Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence


227 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8425-7
DDC 155.4'018232




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton, a former columnist for the Queen’s Journal, is a
Toronto-based freelance editor and writer.


Analyzing previously published research, University of Toronto
psychology professor Jonathan Freedman argues that, contrary to
conventional wisdom, “the results [of this research] do not support
the view that exposure to media violence causes children or anyone else
to become aggressive or to commit crimes; nor does it support the idea
that it causes people to be less sensitive to real violence.” Freedman
notes that in spite of the fact that violent television, film, and video
games have remained popular over the last decade, the actual rates of
violent crime have been “decreasing steadily and dramatically” since
the early 1990s. According to Freedman, the available
research—including surveys, laboratory and field experiments, and
longitudinal studies—indicates that while social factors such as
poverty can be definitively linked to the incidence of violent crime,
exposure to media violence cannot. Freedman concedes that all the
studies done on this topic have been severely limited in some way—one
cannot, for instance, run trials in which large numbers of young
children are continually exposed to television violence over a period of
several years in order to calculate the results—but conjectures that
the influence of the media on aggressive behavior has been, at the very
least, greatly exaggerated. One of the remarkable points made by
Freedman is the way in which past research has been (sometimes
deliberately) misinterpreted in order to support predetermined

This readable, engaging study will be of interest not only to those in
the fields of psychology and media studies, but also to anyone concerned
with the current state of scientific knowledge in this controversial
area. The study should serve as an extremely valuable means of
evaluating future claims about the relation of media to violence.


Freedman, Jonathan L., “Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,