When massacres became yesterday news 6,700. That’s the number of people that died in the world’s latest humanitarian crises as of 2018. The Rohingya Crisis has caused many controversies, political debates and UN involvement questioning. More than thousands of news networks covered the issue in media channels across the world. However, after a few months, media outlets decreased coverage on the topic, wanting to another attractive sensation. The massacres and brutality seemed to simply vanish from people’s minds, moving on to more entertaining subjects. Exposure to too much violence has always had various social debates regarding its impact. Due to constant feed of violence, people desensitize humanitarian issues caused by the brain’s decreased responsiveness to alarm.
Netflix, TV shows and social media are all one of many sources of diversions people consume in today’s world. Media outlets as such provide information to the viewers around the world. While it facilitates communication between individuals, media no doubt has impending effects on people’s mind and behavior as well. When viewing horrific activities, emotions like fear, alarm and disgust are presumably common between individuals. However, research shows that when violent renderings become consistent in one’s daily entertainment, the less they respond to the brain’s alarm stimuli. School shootings, massacres or group brutalities are more bound to appear as a common occurrence rather than indicate the gravity of a situation. In a 1984 study, a group of college students viewed a series of movies depicting violence against women for five days.
After every movie, the reactions of the movie from participants were recorded. With each repeated exposure, the participants’ judgment of the movies changed to less violent, less offensive, and less degrading to women. Consequently, such desensitization can lead to further more aggressive behaviors in people. Albert Bandura’s social learning theory illustrated this phenomenon when he constructed his bobo doll experiment. Bandura observed children watching a grown adult aggressively hitting a bobo doll.
After a while, he had the experimental group interact with the same bobo doll. Many of the children gradually imitated the same behavior, as if such actions were perceived normal. The experiment proved that most children perceive violent behaviors as normal when exposed to other acting the same. Not only do the children become adjusted to such actions, they became desensitized to its occurrences. While adults’ brain structures are more developed, Bandura’s theory supports one common conclusion. A continuous portrayal of any activity leads the brain to accommodate to such depictions after time. People overtime get used to such occurrences and in a sense crave for possible distractions in other media outlets.
However, there is a strong difference between the effects of desensitization towards children and adults. Studies indicate a noticeable correlation between watching media violence in childhood and desensitized behavior in adulthood. However, there was no strong correlation found when comparing people who displayed aggressive behavior during childhood versus when they became adults. Unlike before, when people do watch violence present in their entertainment, they completely begin to see the behavior as socially acceptable.
This information demonstrates that exposure to violent behaviors are more likely to be imitated by individuals during childhood than adulthood. Children are more prone to react with a flight or fight stimulus to an apparent intrusion. Majority of the time, desensitization is the prior stage before one decides to imitate such behavior. They might have distress differentiating what is reality and fiction. Although some psychologists assert that correlation doesn’t mean causation, recent brain imaging studies indicates that they are more likely to be connected. While psychologists do not conclude that exposure to violence leads to directly aggression, they are certain that the brain desensitizes some of its effects. Further environmental factors may coincide with its impact, yet the exposure nonetheless is one of its main components.
While the mere fact of an unsympathetic public may appear to be terrifying to some people, it is not completely damaging for one’s decision making skills. Though desensitization can lead people to be emotionally unapologetic or unaffected to critical events, their cognitive rational skills are still intact. Desensitization to violence only impairs one’s emotional response to an issue, however does not impact their analytical cognitive thinking. For example, if desensitized viewers to violence were presented with an international humanitarian crisis involving atrocious brutalities, they would still be able to see the instability such events would impede on a nation. Humans would still be prone to help others in spite of the lack of empathy they may have. It is also important to note that such neutral perspectives to violence changes once it becomes self-interest.
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 repetitively of media violence desensitizes people’s brain responses towards important issues. While it is important to note the injustices of the world, it is not normal to become accustomed to such events. Lack of empathy is one of the many things that dehumanize people.