Are You In Danger? A Report About Relationally Aggressive Media

It’s weird isn’t it?  To think that the very media we have strived to make better has turned against us.  For decades upon decades we, as humans, have pushed the boundaries of technology.  We invented metal type, which led us to newspapers, then the printing press, which led us to novels upon novels.  And after a few centuries, we were graced by the invention of the halftone, which would forever revolutionize the visual industry.  To actually make photographs out of varying shades and sizes of dots was truly a revolution.  And after some time, inventor Steve Morgan adapted the halftone to a high-speed printing press.  And from there photography blossomed, and from photography, blossomed motion pictures, or as we know them movies.  Who would think, though, that movies, the very invention that put the world in awe, would affect us so negatively?

Upon attending a seminar held at Linfield, called, “Mean on the Screen,” I learned that relationally aggressive content in media, such as movies, does have some very hostile effects.  Dr. Jennifer Linder and senior Emily Anderson presided over the seminar.  They had conducted research based on the relationship between relationally aggressive media and relational aggression in people.  There were two groups, one of which watched a neutral clip of the movie What Lies Beneath, while others watched the relationally aggressive movie Mean Girls.

Participants of the study then went on to read, line by line, a few vignettes.  Half of the vignettes contained content that was relationally aggressive and the other half of the vignettes told stories that were neutral but could sound aggressive at first.  The participants could only see the vignettes one line at a time and after each line participants were asked to say what they would do in that situation.  The short-term affect of the movie Mean Girls seemed to have little to no effect on those who were not susceptible to being relationally aggressive in the first place.  However for those who were more susceptible to being more relationally aggressive, the movie Mean Girls heightened their aggression.  Dr. Jennifer Linder and Emily Anderson could perceive a heightened aggression because of more aggressive responses to the vignettes and the question “what would you do if this happened to you?”

It would seem that when someone was already relationally aggressive, watching a clip, like that from the movie Mean Girls, was like adding fuel to the already existing fire.  Could this relationally aggressive media be the reason for a spike in aggressive behavior among college students?  All we know is that there seems to be a correlation between the two.  Of course aggressive media can be fun and funny.  But for me, I am going to keep in mind what media I am taking in and why.


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