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31 Dec – TV Violence and Aggression

31 December 2007

On this day in 1971, the report on Television and Growing Up: The Effects of Televised Violence was presented to the US surgeon general.  Two psychologists were among the members of the committee who wrote the report.  This, of course, was not the first report on television violence and its relation to aggression.  One of the most important studies related to viewing violence and aggression was Albert Bandura’s “Bobo doll experiment.”  This experiment, which came to form the basis for Bandura’s theory of social learning (or observational learning or vicarious reinforcement), involved showing children a “model” (another person) acting aggressively or non-aggressively toward a Bobo doll (you know, the ones we used to have that bounced back upright after they were pushed).  Those exposed to an aggressive model acted more aggressively to the doll subsequently than did those who were not so exposed.  Furthermore, boys were more likely than girls to act aggressively.  These results have been researched with the use of television and similar results have been demonstrated.  Though the results are not, themselves, controversial, they have been interpreted as indicating that television causes violence.  This is not only controversial, but impossible to determine.  The reason for this is that no data, however well controlled, can demonstrate causality.  You see, even David Hume, the reputed British empiricist, whose understanding of causality forms the basis for our modern empirical method, recognized that there were certain conditions necessary for demonstrating causality (we will forget, for the moment, that Aristotle developed a theory of causality that involved 4 causes that also denied the possibility of demonstrating linear causality based on such research projects…see the Personality section of my website: Hume said that, first, for one thing to cause another, it must always precede the other in time (precedence).  Second, Hume said that for one thing to cause another, the two things must be near each other in space (contiguous).  Third, Hume said that for one thing to cause another, the one thing must always be followed by the second (constant conjunction).  The final necessity for determining causation, according to Hume (and which is almost always neglected in modern interpretations), is that we must rule out ALL other possible explanations of causality (which is virtually impossible as even the most controlled of studies has variables that cannot be controlled).  The most troubling possible explanation of causality that is rarely ruled out in such projects – because it is unscientifically assumed to not be involved in the “subject’s” involvement in the research project (but appears to be accepted as part of the experimenter’s involvement in the project) – is agency (referred to as a free will/choice).  That is, the agency of the child may be involved in the presentation of aggression following viewing televised violence.  With all our attempts to control for different factors that may be involved in aggression following viewing televised violence, I have been able to find only one (by Joseph F. Rychlak, Ph.D., and Brent D. Slife, Ph.D., written in 1982 and entitled, Role of Affective Assessment in Modeling Aggressive Behavior).  This article demonstrated, in fact, that the children’s affective assessment – their judgment or evaluation of experience as either positive or negative (e.g., whether they liked it or not) – was involved in their subsequent aggressive behavior.  These authors interpreted their results as indicating that this demonstrated an important, albeit unexplored variable (agency), involved in the presentation of aggression after viewing televised violence.  In other words, it may not be televised violence that causes aggression, it may, quite simply, the child’s perception that it is fun to do it and their choice to do it that causes the behavior of aggression – wow, now isn’t that novel?…that means that WE are actually responsible for our behaviors and not the TV!  The fact is that NO televised program contains ONLY violence.  So, there must be some selective preference to demonstrate aggresion in the first place.  That is, the viewer has to selectively prefer to provide attention and demonstrate the violent behaviors over the non-violent behaviors, both of which are demonstrated at some point or another in virtually ALL televised programs.  This might also explain why girls are found to be less likely to demonstrate such behaviors after watching televised violence – they just don’t like it! Fuel for thought, I guess…head to my website for more fuel for thought regarding psychology.


December 31, 2007 Posted by | In Psychology | , , , | 2 Comments

30 December – Dissociative Identity Disorder

30 December 2007

Well, this is my first post.  On my blog, I will discuss important things that have happened in psychology as well as important insights I am discovering in my own life and therapeutic practice.  Today, 30 December, for example, in 1905, Morton Price published his book entitled, The Dissociation of Personalities.  In this book, Price presented his views on a client of his whom he diagnosed as having multiple personalities.  Interestingly, multiple personality disorder, as it came to be known (or “dissociative identity disorder,” as it is currently known), has taken on a life of its own – no pun intended.  In fact, during the 1950s, it became such a fad diagnosis that two movies were developed that portrayed famous case studies of individuals who had been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.  These two films, Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Sybil (1976) did a great deal for exposing the conditions in which people who had been diagnosed with this disorder.  Yet, due at least in part to the likely overexposure, the name of the diagnosis subsequently changed.  Now entitled “dissociative identity disorder” (as indicated above), the core condition of the diagnosis involves a “dissocation” (or splitting off of mental states) into more than one identity.  Individuals with this diagnosis can present with identities of different age, gender, and, sometimes (albeit rarely) species.  One theory is that the individuals are splitting off components of themselves, due in part to traumatic experiences.  The dissociation, then, is a protection (or to use a Freudian term, a defense mechanism).  Whatever the case, the different identities are often quite distinct.  As such, it is sometimes quite disturbing to see someone shift into such distinct identities.   Still, I think that we can see components of this sort of presentation in virtually everyone.  I certainly see this in therapeutic practice and in my everyday life where people spend so much time putting on an image (e.g., image managing) and attempting to people please that they lose their own identity in relationships in the process.   That is, they are disinguine so much that they begin to believe the inauthentic self that they have created in order to please others.  The paradox is that they are never in a true relationship and, as such, become displeased with themselves.  Now, they have two identities – not unlike the individual diagnosed with DID – one of which has become so central to their life that they believe it is themselves, but they dislike it, and the other whom they might like and want to be, but still feel like they have to hide it because they believe that others won’t like it.  In the end, there is a vicious narcissistic cycle of disenchantment begun by a process of trying to create an image that they hope will make them feel better.  What an ironic paradox…and what a horrific outcome!  Fuel for thought, I guess…head to my website for more fuel for thought regarding psychology.

December 30, 2007 Posted by | In Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment