Research studies in the past have tried to pinpoint the link between violent media and a person's behavior. A new long-term study, however, sheds new light on the argument that violent films and video games are the culprits behind violence in society.
Psychologist Christopher Ferguson from Florida's Stetson University led two studies that focused on slightly different concepts. The first study involved comparing homicide rates in the United States, occurring between 1920 and 2005, with violent scenes in movies.
While the result of the study showed that the two were moderately correlated in the 1950s, the situation was actually reversed toward the end of the century and in the 1990s.
The second study dealt with learning about the correlation between playing violent video games and the rates of violence among the youth for the past 20 years. It learned that, in reality, playing violent video games resulted in a drop in violent crimes carried out by young people aged 12 to 17 years.
Since the 1970s, a huge controversy was raised over the possibility that real-life and screened violence are related. The early 1980s were haunted by the "video nasties" scare, which led to the creation of the 1984 Video Recordings Act. The act caused a number of horror movies to be denied video classification.
Soon after, people started to link the series of U.S. mass shootings to violent video games and movies. In the Columbine High School killings of 1999, the perpetrators identified as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were believed to have an obsession with playing violent games.
Anders Behring Breivik, who was blamed for the 2011 killing of 77 people in Norway, is said to have played the shooting game Call of Duty.
In January 2013, a month following the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., U.S. President Barack Obama ordered conducting further research on the effects of playing violent games.
Officials commented that Adam Lanza, perpetrator of the school shooting, spent most of his time in the basement doing solitary activities. These included playing video games such as Call of Duty.
"Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime," said Ferguson. "There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health. This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value."