In the book The The Lust for Blood: Why We Are Fascinated by Death, Murder, Horror, and Violence, author Jeffrey Kottler argues that people's fascination with media violence is part of human nature. His premise is that researchers have focused on the wrong question, investigating how media violence affects our minds and behavior. Instead, the real question to ask is, what in our nature leads us to be so fascinated with media violence?
In his review of Kottler's book, Christopher Ferguson discusses how the field of media effects research has been plagued with inconclusive findings and dubious methodology, as has been noted in various court opinions. He asks,
How did the field stop functioning as a science…and instead become more like an advocacy group, with the process of data collection little more than a pro forma effort to support a predetermined conclusion? There is a certain "sociology of media violence research" question lingering: how the sociology of a science can itself distort the scientific process.In his concluding remarks about the book, Ferguson says,
Kottler puts a mirror on the human condition that is, perhaps, unflattering, noting both our fears and our natural fascination with death and violence. Perhaps this explains the reification of media effects theory in psychology, that is, that media effects theory is a kind of moral reaction and dismissal of our baser urges (Ferguson, 2010). It is, perhaps, comforting to think that our darker nature is a product of the media rather than the inverse.What is your opinion on the state of the field of media effects research? Do you see the field changing direction in terms of types of questions asked and methodology used? Are there findings from other fields in psychology that have not been adequately applied to exploring media effects?
By Christopher J. Ferguson
PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(38)