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Advisory Committee Chair

Sylvie Mrug

Advisory Committee Members

Edwin Cook

Rex Wright

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Media violence exposure is associated with anxiety among children and younger adolescents, but less is known about its effects on anxiety in emerging adults. This experimental study examines whether media violence exposure affects state anxiety and physiological reactivity (as measured through systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and mean arterial pressure) in emerging adult college students, as well as whether these effects are moderated by previous violence exposure (both in real life and through media). In the present study, participants viewed either violent or nonviolent high-action movie clips, had their physiological reactivity monitored while viewing the clips, and completed questionnaires on state anxiety and previous violence exposure. Change scores on state anxiety and each index of physiological reactivity were compared between the two conditions. Results indicated that participants who watched the violent movie clips showed greater increases state anxiety relative to those who watched the nonviolent clips, but there were no differences in physiological reactivity between the two conditions. Previous media violence exposure was related to a trend toward lower heart rate among participants when watching both the violent and nonviolent movie clips. Finally, real-life violence exposure moderated the relationships between media violence exposure and physiological activity. Specifically, individuals exposed to high levels of real-life violence had lower reactivity when exposed to violent vs. nonviolent clips, whereas the opposite pattern appeared for those with low levels of real-life violence exposure. These findings suggest that young adults with high levels of real-life violence exposure may become desensitized to the effects of violent movies, compared to those with low levels of real-life violence exposure. Likewise, young adults with a history of low real-life violence exposure may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of media violence exposure.

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