Conditioning… and I don’t mean the type that comes after shampooing


Anyone who has taken a PSYCH101 class or has knowledge of classics such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or The Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick knows the ins and outs of Conditioning. For those who haven’t, it’s the idea that a something/someone can train the individual subject to have an automated response (such as drooling when you see or smell food) to a newly formulated stimulus (such as ringing a bell).

Although ethically Conditioning is frowned upon, how do we know the media isn’t conditioning us to think/act a particular way?

Speaking from an idealist perspective, I believe in free will. That we, as individuals, with our own thought patterns and ideas have the ability to determine what is right and wrong, regardless of what a TV show, advertisement or films might tell us. Although conditioning is clearly apparent in the media, as well as our responses to the media, thereby the media does have an effect towards society, it is not necessarily negative.

Take for example, the problem of violence in society. Watching violent films/playing violent video games from a young age will lead a child to grow into a violent offender within society, right?


According to Gauntlett’s article Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’, “Criminologists…consistently turn for explanations not to the mass media, but to social factors such as poverty, unemployment, housing and the behaviour of family and peers” (1996). Gauntlett’s study found that violent children found it not only difficult to relate to any violent TV characters, but also admitted to watching little TV in the first place. A second theory, touched on by Weiton in Psychology Themes & Variations (2001),  known as the Carthasis Theory, promotes the idea that children who play violent video games have the opportunity to purge impulses of agression and frustration, thereby conditioning a child to have a natural release of emotions, rather then forming a back log of negative behaviour.

While conditioning is clearly apparent within the media, it cannot be said the media is to blame for flaws and emotional backlash within the individual. Although blaming the media can be considered taking the easy way out, think about it this way.What was life like before ‘media influence’?

Gauntlett, David. (1988). Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’. Available at: Last accessed 12th March 2014.

Weiton, W. (2001). Psychology Themes & Variation Briefer Version (9th ed.). Belmont, USA: Jon-David Hague