Idea cut down to size

April 19, 2002

The THES helps perpetuate a highly ideological definition 01 aggression ("Rage and the human race", THES , April 12) by looking at only evolution- ary and genetic versus social conditioning accounts. The notion of social conditioning is rooted in Skinnerian psycholo- gy and discounts historical processes and social relations.

What you offer is not "big science", but "big old ideologi- cal formulations". Every time I saw Margaret Thatcher on television, I felt rage. This is not explained by my amygdala or conditioning but by my understanding of the world, the time and circumstances.

I work in one small corner of this domain: that concerned with the ways humans use mediated representations of the world to understand it.

The article claims that a 1994 review of television and violence studies showed a "sig- nificant positive correlation" between viewing violence and being aggressive. Yes, if you ignore the fact that many stud- ies were incompatible, many were slammed for methodolog- ical flaws while others never got published because they showed nothing.

Martin Barker
Professor of film and television studies
University of Aberystwyth

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