Desensitization to media violence over a short period of time

Aggress Behav. Mar-Apr 2009;35(2):179-87. doi: 10.1002/ab.20295.


This study investigated the desensitization to violence over a short period of time. Participants watched nine violent movie scenes and nine comedy scenes, and reported whether they enjoyed the violent or comedy scenes and whether they felt sympathetic toward the victim of violence. Using latent growth modeling, analyses were carried out to investigate how participants responded to the different scenes across time. The findings of this study suggested that repeated exposure to media violence reduces the psychological impact of media violence in the short term, therefore desensitizing viewers to media violence. As a result, viewers tended to feel less sympathetic toward the victims of violence and actually enjoy more the violence portrayed in the media. Additionally, desensitization to media violence was better represented by a curvilinear pattern, whereas desensitization to comedy scenes was better represented by a linear pattern. Finally, trait aggression was not related to the pattern of change over time, although significant effects were found for initial reports of enjoyment and sympathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Attitude
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Time Factors
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Young Adult