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The Desensitization Boxes

The Desensitization Boxes

Has your child seen an autopsy?

Professor Masserman created experiments with cats that made them “neurotic” by giving them electric shocks in a certain box.  Soon the cats acted anxious whenever they were put in the box. In the second part of the experiment, Masserman observed that the cats lost their “neurosis” if they were fed in the box.  These experiments led to Desensitization therapy by Joseph Wolpe considered the first behavior therapy.

MyDesensitization Therapy

In the 80s I was an Orlando Police Officer. My first exposure to desensitization therapy was at the Orlando J. C. Stone Memorial Police Academy. We were shown slide presentations of traumatic gruesome accident victims (burn victims, vehicle accident photos, etc.)  and brutal murder victims in various scenes (bludgeoned, stabbed, shot, decapitated, etc).

Police Trainees are subjected to hours of repeated and prolonged exposure to these images.  It was traumatic for me especially the image of child victims (I vividly recall over 20 years later).  On desensitization days I would return home and sob in grief for the victims.

Most of us naturally have a strong aversion to the sight of blood and gore, but police, ER attendants, surgeons and soldiers need to overcome these reactions in order to perform their duties. The desensitization during the police academy helped me in the years I worked in the inner city of Orlando as a patrol officer.

My concern is today’s most popular television shows and video games are as or more violent than the horrific scenes I saw daily on the inner city streets as a first responder.

The Desensitization Television Box

Today’s most popular television shows are crime-oriented and autopsy dramas.  CSI, and its offshoots CSI, Miami, CSI NY, are leading ratings with voyeuristic appeal and bizarre crimes. The three shows combined draw around 60 million U.S. viewers!

Similar shows such as Bones, Criminal Minds, Crossing Jordan,  Prison Break, Medium, Law and Order are also top shows. Violence is used in promos as a hook to draw viewers into the programs.

Your children will either watch these shows or they will grow up to live in a world of adults who are affected by watching these shows–you need to know a little about the content. ParentsTV.org reports:

CSI is rated red for both violence and sexual themes. Because the series deals with forensic investigations, episodes contain a great deal of violence.

Throughout each episode, the crimes committed are slowly reconstructed and shown in flashback sequences, so violent acts may be replayed several times throughout the hour. Graphic images, including close-ups of corpses with gunshot wounds, autopsies, and other bloody injuries, are common. Other graphic scenes have depicted cannibalism, a fully nude female corpse, and mutilated victims of a deranged killer.

Sexual situations are extremely graphic. In the past, scenes included a man with a biting fetish, men receiving S&M beatings from a dominatrix in a sex club, a grown man with a sexual desire to dress like and be treated as an infant, and a woman making a sex video for her 15-year-old stepson. A recent episode included footage of a dead child and a teenage girl being beaten during a botched exorcism. Foul language abounds.  The series airs at 9:00 p.m. ET, when some children are still awake, and reruns are frequently shown even earlier in the evening.

Globe and Mail reports a few highlights from the 2005 TV season:

A stay-at-home stripper has her throat slit while performing via webcam; women are paralyzed by spider venom, unable to fight back against the rapist, who then murders them; a woman is killed with a nail gun; unseen forces pull a woman to the ceiling, she bleeds profusely and then spontaneously combusts; a woman is violated by aliens, then found naked in a swamp. And as if that’s not enough, a woman’s head is found inside a newspaper box; there’s a snake coiled inside her mouth.

The TV body count is growing each year.  In 2002, depictions of violence were 41% more frequent during the 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) Family Hour, and 134.4% more frequent during the 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT) hour than in 1998.

In 1952 Lucy Ricardo couldn’t sleep in the same bed as her husband or call herself pregnant.

In 2005 USA Today said,

“During the last week of September, there were 63 dead bodies visible during prime time on the six broadcast networks. That’s up sharply from the 27 bodies counted during the same week in 2004. …”

The most difficult issue here is desensitization,” said Whitney Vanderwerff, former head of the National Alliance for Non-Violent Programming. “People have become so accustomed to this that it no longer registers.”

