As part of a broader gun control plan he announced last month, President Obama said he will push Congress to fund research into the causes of gun violence — including, potentially, the role of entertainment.
Researchers have been tackling the subject of links between violent entertainment and violent behavior for years, often coming to divergent conclusions. Here are a few intriguing findings:
In a 2009 study called "Comfortably Numb," psychologists at the University of Michigan, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and Iowa State University found that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain and suffering of others. In one part, 320 college students played a violent or a nonviolent video game for 20 minutes. Afterward, while they completed a lengthy questionnaire, participants heard a loud fight in which someone was injured outside the lab. Those who played the violent games took 450% longer to help the injured victim, rated the fight as less serious and were less likely to hear the fight in comparison to participants who played nonviolent games.
In the second part of the study, 162 adults attending violent and nonviolent movies witnessed a young woman with an injured ankle struggle to pick up her crutches outside the theater. Those who had just watched the violent movie took 26% longer to help than those who hadn't.