A new study has found that exposure to violence from watching a movie or reading a book is strongly linked to an increase in cheating for monetary gain.
“Research shows that violent media increases aggressive behavior towards others, but what we’re showing here is that it goes beyond that,” said study coauthor Dr. Josh Gubler, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.
Gubler and coauthor Dr. David Wood, a professor of accounting in Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, carried out three experiments with roughly 1,000 participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for the study, which was published in the Journal of Business Ethics.
In the first experiment, participants were paid to review sentences and edit those with mistakes. Half of the participants were given sentences with violent language.
The participants were told they would be paid whether or not they were correct, providing an incentive to mark all sentences “correct” to earn money quicker. Those who reviewed violent sentences were 24 percent more likely to cheat, the researchers discovered.
In another experiment, participants were hired to watch and evaluate movie clips. They were told they needed to watch all of the clips to be paid. The researchers found those who viewed violent movie clips were more likely to lie about watching all the videos.
Surprisingly, while both males and females responded to the violently worded media in the first experiment, only the men’s ethics were negatively influenced by violent videos.
“We have whole industries that glorify violence — in video games, in media, in Hollywood — and then, on the opposite side, we have a significant body of research showing very serious effects to this,” Wood said. “There is a disconnect between what science is saying and what we choose to do in society.”
Wood noted that this study is the latest to show that violent media has more negative impacts than most people imagine. He added that he believes our society needs to have a “really serious gut check” and ask why we tolerate and glorify violence.
“We hope this provides another piece of evidence to the debate we’re having within western society of the effects of media on behavior,” Gubler said. “We hope this information informs parents and communities as they make decisions about what types of media they consume.”