Emotion Word Processing and Previous Exposure to Violent Media: An Eye-Tracking Study




Helfrich, Maxwell R.

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The controversy regarding violent media influencing acts of violence is long standing and heavily debated. Most research in this area has prioritized examining correlations between the consumption of violent media and measures of aggression or desensitization with the goal of answering the question “Does violent media cause acts of violence?” This narrow focus has left many other potential questions about how violent media can influence behavior unexamined. This study examines the correlation between reading behavior (measured via eye-tracking) and participant’s self-reported previous exposure to different types of violent media. Participants read sentences containing either a nonviolent, neutral critical word or a violent, negatively valenced critical word. Aspects of their reading behavior was examined to test the hypothesis that participants with higher exposure to violent media would significantly differ from participants with lower exposure to violent media in terms of their reading times. Results from the current study suggest there is a correlation between previous exposure to violent media and faster reading time of violent words. This study is the first to demonstrate this relationship and suggests future study of how media influences human behavior.



psychology, eye-tracking, emotion word, media, violent media, language processing


Helfrich, M. R. (2018). Emotion word processing and previous exposure to violent media: An eye-tracking study (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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