Evidence continues to mount that violent movies and video games numb people to the suffering of others, as well as affect someone's willingness to offer help to an injured person.
"These studies clearly show that violent media exposure can reduce helping behavior," says Brad Bushman, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "People exposed to media violence are less helpful to others in need because they are 'comfortably numb' to the pain and suffering of others, to borrow the title of a Pink Floyd song."
In one of the studies, 320 college students played either a violent or a nonviolent video game for approximately 20 minutes. A few minutes later, they overheard a staged fight that ended with the "victim" sustaining a sprained ankle and groaning in pain.
- People who had played a violent game took significantly longer to help the victim than those who played a nonviolent game ~73 seconds compared to 16 seconds.
- People who had played a violent game were also less likely to report the fight. And if they did report it, they judged it to be less serious than did those who had played a nonviolent game.
In a second study of 162 adult moviegoers, researchers staged a minor emergency outside the theater in which a young woman with a bandaged ankle and crutches "accidentally" dropped her crutches and struggled to retrieve them. The researchers timed how long it took moviegoers to retrieve the crutches.
- Half were tested before they went into the theater, to establish the helpfulness of people attending violent vs. nonviolent movies.
- Half were tested after seeing either a violent or a nonviolent movie.
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