LETTER : Viewers discount fantasy violence, study shows

Sir: A group of part-time mature students have just completed an experiment investigating the effect which viewing violent television might have on sentencing policy.

The subjects, randomly selected adults from the general population, were shown clips of violent entertainment programmes and clips from Crimewatch. After each viewing session they were shown brief descriptions of typical criminals and the sentences which they had been given. In each case they were asked to say whether the sentence was too harsh, just right, or too lenient. Viewing real-life violence as depicted on Crimewatch led to a shift toward more punitive sentencing. Fantasy violence did not show this effect.

This undergraduate study seems to indicate that normal adults can differentiate between fantasy and reality; perhaps as Suzanne Moore said, "Crimewatch and all those other crime reconstruction programmes ... are unsuitable viewing for children and discerning adults." ("So where is this depraved and violent diet? Not on my telly", 11 December).


Head of Department of Psychology

University of Leeds