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date: 15 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents a framework for understanding desensitization to violence as an outcome of exposure to media violence. The term desensitization is defined, and behavioral and psychophysiological research documenting this phenomenon are presented. Aspects of moral evaluation, including empathy and attitudes toward violence, are discussed as proxy measures of desensitization. An individual’s propensity to become deeply involved in media experiences is proposed as one factor that increases the relative risk of desensitization. The term psychological engagement is recommended as an umbrella term for all levels of media involvement. Terms describing the progression of intensity of engagement, including immersion, presence, flow, and psychological absorption are discussed. Future research must be built on definitional consensus in this area. Psychophysiological and behavioral research will be complementary in elucidating the neural and psychological processes that underlie the desensitization process. The role of desensitization in increasing aggression and decreasing helping behavior requires additional study.

Keywords: absorption, desensitization, empathy, media violence, moral evaluation, presence, psychological engagement

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