The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the U.S. Surgeon General, and many other others, have all agreed that viewing TV violence can have a number of adverse effects on children and adults. The research demonstrates that repeated exposure to TV violence can cause viewers to become more callous, or desensitized, to the harmfulness of violent behavior.

The brain assumes all images are real.

Defenders of  of violent TV state the shows are only fiction. When we watch TV my 7-year-old often asks, “Is this real?” Obviously children don’t fully understand TV images are fact or fiction. The brain assumes all images are real.

Children’s  brains are  different from  adult brains. The part of the brain that enables us to think ahead, consider consequences, manage urges is under construction during the childhood and teenage years and is not completely developed until the early 20s.

What are we doing to this generation?

The Desensitization Video Game Box

The trend in video games is killing and maiming people and/or aliens in a virtual world. The game Grand Theft Auto has sold more than 35 million copies, with sales approaching $2 billion. In this  entertaining cop-killing game you can decapitate police officers, kill them with a sniper rifle, massacre them with a chainsaw, and set them on fire.

A Cognitive Daily review of one of the latest papers on the subject looks at how people react to violent scenes in movies after playing video games. Those who played violent games prior to watching the clips seem to become desensitized—their heart rate doesn’t jump as much, and based on a measure called galvanic skin response, they become less aroused, too, relative to people who played non-violent games before viewing.

The average child plays video games almost every day for an average of over ten hours or more a week.

The Effects of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence,” published in the the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports that past research — including their own studies — documents that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and aggressive behaviors, and decreases helpful behaviors. Previous studies also found that more than 85 percent of video games contain some violence, and approximately half of video games include serious violent actions.

High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery). APA.org

Wikipedia reports several incidents speculated to be related to video games in recent decades:

  • In April 1999, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher in the Columbine High School Massacre. The two were allegedly obsessed with the video game Doom, and before the shootings, Harris claimed that the massacre would be “like Doom”. Harris also created WADs for the game, and created a large mod named “Tier” which he called his life’s work.
  • In November 2001, 21-year-old American Shawn Woolley committed suicide after what his mother claimed was an addiction to EverQuest. Woolley’s mother stated, “I think the way the game is written is that when you first start playing it, it is fun, and you make great accomplishments. And then the further you get into it, the higher level you get, the longer you have to stay on it to move onward, and then it isn’t fun anymore. But by then you’re addicted, and you can’t leave it.”[28]
  • In February, 2003, 16-year-old American Dustin Lynch was charged with aggravated murder and made an insanity defense that he was “obsessed” with Grand Theft Auto III. Long time video game opponent and former attorney Jack Thompson encouraged the father of victim JoLynn Mishne to pass a note to the judge that said “the attorneys had better tell the jury about the violent video game that trained this kid [and] showed him how to kill our daughter, JoLynn. If they don’t, I will.”[29] Lynch later retracted his insanity plea, and his mother Jerrilyn Thomas commented, “It has nothing to do with video games or Paxil, and my son’s no murderer.”[30]
  • On June 7, 2003, 18-year-old American Devin Moore shot and killed two policemen and a dispatcher after grabbing one of the officers’ weapons following an arrest for the possession of a stolen vehicle. At trial, the defense claimed that Moore had been inspired by the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,[31] although some have later pointed out that the defender would have said anything to avoid blame.
  • On June 25, 2003, two American step brothers, Joshua and William Buckner, aged 14 and 16, respectively, used a rifle to fire at vehicles on Interstate 40 in Tennessee, killing a 45-year-old man and wounding a 19-year-old woman. The two shooters told investigators they had been inspired by Grand Theft Auto III.[32]
  • On February 27, 2004 in Leicester, UK, 17-year-old Warren Leblanc lured 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah into a park and murdered him by stabbing him repeatedly with a claw hammer and knife. Leblanc was reportedly obsessed with Manhunt, although investigation quickly revealed that the killer did not even own a copy of the game. The victim’s mother Giselle Pakeerah has been campaigning against violent video games in the UK ever since.[33] The police investigating the case have dismissed any link, as discussed in the relevant articles.
  • In October 2004, a 41-year-old Chinese man named Qiu Chengwei stabbed 26-year-old Zhu Caoyuan to death over a dispute regarding the sale of a virtual weapon the two had jointly won in the game Legend of Mir 3.[34]
  • In August 2005, 28-year-old South Korean Lee Seung Seop died after playing Starcraft for 50 hours straight.[35]
  • In September 2007, a Chinese man in Guangzhou, China, died after playing Internet video games for three consecutive days in an Internet cafe.[36][37]
  • In December 2007, a Russian man was beaten to death over an argument in the MMORPG Lineage II. The man was killed when his guild and a rival guild challenged each other to a brawl in the real world.[38]
  • On October 13 2008, 15-year-old Brandon Crisp from Barrie, Ontario, Canada ran away from home on his mountain bike after his parents confiscated his Xbox 360 following an argument regarding the time he spent playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. His body, which had fallen from a tree, was found on November 5, 2008 by some local fox hunters.[39]
  • In September 2007 in Ohio, 16-year-old Daniel Petric, snuck out of his bedroom window to purchase the game Halo 3 against the orders of his father, a minister at New Life Assembly of God in Wellington, Ohio.[40] His parents eventually banned him from the game after he spent up to 18 hours a day with it, and secured it in a lockbox in a closet where the father also kept a 9mm handgun, according to prosecutors.[41] In October 2007, Daniel used his father’s key to open the lockbox and remove the gun and the game. He then entered the living room of his house and shot both of them in the head, killing his mother and wounding his father. Petric now faces a maximum sentence of up to life in prison without parole. While defense attorneys argued that Petric was influenced by video game addiction, the court fully dismissed these claims.[42]

