This article provides a meta-analytic review of the experimental effects of media violence on viewers’ aggression in unstructured social interaction. In the reviewed experiments, children or adolescents were exposed to violent or control presentations and their postexposure behavior was coded for aggression during spontaneous social interaction. Exposure to media violence significantly enhanced viewers’ aggressive behavior when the findings were aggregated across studies, but the effect was not uniform across investigations. Only suggestive evidence was obtained concerning moderators of the effect: Marginally stronger relations were obtained in those studies using a cross-section of the normal population of children (vs. emotionally disturbed children) and in those studies conducted in laboratory settings (vs. other contexts).
This research was supported by the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University through a Faculty Summer Research Award to Wendy Wood and a Graduate Student Research Award to Frank Y. Wong. We thank Garry Kiker for his assistance with the literature search, Jonathan Freedman for alerting us to several of the studies included in the review, and Leonard Berkowitz, Alice Eagly, Jonathan Freedman, Blair Johnson, Jeffry Simpson, and Brian Stagner for their comments on a preliminary draft of the article. Frank Y. Wong is now at Hofstra University and J. Gregory Chachere is now at Northeastern Louisiana University.