Is TV violence bad?

In one of the previous posts we talked about how violent TV shows and video games have become increasingly popular over the last decade. Researchers in University of Michigan came to a collective conclusion that,  “exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others.”  (University of Michigan). In essence we have become more immune to watching human suffering and pain. So then why do we find violence so enticing?

Some science

Here is what’s happening, violence often causes a release of cortisol and adrenaline, the chemicals responsible for the fight-or-flight response (…). “This response can, for some people, provide a level of stimulation that paradoxically calms their restlessness. The fight or flight response also releases endorphins, which cause a sensation of happiness.” ( So it just feels good because it is neurologically stimulating.

Doesn’t sound too bad. “However one negative aspect of adrenaline release, is that it inhibits and supresses a hormone called oxytocin,” which isn’t so good. (Dianne Garland 2011).

Research scientist Paul Zak, Ph.D. feels that the hormone oxytocin is partly responsible for the feeling empathy and sympathy.n his book, The Moral Molecule:  The Source of Love and Prosperity he says, “Beginning in 2001, my colleagues and I conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone’s level of oxytocin goes up, he or she are more generous and caring, even with complete strangers.” (

Paul Zak found that not only did oxytocin make people friendlier, more empathic, and more trusting, it also caused the release of more oxytocin, which created more empathy.  “This is the behavioral feedback loop,” says Zak.

Oxytocin also stimulates the release of other hormones that improve the quality of our relationships.  “When a positive social stimulus prompts the release of oxytocin, the Moral Molecule in turn triggers the release of two other feel-good neurotransmitters:  dopamine and serotonin.  Serotonin reduces anxiety and has a positive effect on the mood without any “sacrifices”. Dopamine on the other hand is associated with goal-directed behaviors, drive, and reinforcement of learning. (


So think about the actual effect of watching violence for means of entertainment and what it is doing us.

In addition to numbing us to the pain and suffering of others, by inhibiting our levels of oxytocin, violent TV shows and video games also make us less empathetic, less sociable, less trusting, and less caring. Those are the side effects.

What can we do? Be aware what you allow your environment to do to you. You can’t control what is round you, but you can control what you  expose yourself to.


“Why do humans find violence in films entertaining?”

“Revisiting Waterbirth: An attitude to care” Dianne Garland (2011).