Violent Film Demotes Violent Crime

When I first heard this I didn’t think it was possible. To me it sounded like a contradiction. Intuitively you think, well a violent film is fuelling people’s minds with intentions to go and act out various scenes. It also may turn would-be murderers into serial killers. Let’s also not forget that violent crime and porn are strongly linked.


Well, I found out the opposite. The whole process is counter-intuitive. I was reading a research paper, in psychology. The research was carried out by Gordon Dahl (UC San Diego and NBER) and Stefano DellaVigna (UC Berkeley and NBER).





Laboratory experiments in psychology find that media violence increases aggression in the short run. We analyze whether media violence affects violent crime in the field. We exploit variation in the violence of blockbuster movies from 1995 to 2004, and study the effect on same-day assaults. We find that violent crime decreases on days with larger theater audiences for violent movies. The effect is partly due to voluntary incapacitation: between 6PM and 12AM, a one million increase in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.1 to 1.3 percent. After exposure to the movie, between 12AM and 6AM, violent crime is reduced by an even larger percent. This finding is explained by the self-selection of violent individuals into violent movie attendance, leading to a substitution away from more volatile activities. In particular, movie attendance appears to reduce alcohol consumption. Like the laboratory experiments, we find indirect evidence that movie violence increases violent crime; however, this effect is dominated by the reduction in crime induced by a substitution away from more dangerous activities. Overall, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter almost 1,000 assaults on an average weekend. While our design does not allow us to estimate long-run effects, we find no evidence of medium-run effects up to three weeks after initial exposure.



This is a hotly debated issue. Interestingly enough, there were too many variables. Like any experiment, you have to hold onto the variables that you can control the best (whether they support your hypothesis or not). The long term effects could not be determined for a number of reasons. The one would be time constraints, but also over a longer period it’s a combination of factors that result in a person acting out violence. Let’s face it they’ve been through a lot more, so situations of abuse and belittlement may become stronger factors in the end result.


It’s a counter-intuitive process. This is why the ancient Greeks used the gladiators in the arena. It reduced crime on the streets. It provided a catharsis. People will rather absorb there minds in the violence, than take the ‘initiative’ to go out and act out crime. The reason being is its more work. People generally will choose the easiest option, sitting and watching people kill themselves is far easier than picking up a sword and running off to do it yourself.


These are the facts, they may be true, although I still don’t think it’s justifiable to blunt people’s minds with endless violence. Whether you’re increasing or decreasing the crime, the values you promote to society are far more crucial in my opinion.





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