Free AIOU Solved Assignment Code 4686 Spring 2021

Free AIOU Solved Assignment Code 4686 Spring 2021

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Course: Introduction to Sociology: Social Change and Social institutions (4686)
Semester: Spring, 2021
ASSIGNMENT No. 1

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  • Define authority. Explain the characteristics of bureaucracy as per Max Weber.

For centuries, philosophers, politicians, and social scientists have explored and commented on the nature of power. Pittacus (c. 640–568 B.C.E.) opined, “The measure of a man is what he does with power,” and Lord Acton perhaps more famously asserted, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” (1887). Indeed, the concept of power can have decidedly negative connotations, and the term itself is difficult to define.

Many scholars adopt the definition developed by German sociologist Max Weber, who said that power is the ability to exercise one’s will over others (Weber 1922). Power affects more than personal relationships; it shapes larger dynamics like social groups, professional organizations, and governments. Similarly, a government’s power is not necessarily limited to control of its own citizens. A dominant nation, for instance, will often use its clout to influence or support other governments or to seize control of other nation states. Efforts by the U.S. government to wield power in other countries have included joining with other nations to form the Allied forces during World War II, entering Iraq in 2002 to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, and imposing sanctions on the government of North Korea in the hopes of constraining its development of nuclear weapons.

Endeavors to gain power and influence do not necessarily lead to violence, exploitation, or abuse. Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, for example, commanded powerful movements that effected positive change without military force. Both men organized nonviolent protests to combat corruption and injustice and succeeded in inspiring major reform. They relied on a variety of nonviolent protest strategies such as rallies, sit-ins, marches, petitions, and boycotts.

Modern technology has made such forms of nonviolent reform easier to implement. Today, protesters can use cell phones and the Internet to disseminate information and plans to masses of protesters in a rapid and efficient manner. In the Arab Spring uprisings, for example, Twitter feeds and other social media helped protesters coordinate their movements, share ideas, and bolster morale, as well as gain global support for their causes. Social media was also important in getting accurate accounts of the demonstrations out to the world, in contrast to many earlier situations in which government control of the media censored news reports. Notice that in these examples, the users of power were the citizens rather than the governments. They found they had power because they were able to exercise their will over their own leaders. Thus, government power does not necessarily equate to absolute power.

The protesters in Tunisia and the civil rights protesters of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s day had influence apart from their position in a government. Their influence came, in part, from their ability to advocate for what many people held as important values. Government leaders might have this kind of influence as well, but they also have the advantage of wielding power associated with their position in the government. As this example indicates, there is more than one type of authority in a community.

Authority refers to accepted power—that is, power that people agree to follow. People listen to authority figures because they feel that these individuals are worthy of respect. Generally speaking, people perceive the objectives and demands of an authority figure as reasonable and beneficial, or true.

A citizen’s interaction with a police officer is a good example of how people react to authority in everyday life. For instance, a person who sees the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in his rearview mirror usually pulls to the side of the road without hesitation. Such a driver most likely assumes that the police officer behind him serves as a legitimate source of authority and has the right to pull him over. As part of her official duties, the police officer then has the power to issue a speeding ticket if the driver was driving too fast. If the same officer, however, were to command the driver to follow her home and mow her lawn, the driver would likely protest that the officer does not have the authority to make such a request.

Not all authority figures are police officers, elected officials or government authorities. Besides formal offices, authority can arise from tradition and personal qualities. Economist and sociologist Max Weber realized this when he examined individual action as it relates to authority, as well as large-scale structures of authority and how they relate to a society’s economy. Based on this work, Weber developed a classification system for authority. His three types of authority are traditional authority, charismatic authority and legal-rational authority (Weber 1922).

Traditional Authority

According to Weber, the power of traditional authority is accepted because that has traditionally been the case; its legitimacy exists because it has been accepted for a long time. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, for instance, occupies a position that she inherited based on the traditional rules of succession for the monarchy. People adhere to traditional authority because they are invested in the past and feel obligated to perpetuate it. In this type of authority, a ruler typically has no real force to carry out his will or maintain his position but depends primarily on a group’s respect.

A more modern form of traditional authority is patrimonialism, which is traditional domination facilitated by an administration and military that are purely personal instruments of the master (Eisenberg 1998). In this form of authority, all officials are personal favorites appointed by the ruler. These officials have no rights, and their privileges can be increased or withdrawn based on the caprices of the leader. The political organization of ancient Egypt typified such a system: when the royal household decreed that a pyramid be built, every Egyptian was forced to work toward its construction.

