-and-aggressive-behavior-in-children. Accessed 17 March 2019.
“Media and Violence: An Analysis of Current Research.” Common Sense Media.
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/media-and-violence-an-analysis-of-current-research. Accessed 17 March 2019.