Following is a paper I presented in 2005.
There have been over 2500 studies conducted since 1950 related to whether the media plays a role in causes of crime. The laboratory experiments of young children punching plastic toys and college students inflicting electric shock, have not convinced policymakers to agree that the media does trigger violence. And, the laboratory subjects are not representative of the overall population involved in serious violent crime. One particular study, conducted in the real world, involved the increase in homicides after a prizefight. David Phillips, University of California, gathered evidence that suggest that there is a definite correlation of violence depending on the amount of publicity for the fight. By the third day, after average championships, there was about a twelve percent increase in homicides (after correcting for secular trends, seasonal, and other extraneous variables). Alternatively, fights that were not publicized as much experienced a slight effect of three percent increase on the homicide rate. And the “Thrilla in Manilla” between Ali and Frazier displayed the highest third day increase of all averages (108 homicides were observed; 82 were the average).
This modeling of aggression appears more likely when the imitator is similar to the winner of the fight. The findings suggest that when white males are the losers, homicides for that group increase by about ten percent. Black male-loser homicide rates rise by about five percent by the fifth day after the fight, according to the report.
In comparison, there also seems to be a third day effect after publicized suicides. Several investigations, in California and Detroit, have shown that single occupant, auto fatalities increase along with other suicides after the media reports a high profile suicide. The more publicity given to the incident, the greater the impact will be. Even soap operas, that portray suicide, cause an increase of white viewers who take their lives, according to a study conducted by Leonard Berkowitz, the University of Wisconsin.
In an earlier study by Berkowitz, women who listened to a tape recording of a hostile comic routine gave more severe ratings to job applicants than similar women who listened to a different recording. These opinions were given without being aggravated by the job applicant. Some studies have also shown that viewing violence increases the inclination toward preference of interpersonal conflict. Male undergraduate students who were primed with aggressive ideas tended to administer the most shocks to fellow classmates in laboratory studies. However, the preferences are short-lived and, therefore, require additional influences to keep the ideas activated.
Television causes people to overestimate their environment by presenting an inaccurate reflection of society. People in high crime areas watch a lot of television; and are more likely to fear crime, according to a 37-item, opinion questionnaire, conducted by Doob and Macdonald. Television violence on police shows tends to deal with urban crime. The people in the suburbs do not feel the same correlation and are, therefore, less fearful.
The media can offer positive communications to encourage prosocial conduct as easily as the negatives that increase aggression. They can publicize behavior that promotes socially acceptable patterns. Yet, some credits argue that after repeated exposure, most people will become immune to aggressive thought patterns depicted in the media. On the other hand, repeated exposure can just as easily cause some to believe that aggression is worthwhile and, consequently, they become more prone to imitation. The final decision is whether the entertainment or ratings factor outweighs the possible negative inclinations on some members of society.