Advertisements And Aggression: Finding Out The Link Between The Two

Last Update on December 18, 2020 : Published on December 18, 2020
Advertisement and Aggression

If I ask you a list of omnipresent things, will advertisements even cross your mind? Probably not! But now when you give it a thought, advertisements are everywhere, at the cinema, at your physician’s clinic, while reading an article or watching a video online; even on newspaper, red lights, and television. You name a platform, and you will see advertisements being there!

The number of advertisements we are exposed to has soared over the last few decades. Studies suggest that, on average, you and I come across 3,000 ads per DAY!

Also Read: Passive Aggressive Behavior: Signs You Are Using It To Cope

Well, no wonder companies are dependent so much on advertisements. After all, advertisements have a huge impact on us in terms of how we feel, act, or think, you probably might disagree with me. But what if I give you a live example of the same.

The Toxic Influence

If I come and tell you that you should turn vegan or use a particular environment-friendly product. Will you do it? Probably not. Now, imagine your favorite sportsperson or influencer pops on the television ad asking you to turn vegan or use the same environmentally friendly, you might just end up placing an order immediately!

Here you can see how an advertisement changed your mind to buy a product that you were not really fascinated with. Similarly, advertisements can influence the way you think, act, and feel because they are designed to grab our attention and persuade us on intention or unintentionally.

Also Read: Time For You To Stop Being A Doormat Personality | Think And Work On It

While the above example was on the positive side, advertisements also influence us negatively. One such negative outcome related to the advertisement is- AGGRESSION! Certain ads provoke aggressive acts, thinking, and feelings within an individual (irrespective of age). Now you must be wondering really? How? Is there any evidence that supports the same? Well, hold your horses and continue reading to find answers to all the questions popping in your head.

Which Advertisements Causes Aggression: Are All Advertisements Aggression Provoking?

Not all ads are responsible for triggering aggression in an individual. Some characteristics are specific to aggressive advertisements this includes:

1. Aggressive Advertising:

When the advertisement is very pushy and bold, in a way that it leads you to buy it. It can cause annoyance and frustration in an individual. These advertisements are called aggressive advertisements, they keep on popping again and again, while you are performing a task. This hindrance puts unwanted pressure on an individual, guiding the purchasing decision and causing aggression.

2. Violence:

An advertisement that promotes violence in some manner. Usually, it is seen that advertisements show violence against women to promote a product or service. Often violence is shown in the name of macho personality, resulting in aggressiveness among men.

3. Change in Bodily Reactions:

An interesting study found that some commercials do have the potential to elicit aggression as our body reacts to them in that manner. It examined the heart rate modification before, during, and after exposure to the aggressive commercials of 20 female participants. The findings did justify the relationship between advertisement and their ability to provoke aggression in an individual (Caprara, 1987).

Why Advertising Uses Aggression: Understanding the Nature and Motive

If certain advertisements lead to aggression, why do we have them live? Well, there are two major reasons why violent images in adverts are used as a strategy in advertising this includes:

  • With violence, the advertiser finds it easy to draw the attention of the viewers.
  • In some cases, violent images are used to create humor among the viewers. This in turn increases their product sale in the market.

Note: Using violence in form of humor is the most subtle and profound way in which an advertisement can cause aggression

Why Advertisements Cause Aggression: Exploring The Psychology Behind It

You might be wondering how 2 minutes of exposure can induce the feeling of aggression in someone. Well, of course, the exposure is merely a few minutes but there are psychological reasons that explain the relationship between advertising and aggression.

1. Subliminal Message:

Advertisements are short and they work as subliminal messages, as our conscious mind does not perceive us our subconscious mind does. If these messages are in line with our desires then it becomes effective. Similarly, if a violent advertisement meets the anger within you, it will explode in the form of aggression.

2. Social Learning Theories:

According to Albert Bandura’s theory of social learning, we humans observe behavior or situation and imitate them in our lives. Ads with violence do the same to us. We observe them at subconscious levels and they end up showing in our life in the form of aggression.

3. Personality:

An ad that evokes aggression can influence people at varying degrees as an individual’s personality plays a big role here. It has been found that certain personality types are more prone to aggressive behavior (Rose and Neidermeyer). Considering that we have big five personalities (neuroticism, conscientiousness, extroversion, openness, and agreeableness), it is found that people who are neurotic and narcissistic are more likely to respond with aggression to an advertisement.

4. Attitude and Mood:

An individual’s attitude towards a particular product or mood while viewing an advertisement can also trigger aggression in them (it is even supported by Gardner).

5. Feelings and Emotions:

Ads evoke emotional responses. If these emotional responses are negative then it is likely to lead an individual to aggression.

Advertisements Cause Aggression

Understanding the Impact of Advertising On Aggression: Research Findings

So far we have understood that when and how an advertisement causes aggression but do we have any research that supports the same? Yes. Although the role of media in provoking aggression is widely studied, advertisement is one such form of media that is least explored in this direction. But even that 2-minute story or a glimpse of aggressive advertising is found to influence our behavior, thought, and cations. The same notion is supported by different studies.

Research 1: Aggressive Advertising Provokes Aggression

A new study found that aggressive advertising is linked to making men more aggressive. The advertisements in the magazine were found to promote troubling behavior in young men. Aggressive advertising was found to reinforce “hyper-masculinity.” More than 56 percent of the advertisements (out of 527) did depict the components of hyper-masculinity in them. The four components of extreme masculinity included:

  • Violence,
  • Dangerousness,
  • Calloused attitude toward women and sex, and
  • Toughness

These four components were further found to be linked with various social health issues like violence against women, drug usage, and dangerous driving. This research clearly supports the direct relation between aggressive advertisements and how they build aggression in the viewers.

Research Study 2: Violent Advertisement Results in Aggressive Thinking

Deanne Brocato along with his colleagues conducted research to study the impact of violent advertisements and aggression caused by the same among children between the age group of 8-12 years. It was found that children who were exposed to the advertisement with violent content, generated aggressive cognition (thinking pattern) as compared to those who were exposed to ads without violent content.

Research Study 3: Early Exposure to Violent Advertisement Has Long Term Impact

Research by psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann et al., in the 1980s, found that children who watched more aggressive advertisements and violence on television when they were in elementary school tended to display higher levels of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers.

Research Study 4: Aggressive Visually Stimulating Content can Develop Aggressive Individuals

Advertisements are visually stimulating content, which is meant to engage an individual. Research suggests that regular exposure to violent advertisements can translate to aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive feelings. A study that studied the impact of a violent advertisement throughout the subway has suggested the above findings. The study further found that areas where subways didn’t have any violent acts being displayed in the advertisement, did not show that much aggression.

Aggressive Visually Stimulating

Take-Home Message

To put it in a nutshell, advertisements (if violent) can result in aggression. Even that 2 minutes of exposure to digital or paper advertisements can trigger those areas of our brain which are responsible for aggressive outcomes. That is why make sure that you consume media in moderation and with full awareness. Because knowingly or unknowingly advertisements are impacting you.

What are your viewpoints on the same? Do you think that even a few seconds of exposure to aggression through advertisement can impact someone? Share your views with us in the comments section we would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading.

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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