Taylor's FSLM Journals
Shared Causal Theories about Film Violence and Violent Behaviour: Findings from Young Malaysian Indians

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

Ramachandran Ponnan, *Antoon De Rycker, Yang Lai Fong & Mohammad Abeer Syed


Film is an essential part of the fabric of Indian communities, also in Malaysia. Local media and social commentary frequently argue that film violence causes violent or aggressive behaviour, especially among Malaysian Indian youths. This article examines to what extent the young Indian filmgoers themselves subscribe to this view. The research approach consists of a survey questionnaire, which was administered in the first half of 2016 among 360 young Indian filmgoers, largely from urban peripherals in West Malaysia. Correlational and regression analyses show that for most young Malaysian Indians, the social cognitions about film violence and violence are broadly consistent with the academic literature and the catalyst model of violent crime. The strongest agreement was found for the constructive role of parents in moderating the potential negative effects of film violence. Only few young Indian filmgoers downplay the importance of personal and situational factors (such as parental involvement) and instead associate violent behaviour directly and immediately with violent film content. Further analysis suggests that the shared cognitions – i.e. their “theories” or everyday social explanations – regarding film violence and real violence are not a cultural invariant but largely restricted to younger and less educated Indian filmgoers as well as those from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds. Additionally, there is no evidence either that a culturally predominant cognitive style would account for those shared cognitions; rather, young Malaysian Indians display both holistic and analytic styles when thinking about mediated and real violence. Implications for film censorship and education will be briefly explored.

Keywords: violent films, the catalyst model of violent crime, cultural cognitive theory, Malaysian Indians, aggressive behaviour