Over the past 30 years, do you think crime has increased or decreased? If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have said it has increased. I mean it’s all we ever hear about right? From school shootings to extreme racial violence to neighborhood shoot offs, The United States has experiences its fair share of violence recently. Yet, studies have shown that violent crime has been dropping for the past decade and is now at a 30-year low.
That’s certainly not what we’ve been told.
As George Gerbner finds, this is a result of what he likes to call “The Mean World Syndrome.”
For many years individuals have been researching and studying the effects of media on the population as a whole. Many believed that watching crime on TV was causing an excess of violence in individuals. As Gerbner found, though, it isn’t causing more violence, it’s causing an idea that there is more violence.
In other words, because we see so much violence on TV our minds are forced to believe that the real world is just as violent as the world on TV. We think that hospitals deal with earth shattering accidents every day just like they do on Grey’s Anatomy, we believe the president is just as corrupt as president Fitz on Scandal and so on a so forth.
In my own experience, this is very accurate. As I said above, I had no idea that violence was actually decreasing because, well, it sure doesn’t seem like it. Perception is a very large part of every aspect of life and if media is giving us the perception that violence is increasing then we’re probably going to believe them.