Traditional authority can be intertwined with race, class, and gender. In most societies, for instance, men are more likely to be privileged than women and thus are more likely to hold roles of authority. Similarly, members of dominant racial groups or upper-class families also win respect more readily. In the United States, the Kennedy family, which has produced many prominent politicians, exemplifies this model.

Charismatic Authority

Followers accept the power of charismatic authority because they are drawn to the leader’s personal qualities. The appeal of a charismatic leader can be extraordinary, and can inspire followers to make unusual sacrifices or to persevere in the midst of great hardship and persecution. Charismatic leaders usually emerge in times of crisis and offer innovative or radical solutions. They may even offer a vision of a new world order. Hitler’s rise to power in the postwar economic depression of Germany is an example.

Charismatic leaders tend to hold power for short durations, and according to Weber, they are just as likely to be tyrannical as they are heroic. Diverse male leaders such as Hitler, Napoleon, Jesus Christ, César Chávez, Malcolm X, and Winston Churchill are all considered charismatic leaders. Because so few women have held dynamic positions of leadership throughout history, the list of charismatic female leaders is comparatively short. Many historians consider figures such as Joan of Arc, Margaret Thatcher, and Mother Teresa to be charismatic leaders.

Rational-Legal Authority

According to Weber, power made legitimate by laws, written rules, and regulations is termed rational-legal authority. In this type of authority, power is vested in a particular rationale, system, or ideology and not necessarily in the person who implements the specifics of that doctrine. A nation that follows a constitution applies this type of authority. On a smaller scale, you might encounter rational-legal authority in the workplace via the standards set forth in the employee handbook, which provides a different type of authority than that of your boss.

Of course, ideals are seldom replicated in the real world. Few governments or leaders can be neatly categorized. Some leaders, like Mohandas Gandhi for instance, can be considered charismatic and legal-rational authority figures. Similarly, a leader or government can start out exemplifying one type of authority and gradually evolve or change into another type.

AIOU Solved Assignment Code 4686 Spring 2021

How do discovery, invention and diffusion are related to social change? Discuss

Some people resist social change. In the midst of continual technological breakthroughs, some people harbor vested interests (financial or otherwise) in maintaining the status quo. These people lose something in response to social change. For example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has lobbied incessantly to prevent clinical psychologists from gaining prescription privileges. Other people may feel insecure about trying to adapt to an ever‐changing society.

Economic factors take a hand in resisting social change. Conflict theorists complain that capitalistic systems encourage owners to protect their assets at the expense of workers. Protecting their assets may mean ignoring safety standards or putting pressure on government officials to lessen state regulations.

Cultural factors also play a central role in resistance to social change. When technology enters a society, non‐material culture must respond to changes in material culture. Culture lag refers to the time during which previous aspects of a society still need to “catch up” to cultural advances. For example, certain religious groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, promote large families and regard contraceptive methods that limit family size as immoral. In other words, a lag exists between aspects of non‐material culture (religious beliefs) and material culture (reproductive technologies).

Social movements typically question a culture’s established state of affairs. In the United States today, both the gay rights and feminist movements challenge society’s definitions of “natural order”—that heterosexuality is the only sexual standard and that females should submit to males. Resistance to such social movements remains predictably strong.

Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. By “significant” alteration, sociologists mean changes yielding profound social consequences. Examples of significant social changes having long‐term effects include the industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the feminist movement.

Today’s sociologists readily acknowledge the vital role that social movements play in inspiring discontented members of a society to bring about social change. Efforts to understand the nature of long‐term social change, including looking for patterns and causes, has led sociologists to propose the evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict theories of change (discussed in the next few sections). All theories of social change also admit the likelihood of resistance to change, especially when people with vested interests feel unsettled and threatened by potential changes.

While technology, population, environment factors, and racial inequality can prompt social change, only when members of a society organize into social movements does true social change occur. The phrase social movements refers to collective activities designed to bring about or resist primary changes in an existing society or group.

Wherever they occur, social movements can dramatically shape the direction of society. When individuals and groups of people—civil rights activists and other visionaries, for instance—transcend traditional bounds, they may bring about major shifts in social policy and structures. Even when they prove initially unsuccessful, social movements do affect public opinion. In her day, people considered Margaret Sanger’s efforts to make birth control available extreme and even immoral, yet today in the United States, one can easily purchase contraceptive products.

