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Exposure to media violence is related to anxiety in youth, but the causality of the effect has not been established. This experimental study examined the effects of media violence on anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate in late adolescents. We also examined whether these responses varied by previous exposure to media and real-life violence. College students (N = 209; M age = 18.74; 75 % female; 50 % Caucasian, 34 % African American, 9 % Asian, 3 % Hispanic, and 3 % other racial minorities) were randomized to view either violent or nonviolent high-action movie clips. Participants reported on their anxiety before and after watching the clips, as well as their previous exposure to violence. Measures of blood pressure and heart rate were taken at baseline and during movie viewing. Participants watching violent movie clips showed a greater anxiety increase than those watching nonviolent clips. Both groups experienced increased blood pressure and reduced heart rate during movie watching compared to baseline. Prior exposure to media violence was associated with diminished heart rate response. Additionally, students previously exposed to high levels of real-life violence showed lower blood pressure increases when watching violent clips compared to nonviolent clips. Thus, relatively brief exposure to violent movie clips increased anxiety among late adolescents. Prior exposure to media and real-life violence were associated with lower physiological reactivity to high-action and violent movies, respectively, possibly indicating desensitization. Future studies should investigate long-term anxiety and physiological consequences of regular exposure to media violence in adolescence.
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- The Effects of Media Violence on Anxiety in Late Adolescence
Rex A. Wright
- Springer US