Tagged: psychology

Video Games and the Construction of Violent Masculinity

Much of the research I have read on this topic (and I have exhausted myself doing so as I have two children who play video games and one of them is male) suggests no “direct” cause only correlations – in other words it is complicated, and the propensity for violence cannot be blamed on any one factor just like listening to heavy metal music, or reading comic books does not “make” you a sadist however if you already are, you are likely to enjoy the masculine and violent themes of much of that media and the same goes for games like Grand Theft Auto or Doom.

So producers wash their hands of the issue saying they are just catering to the consumers. The problem is that culture and media are so imbricated that there is no pinpointing of ONE source of messaging – it all works together to send hegemonic messaging to citizens that women want manly men, and you are supposed to want a woman, therefore you must be a manly man, and to do that you must be tough, and then there are various interpretations of what that means.

Social and evolutionary psychology studies suggest that the drive to procreate, and to survive underlies all this, then of course there are the factors that affect your psyche before you are seven. By then the messaging from your family, your community, your society and your culture are well embedded in your brain, before you have the capacity to think critically about it. As youth or adults we can laugh at some of these themes and assess them for the ridiculous fantasies that they are, but as children we cannot and if this is the main messaging that we are sending to our children, then we cannot be surprised that these concepts are so deeply engrained in our culture.

Anthropologists and psychologists will also argue that what was appropriate for the survival of aggressive nomadic sheep herder tribes (like the Britons and Celts – who many White Canadians are descended from as opposed to more peacefully-oriented agricultural societies) are not always the same skills we need to navigate contemporary society…so there is our ancient, inherited knowledge and belief systems, along with our individual drives, our cultural values, media messaging, family, community and school dysfunctions (that likely have included violence on some level), mentors or role models, hormone levels of testosterone and personal goals, abilities and resources that all factor into whether or not a man, or a woman for that matter, is likely to be more or less violent and aggressive.

My point is – that humans have the unique capacity to over-ride their lizard brain urges with frontal-lobe critical thinking, which is what makes more so-called civilized, chivalry and gentlemanly conduct possible, but it is slower and takes more effort, and is sometimes impeded by chemicals (drugs, alcohol, etc) or different physiological/psychological abilities. So there is no one answer to this issue.

Personally, I limited outside messaging (TV, Internet, Magazines and newspapers) with the youngest members in our household and when it was allowed, it was never restricted, but always mediated and deconstructed by older family members that usually resulted in interesting discussions. I think this is the key because I don’t believe in censorship or “molly-coddling” children – they need to learn about the world and know the ugly and the beautiful parts of it, so they can deal with it. Therefore, I think that training children to think critically is more important for personal empowerment and the future of humankind than blaming media.

nb: My son and daughter are now in university, seemingly well-adjusted and generally doing well in life. Although they spent a few early years annoyed with me for the differences in our household when compared to that of their friends – by middle school they were more appreciative and could quickly recognise biast messaging. 

Beauty and the Brain: how the history of art and cognitive psychology affect identity


Interesting program called “How Art Made The World – More Human Than Human” a BBC documentary regarding theories about trends in human art history suggests that we tend to create images, not to represent reality, but an ideal. Like the Venus of Wilandorf, or the Greek sculptures of athletes, the human form is represented with enhanced features, features that were an important focus for a particular culture at a particular time – for whatever reason. The argument is that ancient humans were technically capable of representing more realistic human forms, they just chose not to.

Image Flash forward a few millennia and this theory could be used to explain contemporary adculture. Current cognitive psychology theories of perception in humans (not seagulls or red stripes on beaks, which in my novice opinion have more to do with evolutionary psychology and survival than ideals of beauty) could also also support this idea I think. This is a theory I am developing anyway after taking cognitive science courses I am having a much better understanding of communication theory.

