The Mean World Syndrome
For preview only. Get it at  #ad.

The Mean World Syndrome

2010, Media  -   53 Comments
Ratings: 6.22/10 from 37 users.

For years, debates have raged among scholars, politicians, and concerned parents about the effects of media violence on viewers.

Too often these debates have descended into simplistic battles between those who claim that media messages directly cause violence and those who argue that activists exaggerate the impact of media exposure altogether.

The Mean World Syndrome, based on the groundbreaking work of media scholar George Gerbner, urges us to think about media effects in more nuanced ways.

Mean World Syndrome is a phenomenon where the violence-related content of mass media convinces viewers that the world is more dangerous than it actually is, and prompts a desire for more protection than is warranted by any actual threat.

Mean World Syndrome is one of the main conclusions of cultivation theory. The term "Mean World Syndrome" was coined by George Gerbner, a pioneer researcher on the effects of television on society, when he noted that people who watched a lot of TV tended to think of the world as an unforgiving and scary place.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

I'm in 8th grade and when they were fights last year, in school, people would just gather around and do nothing, now, yesterday this guy broke this guys' jaw at school and I was the only one who tried to help the one would help me.

5 years ago

Humans are just sh*tty overall. This isn't news to people who are the least bit awake. Every culture in all times of history. Humans love violence in one form or another and it's perfectly normal no matter what message this silly video is trying to send us. It was going on long before movies and video games. The gladiators right down to your pet football team. If you don't like it don't procreate. If you procreate then stfu about it as you are the cause. Now go back to sleep.

11 years ago

We are all potentially influenced by the constant propaganda that is based on fear. Our very government is built on fear and we are fighting two wars because of fear, we ban illegal drugs rationalized with fear, the very foundation of government is meant to give us security. I am of the opinion that our fear is not much more than a self fulfilling prophecy.

Sieben Stern
11 years ago

interesting. I wonder what his take on the violence in the bible is? righteous violence with a happy ending? check.

11 years ago

Same old cr@p: If it bleeds, it leads.
I stopped watching the mainstream news broadcasts almost two years ago, and have felt better ever since. Too bad the money punks are so much more limited now in ways to reach me. But I cry real tears for them, I do, I do. Grit big large fat ones, too, that fall off my cheeks in slow-motion, like something out of a Ford truck commercial.

11 years ago

The media's existance depends on it's ability to provide content that creates a culture that will become self sustainable for the media. When subject exhaustion occurs, the media finds another subject to dramatize to keep the system perpetuating.
So, along comes the internet where people are free to choose what to watch and what not to watch...what to believe and what not to believe.
What now? Documentaries telling us how we voluntarily subject ourselves to paranoia by indulging in markets cultural just to avoid being bored or going out into that mean and dangerous world?

11 years ago

I find it funny that at every anti-immigrant demonstrations in the US. You never see any native americans...sorry...I meant Indians. ;)

11 years ago

fairplay to that Mexican guy for being there on his own. That American guy made a jackass out of himself by calling him a coward and even more so by being such a gullible sap with a brain like a sponge thats does/believes everything and thinks how a box in his living room dictates. If he or any of those people in that "protest" had any sense or where anyway decent people they wouldn't of been there. But it just goes to show you how much fear and bad ideas media can plant in people by preying on the irrationality.

11 years ago

Well, at 54, I must say that the world IS getting "meaner". We never used to lock our door in our home. Home security systems, motion sensors, cameras, security guards, and so on were not even considered. Today, it seems we all our locked away in our own prisons- our homes. I am no scientist. I am not a social expert in any way. I just know TODAY we must be much more aware of our surroundings, our "friends" and people in general, why? because society is being forced to act in ways they never in their wildest dreams were even considered. So, what's the answer? Grow up and take charge at what's stealing your joy, your happiness, and safety. Then realize the truth! Our own Government is the MAIN reason we have to act as if our lives are in immediate danger. Because we are.

richard wilmot
11 years ago

Terrorist Humor
In my research for my book Christian Terrorist Humor I've been concerned that terorists are terrorists because they have no humor... along with drug warriors, Prohibition/total abstinence scolds. speed freaks, racists, and Republicons... that's why we have Rush Limbaugh... ethinic & raciial humor and prat fall.

I'm not the first to note the relationship between violence and the lack of humor:
Lewis Black mentions it often and Steve Martin was one of the first to demonstrate that murder, and death and torture and rape cannot happen when accompanied by a banjo.
Perhaps police should have banjos in their cars along with shotguns.

We've all got to lighten up in order to enlighten.

These two Christian terrorists had just planted a bomb in a Mosque and one says to the other: "The CIA made me do this." and the other one says: "Me too."

11 years ago

I liked it >:D

So many facts this could of easily been stretched out over 10 hours if we all the hows and whys are addressed. :D

Love ,War , Pain , Peace. I truly love All of it, i would not change a thing if i had the power. :D

Love or hate the Ups and Downs of life.

