Arousal and Aggressive Content, Theory and Psychology of

The focus of this entry is on arousal and its relationship to aggressive media content. First, this entry defines arousal and contextualizes arousal in terms of relevant theories of emotion. Second, it briefly discusses individual differences in the arousal experience. Third, it reviews the relevant literature on arousal and aggression and desensitization to aggressive media material.

What Is Arousal?

Physiological arousal can be caused by distinct forms of media resulting in both a psychological and physiological state of excitation, restlessness, agitation, or alertness that manifests in automatic physical responses as well as emotional responses such as fear, anxiety, joy, and so on. An early definition of arousal is found in W. B. Cannon’s fight-or-flight theory. Cannon (1914) argued that when humans are in stressful situations their sympathetic ...

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