For example: The brain notices the novel and pays extra attention to the unordinary. Think, for example, of when you have met someone who had a nose (or some other feature) that was larger than anyone else’s you have ever seen before. You probably recall the experience well, and remembering really noticing it, could not ignore it  and likely felt you might be staring at it for a socially inappropriate period of time. Such a stimulus for your brain and the processes that follow fix the experience in your memory along with associations and assumptions based on previous experiences and cultural knowledge. The brain will also make associations with this new experience based on whether the person was perceived to be physically aggressive or passive, soft spoken or boisterous, eccentric or conservative, and so on.


Unless you consciously override this process, the next time you meet someone with a similarly large nose, your memory will be triggered and subconsciously you will have certain expectations of the person based on your previous encounter and the associations you made. You may realize this consciously or subconsciously and depending on the impact of the experience you may, consciously or subconsciously, start to emulate them if you are impressed by them, especially if you notice that others people are too. You will want to experience that perhaps, you may want others to feel a similar impact when they meet you. You attribute the impact of the experience to the fact that people with big noses are much more loved, wanted and accepted in your community. So, you might look into how diet or exercise could make your nose bigger so that you too can be more accepted and loved like that, and when you realize that method of pursuit does not produce a nose big enough, you may turn to surgery for better results.

This may all seem laughable, but think of it how this could apply to physical features that humans in our culture currently focus on and put importance on. Large breasts, and small waists for example, or pale skin, wide eyes, full lips and small noses. These are the ideals that get portrayed in our media and are criticized by some (ie: Jean Kilbourne) as harmful and ridiculously inauthentic and unrealistic. And yet there are thousands more images created in a similar way, and thousands of people who go out of their way to emulate them. Think of Michael Jackson’s transformation or Deborah Voigt’s.

Image Image

Were these people unduly pressured by media images? or was their internal desire to be more accepted and loved stronger?

Counter-stereotype Women in Media

Political & Celebrity Public Figures:

  • Sandra Oh
  • Margaret Cho
  • Jenny Shimizu
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Lucy Liu
  • Fann Wong
  • Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan)
  • Sheetal Sheth
  • Gong Li
  • Kelly Hu
  • Shu Qi
  • Devon Aoki
  • Grace Park
  • Joan Chen
  • Lynn Chen
  • Karin Anna Cheung
  • Kieu Chinh
  • Tamlyn Tomita
  • Jessica Yu
  • Michelle Krusiec
  • Hiep Thi Le
  • Lisa Ling
  • Marie Matiko
  • Ming-Na (Wen-Zee)
  • SuChin Pak
  • Chandra Wilson
  • Michaëlle Jean
  • Dana Owens (Queen Latifah)
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Iimaan Maxamed Cabdulmajiid (Imam)
  • Pam Grier
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • Tyra Banks (?)
  • Carol Diann Johnson (Diahann Carroll)
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Halle Berry
  • Michelle Obama
  • Jada Koren Pinkett Smith
  • Maya Rudolph
  • Shanaze Reade
  • Raven-Symoné
  • Roasario Dawson
  • Nikki Blonsky
  • Rachel Ray
  • Suzy Chaffee
  • Natalie Portman
  • Emma Watson
  • Keira Knightley
  • Lisa LaFlamme
  • Claire Martin
  • Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (Lady Gaga)
  • Ellen Degenres
  • Nikki Yanofsky
  • Adele Laurie Blue Adkins (ADELE)
  • Alecia Beth Moore (Pink)
  • Mariska Hargitay
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Wendy Mesley
  • Mary Walsh
  • K D Lang

Behind the scenes:

  • Joan Sauers (script editor)
  • Deepa Mehta (film director)
  • Temple Grandin (author)
  • Lubna Hussein (journalist)
  • Wajeha al-Hawaidar (author)

0ther suggestions:

  • bell hooks
  • Arundati Roy
  • Lisa Nakamura
  • Sherene Razack
  • Sunera Thobani
  • Sook-Yin Lee
  • Alice Dreger
  • Lera Borditsky
  • Sonya JF Barnett
  • Heather Jarvis
  • Faith Gemmill
  • Monica Vela