Social scientists interest themselves in why social movements emerge. Do feelings of discontent, desires for a “change of pace,” or even yearnings for “change for the sake of change” cause these shifts? Sociologists use two theories to explain why people mobilize for change: relative deprivation and resource mobilization.

When members of a society become dissatisfied or frustrated with their social, economic, and political situation, they yearn for changes. Social scientists have long noted that the actual conditions that people live under may not be at fault, but people’s perceptions of their conditions are. Relative deprivation refers to the negative perception that differences exist between wants and actualities. In other words, people may not actually be deprived when they believe they are. A relatively deprived group is disgruntled because they feel less entitled or privileged than a particular reference group. For example, a middle‐class family may feel relatively deprived when they compare their house to that of their upper‐class physician.

For social discontent to translate into social movement, members of the society must feel that they deserve, or have a right to, more wealth, power, or status than they have. The dissatisfied group must also conclude that it cannot attain its goals via conventional methods, whether or not this is the case. The group will organize into a social movement only if it feels that collective action will help its cause.

The relative‐deprivation theory takes criticism from a couple of different angles. First, some sociologists note that feelings of deprivation do not necessarily prompt people into acting. Nor must people feel deprived before acting. Moreover, this theory does not address why perceptions of personal or group deprivation cause some people to reform society, and why other perceptions do not.

Resource mobilization deals with how social movements mobilize resources: political pull, mass media, personnel, money, and so forth. A particular movement’s effectiveness and success largely depends on how well it uses its resources.

Members of a social movement normally follow a charismatic leader, who mobilizes people for a cause. Charisma can fade, and many social movements collapse when this happens. Other movements, such as bureaucratic ones, manage to last, however, usually because they are highly organized.

Norms of behavior develop as people become part of a social movement. The movement may require its members to dress in special ways, boycott certain products, pay dues, attend marches or rallies, recruit new members, and use new language. Concerning the latter, recent social movements have given rise to new terms like Hispanic American, African American, feminists, and psychiatrically disabled.

For a social movement to succeed, leaders must heighten their followers’ awareness of oppression. To stimulate their social movement in the 1960s and 1970s, feminists convinced women that they were being discriminated against in various arenas, including work, school, and home.

Unlike the relative‐deprivation theory, the resource‐mobilization theory emphasizes the strategic problems faced by social movements. Specifically, any movement designed to stimulate fundamental changes will surely face resistance to its activities. Critics feel the theory does not adequately discuss the issue of how opposition influences the actions and direction of social movements.

AIOU Solved Assignment 1 Code 4686 Spring 2021

How do you see the role of media in social change in Pakistani society? Discuss

Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. By “significant” alteration, sociologists mean changes yielding profound social consequences. Examples of significant social changes having long‐term effects include the industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the feminist movement.

Today’s sociologists readily acknowledge the vital role that social movements play in inspiring discontented members of a society to bring about social change. Efforts to understand the nature of long‐term social change, including looking for patterns and causes, has led sociologists to propose the evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict theories of change (discussed in the next few sections). All theories of social change also admit the likelihood of resistance to change, especially when people with vested interests feel unsettled and threatened by potential changes.

Causes of Social Change

Changes to technology, social institutions, population, and the environment, alone or in some combination, create change. Below, we will discuss how these act as agents of social change, and we’ll examine real-world examples. We will focus on four agents of change that social scientists recognize: technology, social institutions, population, and the environment.

Technology

Some would say that improving technology has made our lives easier. Imagine what your day would be like without the Internet, the automobile, or electricity. In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman (2005) argues that technology is a driving force behind globalization, while the other forces of social change (social institutions, population, environment) play comparatively minor roles. He suggests that we can view globalization as occurring in three distinct periods. First, globalization was driven by military expansion, powered by horsepower and wind power. The countries best able to take advantage of these power sources expanded the most, and exert control over the politics of the globe from the late fifteenth century to around the year 1800. The second shorter period from approximately 1800 C.E. to 2000 C.E. consisted of a globalizing economy. Steam and rail power were the guiding forces of social change and globalization in this period. Finally, Friedman brings us to the post-millennial era. In this period of globalization, change is driven by technology, particularly the Internet (Friedman 2005).


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But also consider that technology can create change in the other three forces social scientists link to social change. Advances in medical technology allow otherwise infertile women to bear children, which indirectly leads to an increase in population. Advances in agricultural technology have allowed us to genetically alter and patent food products, which changes our environment in innumerable ways. From the way we educate children in the classroom to the way we grow the food we eat, technology has impacted all aspects of modern life.

