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More than 6, 700 people died in the world’s latest humanitarian crisis as of 2018. From political debates to UN involvement questioning, the Rohingya Crisis has become the cause of many discussions. Thousands of news networks covered updates from channels across the world. Nonetheless, after a few months, media outlets decreased coverage on the topic, seeking another attractive sensation. The massacres and brutality seemed to vanish from people’s mind as they began to focus on more entertaining subjects. Eventually, many began to wonder if repetitive screening of violence could play a role in how people react towards inhumane things. Due to constant feed of violence and decreasing responsiveness to alarm, people desensitize humanitarian issues.
Netflix, TV shows, and social media are all one of many diversions people consume today. Outlets as such provide distractions for viewers around the world at any time of the day. While it facilitates communication, media no doubt has impending changes on the mind and behavior of people. When viewing horrific activities, reactions like fear, alarm and disgust presumably should be common in people. However, studies show that as violent images become consistent in the daily entertainment of an individual, the less they respond to the alarm stimuli of the brain. Many psychologists predict that frequent violent “media exposure [could] contribute to a blunted response”. Major shootings, massacres or group brutalities will appear as a common occurrence than indicate the gravity of a situation to such individuals. Unknowingly, the emotion conveying parts of the brain such the amyglanda will begin to absorb the entertainment feed as a stimulus, undermining real life events as a result.
In a 2010 study of media exposure by psychologist Laura Stockdale, 25 participants were repeatedly shown either a normal or violent movie and asked to complete a gender discrimination task using faces. The results concluded that constant viewing led to the suppression “of implicit emotional processing”. Stockdale’s observations portray a specific situation a group of people endured once they were constantly subjected to varying violent movies. With each repeated screening, the judgment of the participants changed from less critical to dismissive. The study also suggested a notable decrease in the stimulation of prefrontal cortex, the analyzing part of the human brain.
Similarly, another study was conducted by researchers using violent movies with similar concepts. The participants were to watch nine violent and comedy scenes and then asked which scenes or victims they felt concerned for. The experiment concluded that gradually, the feeling of sympathy towards the characters in the movie lessened as “significant effects were found for initial reports of sympathy” of the participants. The study’s growth model resulted in a curvilinear pattern representing that the participants’ alarm responses to victim deaths decreased. Evidently, this shows that the continuous portrayal of any activity leads the brain to accommodate it after time. People overtime get used to such occurrences and in a sense crave for possible distractions in other media outlets or refuse to acknowledge the situation.
However, there is a variance between the impact of desensitization towards people of different ages. Studies indicate a noticeable association of people watching media violence as a child and their behavior as young adults. Most psychologists deduce that children imitate norms found in the media and later on become socially accustomed to such actions. However, there is no conclusive correlation found when comparing people who displayed aggressive behavior during childhood versus their progression as adults. This information suggests that violent behaviors are more likely to be imitated by people from a young age. Unlike before, when people watch violence as entertainment, they unknowingly begin to see the behavior to be ordinary. Just like how a child brought up in strongly biased household could enact such bias unto their daily life, so could a child that is desensitized to violence. Once a child accommodates such perspectives on the world, their addition to society could be possibly dangerous to themselves or others. This aspect gives the possible side effects of desensitization to become even more damaging. While other social or cultural components may alter the personality of a child during their developmental stage, media violence indeed is a major contributor.
Even so, it is also important to note that such desensitized perspectives towards violence changes once it becomes the self-interest of an individual. The human brain is vulnerable to many changes caused by the sociocultural challenges of the world. Since the new age of technology, various unforeseen impacts of such changes are beginning to be noticed by people today. Unfortunately, the repetitivity of media violence desensitizes peoples’ brain responses towards important issues. Those who are susceptible to such influences particularly children face harmful side effects in the future. While it is important to note the injustices of the world, it is not normal to become accustomed to such events.
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