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You know how your folks told you, “You are the company you keep?”. You can apparently apply that to the folks that keep you company during couch-potato time. A study has been released that shows watching mean folks on TV might make you a big ol’ meanie too.

New research shows that that TV programs about backstabbing frenemies and wig-pulling fights can actually lead viewers to engage in some mean-girl behavior of their own.

Published in the journal Aggressive Behavior and highlighted by Science Daily, the study “’Frenemies, Fraitors, and Mean-em-aitors’: Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women” was co-authored by psychology professors from Iowa State University. In the study, 250 college women were shown three video clips, each depicting a different type of aggression. The first clip was of physical aggression (violent fighting, murder), the second clip was relational aggression (gossip, backstabbing, exclusion from a social circle), and the third clip was just a scary scene.
All three films produced physiological arousal, and that both the physical and relational aggressions caused aggressive scripts in the brain to activate. So watching a clip of two girls fighting over a boyfriend causes the same kind of reaction that watching a murderous scene would. This leads to a higher chance of engaging in aggressive behavior because the stimuli “primes” your brain for aggression. The authors say that relational aggression is essentially what cyberbullying is; the social exclusion created by de-friending someone on Facebook, spreading rumors, hateful Internet boards and forums, and Twitter beefs are all a type of relational aggression.

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