Of course there are drawbacks. The increasing gap between the technological haves and have-nots––sometimes called the digital divide––occurs both locally and globally. Further, there are added security risks: the loss of privacy, the risk of total system failure (like the Y2K panic at the turn of the millennium), and the added vulnerability created by technological dependence. Think about the technology that goes into keeping nuclear power plants running safely and securely. What happens if an earthquake or other disaster, like in the case of Japan’s Fukushima plant, causes the technology to malfunction, not to mention the possibility of a systematic attack to our nation’s relatively vulnerable technological infrastructure?

The Darker Side of Technology: Electronic Aggression in the Information Age

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) uses the term “electronic aggression” to describe “any type of harassment or bullying that occurs through e-mail, a chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging” (CDC, n.d.) We generally think of this as cyberbullying. A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 27.8 percent of students aged twelve through eighteen reported experiencing bullying. From the same sample 9 percent specifically reported having been a victim of cyberbullying (Robers et al. 2013).

Cyberbullying represents a powerful change in modern society. William F. Ogburn (1922) might have been describing it nearly a century ago when he defined “cultural lag,” which occurs when material culture precedes nonmaterial culture. That is, society may not fully comprehend all the consequences of a new technology and so may initially reject it (such as stem cell research) or embrace it, sometimes with unintended negative consequences (such as pollution).

Cyberbullying is a special feature of the Internet. Unique to electronic aggression is that it can happen twenty-four hours a day, every day; it can reach a child (or an adult) even though she or he might otherwise feel safe in a locked house. The messages and images may be posted anonymously and to a very wide audience, and they might even be impossible to trace. Finally, once posted, the texts and images are very hard to delete. Its effects range from the use of alcohol and drugs to lower self-esteem, health problems, and even suicide (CDC, n.d.).

Social Institutions

Each change in a single social institution leads to changes in all social institutions. For example, the industrialization of society meant that there was no longer a need for large families to produce enough manual labor to run a farm. Further, new job opportunities were in close proximity to urban centers where living space was at a premium. The result is that the average family size shrunk significantly.

This same shift toward industrial corporate entities also changed the way we view government involvement in the private sector, created the global economy, provided new political platforms, and even spurred new religions and new forms of religious worship like Scientology. It has also informed the way we educate our children: originally schools were set up to accommodate an agricultural calendar so children could be home to work the fields in the summer, and even today, teaching models are largely based on preparing students for industrial jobs, despite that being an outdated need. A shift in one area, such as industrialization, means an interconnected impact across social institutions.

Population

Population composition is changing at every level of society. Births increase in one nation and decrease in another. Some families delay childbirth while others start bringing children into their folds early. Population changes can be due to random external forces, like an epidemic, or shifts in other social institutions, as described above. But regardless of why and how it happens, population trends have a tremendous interrelated impact on all other aspects of society.

In the United States, we are experiencing an increase in our senior population as baby boomers begin to retire, which will in turn change the way many of our social institutions are organized. For example, there is an increased demand for housing in warmer climates, a massive shift in the need for elder care and assisted living facilities, and growing awareness of elder abuse. There is concern about labor shortages as boomers retire, not to mention the knowledge gap as the most senior and accomplished leaders in different sectors start to leave. Further, as this large generation leaves the workforce, the loss of tax income and pressure on pension and retirement plans means that the financial stability of the country is threatened.

Globally, often the countries with the highest fertility rates are least able to absorb and attend to the needs of a growing population. Family planning is a large step in ensuring that families are not burdened with more children than they can care for. On a macro level, the increased population, particularly in the poorest parts of the globe, also leads to increased stress on the planet’s resources.

The Environment

Turning to human ecology, we know that individuals and the environment affect each other. As human populations move into more vulnerable areas, we see an increase in the number of people affected by natural disasters, and we see that human interaction with the environment increases the impact of those disasters. Part of this is simply the numbers: the more people there are on the planet, the more likely it is that some will be affected by a natural disaster.

But it goes beyond that. Movements like 350.org describe how we have already seen five extinctions of massive amounts of life on the planet, and the crisis of global change has put us on the verge of yet another. According to their website, “The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm” (350.org).

The environment is best described as an ecosystem, one that exists as the interplay of multiple parts including 8.7 million species of life. However dozens of species are going extinct every day, a number 1,000 times to 10,000 times the normal “background rate” and the highest rate since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. The Center for Biological Diversity states that this extinction crisis, unlike previous ones caused by natural disasters, is “caused almost entirely by us” (Center for Biological Diversity, n.d.). The growth of the human population, currently over seven billion and expected to rise to nine or ten billion by 2050, perfectly correlates with the rising extinction rate of life on earth.

