Violent Television Associated with Poorer Cognitive Function

HealthDay News — Exposure to violent television may be associated with poorer executive functioning and slower white matter growth in young adult men, according to study findings published in Brain and Cognition.

Tom A. Hummer, PhD, from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, and colleagues examined the correlation between executive functioning and violent television viewing in 65 healthy adult males aged 18 to 29 years.

Participants were asked to estimate their television viewing habits over the past year and record viewing times during the subsequent week in a daily media diary. They reported minimal video game experience.

Executive functions were quantified on completion of a battery of neuropsychological laboratory tests, and participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans.

There was no correlation between aggregate measures of executive function and measures of overall television viewing (any content type) during the past week or the past year, the researchers found.

However, there was a correlation between violent content viewed in past-year and past-week and poorer scores on an aggregate measures of inhibition, interference control, and attention; no correlation was seen for composite working memory score.

Daily media diary-recorded violent television exposure was also associated with reduced frontoparietal white matter volume.

“Future longitudinal work is necessary to resolve whether individuals with poor executive function and slower white matter growth are more drawn to violent programming, or if extensive media violence exposure modifies cognitive control mechanisms mediated primarily via prefrontal cortex,” the authors write.


  1. Hummer TA, et al. Brain and Cognition. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2014.04.010