Yurchesyn, K. (2007). Sex and violence revisited. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, Vol 67(8-B), 2007. pp. 4764. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from PsycINFO database.
The present thesis was an investigation of the impact of viewing sexually violent films on emotional sensitivity to violence and to the suffering of victims of violence. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the Desensitization Hypothesis, proposed by Linz, Donnerstein, & Penrod (1984, 1988) and Mullins & Linz (1995), as well as an alternative model, the Differential Effect of Attitudes Hypothesis, to explain the media-elicited effect of diminished emotional sensitivity to victims of violence. According to the Desensitization Hypothesis, repeated exposure to violence (or sexualized violence) de-conditions the fear and empathy typically generated by such depictions, and this reduced emotional sensitivity to violence carries over to other contexts promoting indifference to the suffering of real-life victims of violence. The alternative hypothesis, the Differential Effect of Attitudes Hypothesis, proposes that males who hold hostile attitudes toward women are more susceptible to the negative impact of exposure to eroticized violence than males who hold positive or neutral attitudes toward women. According to this hypothesis, the diminished sympathy effect associated with exposure to eroticized violence is due specifically to the impact of such exposure on males who hold hostile attitudes toward women. One hundred and twenty-four university undergraduate males completed a pre-study assessment of their attitudes toward women. Males were assigned to one of four conditions: a non-exposure control group and groups differing in level of exposure to slasher-type horror films. Exposure participants completed an assessment of mood, (pre- and post-film) and a post-film evaluation of each movie viewed. Following the final film viewing (ostensibly as part of a different study examining person perception), exposure males along with control males viewed a documentary recounting the story of a real-life victim of domestic violence. Subsequently, all participants evaluated the victim & aggressor depicted in the documentary. The results supported the Differential Effect of Attitudes Hypothesis as the better explanation for the diminished sympathy effect. A number of interactive effects of exposure and attitudes were found with respect to particular victim outcome measures. Adversarial sexual beliefs (ASB) interacted with film exposure for the victim sympathy variable. That is, for males high on adversarial sexual beliefs, those exposed to slasher-type horror films were less sympathetic toward the victim than non-exposure males. No effect of film exposure was found for males low on adversarial sexual beliefs. Acceptance of Rape Myths (RMA) interacted with film exposure for ratings of victim suffering and, criminal responsibility of the accused. Specifically, for males who endorsed rape stereotypes, those exposed to slasher-type horror films rated the victim as suffering less and the aggressor as less criminally responsible than non-exposure males. No effect of film exposure was found for males low on rape myth acceptance. The results did not support the Desensitization Hypothesis. While I found evidence of both desensitization and diminished sympathy ratings, I found no empirical support for a link between these processes, suggesting they are relatively independent. Notably, level of film exposure was not a significant factor in our set of analyses. The effects of exposure (on victim outcome measures) to one slasher film were similar to exposure to multiple films. Implications of the findings in terms of our understanding of desensitization to media violence are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)