AIOU Solved Assignment 2 Code 4686 Spring 2021

Why it is easy to bring change, but difficult to change the attitude of people? Explain

Attitude change has been the subject of decades of research, yet examples of dramatic alterations in attitude outside of the lab remain few and far between. Petty and Cacioppo (1986) proposed an Elaboration Likelihood Model, which remains central to the psychology of persuasion. People are more likely to give an argument considered reasoning when the issue at hand is relevant to them. When an issue is of personal relevance, people evaluate the quality of an argument, but otherwise rely upon more heuristic assessments — the prestige of the arguments’ source, the quantity of arguments presented, and their own emotional state. This model fits with the notion of humans as “motivated tacticians,” conserving resources by using heuristics when an issue is not of personal relevance, and deploying one’s full cognitive capacities only when an issue is sufficiently important.

Following the Elaboration Likelihood Model, arguments about important issues are likely to be subject to thorough reasoning and evaluation. This partially explains why opinions on important matters are difficult to change; arguments about such issues are more thoroughly scrutinized, and as such only the most compelling arguments avoid rejection. However, even in the face of well-reasoned arguments, important attitudes remain resistant to change.

Kurt Lewin, often regarded as the father of contemporary social psychology, wrote that people’s experiences could be understood in terms of forces in their life space. A person’s behavior is a product of the multitude of psychological forces acting on him or her at a given time—some originating from within the person, and some from the external environment (Lewin, 1951).

While behavior change can be demonstrated in the lab, it remains difficult to achieve in the real world. It may be that the individual forces affecting attitudes, which psychologists have isolated in the lab context, are simply not powerful enough outside of that controlled space. These forces exist, they are demonstrable in the lab, but they may often be of little significance in the real world, where they are lost in the currents of countless forces acting on a person at any given time.

It may be that changing attitudes on important issues requires a broader change in a person’s experiences—in their life space—one which may only be achievable through significant change in his or her environment. History offers many examples in which public attitudes on important issues—universal suffrage, slavery—shifted only following significant institutional change. On such important issues, the forces exerted by an argument, no matter how persuasive, may not be enough to change peoples’ attitudes. Broader changes at the institutional level may be necessary in order to effect sufficient change on one’s life space to precipitate shifts in important attitudes.

The central route is logic driven and uses data and facts to convince people of an argument’s worthiness. For example, a car company seeking to persuade you to purchase their model will emphasize the car’s safety features and fuel economy. This is a direct route to persuasion that focuses on the quality of the information. In order for the central route of persuasion to be effective in changing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviours, the argument must be strong and, if successful, will result in lasting attitude change.

The central route to persuasion works best when the target of persuasion, or the audience, is analytical and willing to engage in processing of the information. From an advertiser’s perspective, what products would be best sold using the central route to persuasion? What audience would most likely be influenced to buy the product? One example is buying a computer. It is likely, for example, that small business owners might be especially influenced by the focus on the computer’s quality and features such as processing speed and memory capacity.

The peripheral route is an indirect route that uses peripheral cues to associate positivity with the message (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Instead of focusing on the facts and a product’s quality, the peripheral route relies on association with positive characteristics such as positive emotions and celebrity endorsement. For example, having a popular athlete advertise athletic shoes is a common method used to encourage young adults to purchase the shoes. This route to attitude change does not require much effort or information processing. This method of persuasion may promote positivity toward the message or product, but it typically results in less permanent attitude or behaviour change. The audience does not need to be analytical or motivated to process the message. In fact, a peripheral route to persuasion may not even be noticed by the audience, for example in the strategy of product placement. Product placement refers to putting a product with a clear brand name or brand identity in a TV show or movie to promote the product (Gupta & Lord, 1998). For example, one season of the reality series American Idol prominently showed the panel of judges drinking out of cups that displayed the Coca-Cola logo. What other products would be best sold using the peripheral route to persuasion? Another example is clothing: A retailer may focus on celebrities that are wearing the same style of clothing.

AIOU Solved Assignment Code 4686 Autumn 2021

Write short note on the following.

  • Social groups and their types

A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact on the basis of mutual expectations and who share a common identity. It is easy to see from this definition that we all belong to many types of social groups: our families, our different friendship groups, the sociology class and other courses we attend, our workplaces, the clubs and organizations to which we belong, and so forth. Except in rare cases, it is difficult to imagine any of us living totally alone. Even people who live by themselves still interact with family members, coworkers, and friends and to this extent still have several group memberships.

