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Mediated Violence: An Historical and Contemporary Review

Cover of Springer Handbook of Anger, Aggression, and ViolenceAbstract

We review the history of violence as transmitted through media with particular attention to firearms. We take a broad perspective on the role of media and how the human brain has evolved to receive and interpret both auditory and visual media. However, it is the cultural evolution of both media and violence that has led to the current widespread depiction of violence in media. While violence has been the focus of art and literature since ancient times, the effects only began to be studied in the twentieth century. The most noted effect is learning to imitate violence as exhibited by attractive and virtuous models both in person and through screen media. There is also evidence of contagion as exhibited by increases in violence, especially suicide, following exposure to both fictional- and news-media depictions. The Hollywood film industry in the USA has featured guns of all kinds since at least the 1930s, with notable increases in recent years. Nevertheless, the effects of gun depictions in movies and television have only been recently studied. We review the effects of repeated exposure to screen violence that involves guns and other weapons and the theoretical models that have been applied to such effects. The controversies that have attended the research and advocacy against screen violence are also described. The effects of firearms in screen media are likely to remain a contested issue, especially in the USA.