The Violent Video Games Science Fair Project was inspired by my mother’s concern about me playing violent video games. Her objection made me wonder if there are gender differences in response to violence. Since completing this project, my mother doesn’t worry about me playing these mature video games. So the question I asked myself, “Are There Psychological and Physical Effects of Watching Media Violence?”
You can view the complete research report here…. The following is the abstract.
The stress response or “fight or flight” response is a physical mechanism in the nervous system that allows an organism to respond to threats in its environment. Given the abundance of media violence in our culture, this study addressed the question of whether media violence on film triggered the stress response.
The hypothesis proposed that men and women would initially react differently to media violence, but that both groups would eventually become desensitized to repeated exposure.
Equal numbers of healthy adult males and females were chosen.
Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate were monitored as a measure of the stress response. Subjects were shown three violent film clips, during which fearful feelings and vital signs were recorded.
The results showed that there are different psychological and physical responses based on gender. Women reported more fear to media violence than men. Both groups showed measurable physical responses to watching violence, but women responded more strongly than men in the study. Males and females also differed in their reaction to repeated violence exposure. Men became more desensitized and relaxed while women became more reactive with repeated exposure.
These results may in part explain why adult men are drawn to watching violent sports as a way of physically relaxing. Conversely, the stronger stress response of women may help to explain why women have a higher incidence of anxiety related illnesses due to violence, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Further studies are needed to determine the significance of these findings. If the results can be verified, then these findings can be added to the growing body of knowledge about gender differences.
Furthermore, although the literature has revealed that media violence is harmful to children, it would be important to also test this hypothesis in children to see if the stress responses is also triggered.