A segment on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show last night discussed pedestrians in New York City repeatedly ignoring a dying man on the street and somehow turned into a referendum on videogames.
A NYC man was stabbed after apparently attempting to help a female fend off an attacker and then collapsed on the street as people kept passing by, eventually dying of his wounds. In discussing the story, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, filling in for Cooper, brought on board psychologist Dr. Michael Bradley (pictured) to talk about what might make people ignore a mortally wounded person lying on a sidewalk.
A transcript of the discussion follows (in video on the CNN website, the segment with Gupta and Bradley begins around the 17.25 mark)
Bradley: When we look at it (the video) we see a couple things, like you said there is the bystander effect and then there’s something called the fusion of responsibility. We’ve known about those for a while. I don’t think that’s what we are looking at in this Sanjay. I think what we are seeing is this new phenomena, this desensitization to violence where we are actually changing brain structures in a way, where people don’t get it when they look at it now.
Gupta: As a result of what… because of movies? Videogames? I’ve heard that before. Is it as simple as that?
Bradley: It is as simple and and as complex… We pound, particularly our children, we pound them 24/7 with what I call prompts, they are violent scenarios, they’re lyrics in a song, they’re scenes in a movie… all sorts of suggestions about violence to the point where the brain is now changing in these kids in the way it responds to real violence. It’s as if brains can’t discriminate between real violence and pain and cyber-violence.
Gupta: It’s one of those things where a lot of people game… they play these games. Are you saying an entire generation, an entire society is becoming desensitized… it’s a little bit hard to believe. Also, a lot of the people walking by were adults as far as I could tell. Is it happening mainly in kids or is it happening in adults as well according to what you’ve seen.
Bradley: Well, both and we’re seeing it in the past couple of decades, we saw this increasing saturation of violence in our media, really in the whole culture. The American culture loves violence. We can’t get enough of this stuff and it is falling out on our kids. … The science is real clear; if you expose kids to this stuff they do change, actually physiologically and neurologically, the way they respond to violence.
Gupta: What role do you think the images from disasters, such as 9/11 or Haiti, have played. Is this just a more violent world to live in than what our grandparents experienced and do we see more of it?
Bradley: We definitely do see more of it. But the part that concerns us is that there’s a beneficial part to the Haiti series you did, which was phenomenal, where you’re really showing the real pain and real trauma in real life. The videogames have an effect where people get blown up and then you hit a button, they dust themselves off and you get up and play again. And that’s the response that really concerns us; when we see kids responding to true life violent scenarios in a way that’s passive, as if they are watching a game.
GP: Because things like this never happened before videogames.