Still, even knowing the adverse effects of violent TV on the population, the behavior persist. The question to me isn’t a matter of if TV violence has an effect on aggression, but what functions in society allow it to continue.
When looking at the specific details about an item, sometimes it’s better understood when taking it in the context of a broader picture. In this case, let’s take a big step back, and look at our entire species as just another species on the planet. All species carry a common genetic ancestor, and all species share common genes (Haviland, 2007). Our genes evolved through millions of years of flight or fight, survival of the fittest, and terrifying moments of life and death situations where extreme violence was normal. Chimpanzees for example, with who our genes are compatible (not reproductively) within a few percent and are among our closest cousins, are extremely aggressive (Haviland 2007). Our human civilized moment in time is just a small, almost nonexistent portion of the overall evolution of our planet. In the light of our place in evolution, it’s no wonder that we have problems with aggression.
Our depth of evolutionary heredity rooted in violence is just one of the factors at work in our struggle to overcome aggression. Another major factor is our ability to learn. In fact our mastery of learning, processing, and forethought is what makes us even able to contemplate the relevancy of TV’s influence on aggression. Because we can learn by observation, we can pass a wealth of information from one generation to the next. This ability, according to the Anthropological discipline, is a form of culture (Haviland, 2007). By mastering this observational learning, or cultural transmission, from one generation to the next, we have created a depth of understanding no other species has achieved. So complex is our understanding that even our ideas are said to evolve. The study of the evolution of ideas, culture, and society is known as social evolution.
In the short time of civilized life our social ideas have evolved rapidly. I would assert that society has evolved so rapidly that it’s created a rift between our genetic ability and our social ideas. Our society suppresses our natural state in favor of a more peaceful existence. The rise in violence in TV and movies are similar to suppressed desires in the human psyche emerging in dreams (Devinney, 2009). They are the parts of us we unconsciously do not wish to face. The difference between the undercurrent of our genetics arising in our dreams, and in TV, is that in TV those things we suppress are glamorized with sexy characters and apparently justified reasons (Myers, 2008). Violent TV and movies then undermine civilized efforts to suppress our violent nature by making violence attractive. Meanwhile our children, using the human mastered observational learning, learn violence is ok.
The violence in TV is a result of the conflicting struggle between our genetic, and social evolution. We say that violence is bad, and go home and spend hours enjoying it on TV because we ourselves are conflicted individually. There is a bright side in all of this however. That our species can even question such topics is a tribute to our success
Devinney, M.K. (2009). Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and
World Myths (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press
Facts and TV Statistics. (n.d.). Parents Television Council. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from
Haviland, A.W. (2007). Anthropology: The Human Challenge (12th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth
Myers, D.G. (2008). Exploring Psychology (7th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.