The idea that watching lots of violence increases the propensity to go commit violence is not silly. It is, in the economic jargon, a claim that watching violence is a complement to committing violence. Some things are complements, the consumption of grape jelly goes up in tandem with that of peanut butter for example – there being no earthly use for grape jelly other than in a PBJ after all.
However, it is also possible for things to be substitutes. The consumption of the one decreasing the consumption of the other. Whether something is a complement or a substitute is not something discernible a priori. Sure, we can have a pretty good guess, people stop eating breakfast and the consumption of marmalade falls maybe – except that wouldn’t be true in Portugal. What is which is something that needs to be observed.
And we now have an observation:
We document the immediate and long-term effects of violent media. Specifically, we evaluate the effects of The Ultimate Fighter, a hit TV show that features fighters competing in violent mixed martial arts and which brought Ultimate Fighting Championship into the mainstream. We estimate the effect of early exposure to this show using panel data from police agencies across the United States and a strategy that uses network ratings prior to the show’s premier as an instrumental variable. We show that early exposure significantly reduced crime: these effects are particularly evident for assault, began in the month the show premiered, and persisted for many years. These estimates do not reflect systematic differences across geographic areas in their trends in crime rates prior to 2005. To complement our main results, we also investigate the effects of “UFC Main Events,” which air in bars and on Pay-Per-View. This analysis additionally suggests reductions in violence caused by viewership.
One reason we like this research is that we knew Chuck Liddel back when he was a mild mannered accounting student but that’s all another story. And not entirely mild mannered either.
Watching violence reduces the propensity to create real world violence. Pretty cool, they’re substitutes, not complements. This has interesting implications too, it means that by keeping violence off the screens we actually increase the amount that is done to actual people. The censors lead to bloodiest lips and even corpses that is. And ain’t that interesting?
Of course, this isn’t the first time the same finding has been highlighted. We can track the spread of broadband internet across America, country by county, and the linked access to decent and free pornography. Reflected in the significant fall in rape. It appears that young men playing themselves into a stupor reduces their desire to get them some o’ that. Amazing, isn’t it?
We can even show that child pornography reduces the incidence of child molestation:
A result which is almost mindboggling. That more child pornography might lead to a reduction in the incidence of child abuse. There’s almost a case there for child victim units to get to work with Photoshop churning the stuff out.
No, I think the idea is as ridiculous as you do: but that is the direction the evidence leads us in.
Well, actually, it’s not ridiculous, is it? If it’s child abuse we wish to reduce then why not produce, subsidise even, that which reduces it?
And if we wish to reduce the violence done to persons in the real world then why not broadcast more violence?