Brain primed for aggression even by relational offenses


Viewing physical violence in various forms in the media can increase aggression in adults and children. A new study has also found that onscreen relational aggression may also prime the brain for aggression. This type of behavior includes social exclusion, gossip, and emotional bullying.

“What this study shows is that relational aggression actually can cause a change in the way you think,” said Douglas Gentile, an associate professor psychology at Iowa State and one of the authors. “And that matters because of course, how you think can change your behavior.,”

Researchers evaluated the cognitive patters of the college women after they viewed one of three fictional video clips. One included physical aggression with weapons ending in a murder. One clip had relational aggression where a girl stole a boyfriend, spread malicious gossip and booted someone out of her social circle. The third clip showed a scary scene designed to increase blood pressure.

The three films induced the same levels of excitement. Researchers measured reaction times when aggressive or neutral words flashed on screen. Participants who watched more aggressive clips gave more weight to the words connected with aggression.

“Past research has shown that viewing physical violence on TV activated aggressive scripts in the brain, but our findings suggest that watching both onscreen physical or relational aggression activates those cognitive scripts,” Linder said. “Viewers don’t simply choose to imitate TV characters or make a conscious decision to engage in aggressive behavior. Aggressive reactions are more automatic and less conscious than most people assume.”

Source: Aggressive Behavior, MedicalNewsToday


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