11 years ago

There are two TYPES of police officer. Nice people just trying to do their job, and all the rest of THEM. Most often, it is some person who was either beat up by his Mommie and Daddy, or beat-up by his peers. Oicked on when he was little. Treated-badly in some way, by SOMEONE. Too often by the military Industrial Complex, that is poised to take-over the United States, and at the same time, the ENTIRE WORLD. Do you doubt what I say? Then WHEN-IT-HAPPENS, I wont be hearing you complain now, will I? Oh it's comuing alright; and is already here. Right now. TPTB just are waiting for "A New Pearl Harbor" (As stated in the "New American Century") to invade Irac, now Lybia, and Syria, (who weren't even wrongly-accused of WMD'S, and take over the rest of the world, one dictator at a time.
George Bush said, "It would be EASIER if there was a dictator, as long as I....AM THE DICTATOR!" AND THAT FRIENDS, IS exactly what GEORGE WAS. "THE CONSITUTION IS JUST A GOD DAMN PIECE OF PAPER." cam you believe THAT? The "President of the United States" would make a statement like that? Well, HE DID!
BTW, "America" as we knew it, ceased to exist, thanks again to "little-boy-george" and the President of Mexico. Along with another Illuminati member, the "Prime Minister" of Canada. (Which, like America is controlled by Israel) It is a sad state of affairs in which we finfd ourselves. People who refer to "Americans" as "GOYIM." (Which means.......CATTLE) HAVE bought and paid for, THE CONTROL OF THE US.Wake up you beer=drinking, baseball-watching HillBilly's!

11 years ago

They are missing the point! Media, and tv were INVENTED for the reason of HYPNOTIZING THE MASSES. Always was, and STILL IS! It is "known as" PROPAGANDA!

Andrew Brown
11 years ago

What about countries like S. Korea where the violent crime rate is low and people are comparatively fearless? The media seems equally focused on the "fear factor" there, too, yet I see children walking the streets unattended as late as 1 or 2am.

Is "the mean world syndrome" more effective in the Western world than in the Eastern?

I'll note that S. Korea is also ethnically homogenous, given a very small but growing percentage of foreigners (such as me). The fear is certainly there when it comes to the conceptions of non-Koreans.

11 years ago

people were meeting their quota of irrational fears and misguided prejudices long before television, If TV did not exist we would be picking up our dose stupid from somewhere else. I would like to see the survey questions they used to collect the data 16) have you or a loved one ever canceled a night out for fear of being mugged, physically assaulted or followed by man wearing only a trench coat?

11 years ago

People who watch more TV are more afraid of violence. True.
But that does not necessarily prove it is the violence on TV that made them more afraid - it can simply mean that people who watch a lot of TV were already more afraid violence and rather stayed home to watch TV.
The cause and affect can be reversed and we still get same result.
What I am trying to say - one needs to be super careful with statistical data - it can be interpreted in different ways.

11 years ago

I hope people can get past the first five minutes of this documentary to realize it's not about violent media making violent people, quite the contrary; the documentary -as suggested by it's title- is about today's media creating a fearful, bigoted populace who are willing to sacrifice their freedoms for a false sense of security.

The world around you isn't nearly as dangerous as today's media advertises.

11 years ago

Great documentary in my opinion. I fully agree with the main point they make, that the overall picture created by media as a whole creates an environment of irrational fear and misguided prejudice. You turn on the news, a movie, television, read a paper, etc. and ninety percent of what you see is violence and dysfunction. Even though there is less of it happening today than say thirty years ago because it is now streamed into our consciousness via cable news programs, movies, television shows, the internet, etc. 24/7- 365 days a year we can’t help but feel there is more. What I don’t agree with is that they seemed to make it out like it was some plot by the powers that be or Hollywood to corrupt us good wholesome citizens when in reality these guys just put on TV or in their movies what we like and will pay to see. We have learned that we can live vicariously through the characters involved in these violent or dysfunctional situations and by doing so get to experience what it’s like without having to suffer the real consequences or be labeled as someone who would do such a thing. As the song says, “We all feed, on tragedy, it’s like blood to vampire… I need to watch things die, from a good safe distance, vicariously I live while the whole world dies, and you all feel the same so why don’t we just admit it? ” (Vicarious, by Tool). In my opinion it is this desire to experience the dangerous and exciting without having to pay the cost that drives us to consume gore and violence as we do. And as long as we are willing to pay for it to the tune of millions and millions of dollars every year, it will never stop. In fact I think as media/entertainment technologies get ever more realistic and spell binding we will see this problem explode. After all the more realistic it feels the more it satisfies our vicarious life styles.

11 years ago

Thank you for this, its about time someone said this stuff, its so true.

11 years ago

Fascinating documentary. Well worth a watch. I've heard of this "syndrome" before, so far the evidence I''ve seen seems to support it. Could it actually be the world is safer than we think it is?

If that's the case, what does it say about the ever more draconian laws we are allowing to intrude on our freedoms and ways of life?

Jeremy Hughes
11 years ago

My cousin that plays violent video games, with his little sadistic grin, is constantly getting into fights at school, yelling at his mom, ignoring their wishes, and generally acting like a total shyt. I did not have video games nor was I allowed to watch TV as a kid, I think I got into 2 fights in High School, and neither was instigated by me. So ya, I don't doubt it for a second.

Robert Butler
11 years ago

This is a very interesting topic. Before computer scientists and neurologists first came up with the concept of neural networks and "training" I would've scoffed at such an idea that media could possibly influence one's behavior much as pundits argued in the past, "If someone is violent it's in their genes and there is nothing you can do about it."

Well with findings of late with neural networks and the way in which we train ourselves to not only recognized patterns by repeated observation and exposure, I would have to question what the real effect of violence in the media is on individuals regardless of their natural disposition.