It is important here to distinguish social groups from two related concepts: social categories and social aggregates. A social category is a collection of individuals who have at least one attribute in common but otherwise do not necessarily interact. Women is an example of a social category. All women have at least one thing in common, their biological sex, even though they do not interact. Asian Americans is another example of a social category, as all Asian Americans have two things in common, their ethnic background and their residence in the United States, even if they do not interact or share any other similarities. As these examples suggest, gender, race, and ethnicity are the basis for several social categories. Other common social categories are based on our religious preference, geographical residence, and social class.

Falling between a social category and a social group is the social aggregate, which is a collection of people who are in the same place at the same time but who otherwise do not necessarily interact, except in the most superficial of ways, or have anything else in common. The crowd at a sporting event and the audience at a movie or play are common examples of social aggregates. These collections of people are not a social category, because the people are together physically, and they are also not a group, because they do not really interact and do not have a common identity unrelated to being in the crowd or audience at that moment.

  • Role of TV in crimes in society

Each time such an incident happens, we hear people argue that television violence has played a vital part in ‘social decline’ and encouraged criminality. I used to laugh off such suggestions. After all, I quite enjoyed the Child’s Play films myself when I was barely a teenager and they certainly hadn’t turned me into a homicidal maniac. But while conducting research for my book I’ve realised that it’s almost certain that witnessing violence does contribute to criminality.

Primed for violence

For example, even when children aren’t themselves abused, witnessing domestic abuse seems to slightly increase future antisocial behaviour and violence.[i] And experiments show that children are quite apt to respond to witnessing violence by becoming more excitable and aggressive. For example, one study randomly assigned 396 seven to nine year old boys to watch either a violent or non-violent film before playing hockey. Those boys who had above average levels of aggressiveness (measured long before the test) committed more fouls if they had watched the violent film, while those who were not particularly aggressive did not.[ii] Wider research confirms this general rule that witnessing violence increases violence in those who are already aggressive – though the effects are usually quite small and short-term in their nature. Children, for example, will quite happily imitate all manner of behaviours they see (on tv and elsewhere) at ages as young as 14 months but a bit of education soon teaches children that certain behaviours aren’t socially appropriate (or rewarded).

Permanent scars?

This picture is obviously somewhat nuanced but so far so good for the anti-television violence brigade. Where the evidence is more debatable, however, is on whether (and why) television viewing has longer term influence on violence. It is certainly true that children who watch a lot more television violence tend to be somewhat more antisocial later in life (about 20% more violent according to some studies) but we have a classic chicken and egg problem here. In other words, it’s rather unclear whether people are antisocial because they watch more tv violence or vice-versa. Alternatively, it might be that some other factor related to viewing of television violence (such as low parental supervision) might be the crucial factor.

One of the leading scholars in this area, L. Rowell Huesmann, is quite convinced there is a significant long-term effect – having collected data on a large number of people’s television viewing habits, a range of other variables (mostly to do with parenting styles) and eventual violence levels. He concludes that early television viewing is more influential than later viewing behaviour, and that tv violence is most damaging when children identify with the perpetrators of violence. In other words, first person shoot-’em up computer games played at age 5 would be pretty bad news, while teenage viewing of violence by a doll shouldn’t be too damaging.

For me, I think Huesmann somewhat over-interprets the evidence he has. First, I’m not satisfied that he sufficiently accounts for the fact that children who are more likely to be violent are also more likely to be more drawn to violence on television – and will more easily identify with violent protagonists. Second, given that parenting practices are hugely important for future aggression and violence levels, I think his measures of parenting aren’t sufficient to measure ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parenting. Basically, I’m just not convinced that the problem isn’t that less able (or caring) parents are both less likely to bring up well-adjusted children and more likely to let their children watch inappropriate violence on tv. I certainly couldn’t rule out some longer term impact of watching large amounts of tv violence but I suspect it is very, very small once you fully take into account wider related factors (such as parenting and the personality traits that make certain children more drawn to violence in the first place).

So, my verdict: watching violence on television or computer games is bad news for violence in the short-term but a bit of parental supervision and explanation should prevent major side-effects. As for children watching hours and hours of violent television or inflicting violence on others in games, this is probably to be avoided for a far wider set of reasons than simple crime reduction. Computers and television can be good learning tools, but, as my mother used to say ‘moderation in all things’.

        

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