The Lust for Violence is Not New

From the time of Noahto the ancient  Romans the Bible records man’s addiction to violence:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Gen 6:11-14)

http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/images/2008/08/15/roman_colosseum_fun_ap_photo_jaap_2.jpgThe Roman Coliseum has been witness to the Romans’ brutal nature and their lust for violence. It is said that the Colosseum could hold around fifty thousand spectators who were there to watch the bloodiest of battles. It is estimated that more than five hundred thousand people met their horrific demise there.

There may have been millions of animals killed in order to quench the blood thirst of the Romans. With all its elegant beauty and its architectural marvel, this infamous building will always be remembered as the deadliest building in the ancient world. Animals fought against other animals and also against men and women.

People actually stayed in the building for the hundred plus days of celebration. Life and death struggles occurred on an almost regular basis. (Neocrisis)

The Deceptive Motive of  this Desensitization

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12)

Christ died a brutal tortuous death but Satan’s desensitization plot has made this generation oblivious to the full meaning of His pain and suffering.

Jesus called his followers to share in his sufferings (
Lk 9:23, Ro 8:17–18, Co 1:24). Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Ro 8:17).

Be aware of the enemy of our souls, who seeks to ensnare us through things of the world.  Say “no” to anything that undermines God’s will.
God wants us to protect our children from the world’s violence.  Jesus  said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. ” (Mat 10:16). Innocent in this verse translates akeraioi lit. “unmixed, pure”).

Father, help us appreciate your Son’s suffering for us. Help us appreciate how our broken relationship is reconciled and redeemed by his payment. Help us understand that suffering for the sake of righteousness is a blessing. Help us protect our children from the violence and desensitization of the world.  Help us keep ourselves and our children wise yet innocent as doves.


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About Robin Sampson


  1. Very well written and researched article. Even my 14 yr old (homeschooled Catholic child) has barely seen any violent movies, video games or TV shows, for these very reasons. He watches only what I watch, and is not allowed any games where people are hurt. Only racing, flying games and such. I want him to be shocked and appalled when he does see these thing. Sheltered? Yes. But civilized. He’s seen his siblings born, and his relatives die. And he respects both.
    Again, well done.

  2. I am extremely sensitive to violence. Out numbered in my home, 4 sons and husband, no females to relate to. They think I am just a softy. I cover my face when I see it, question the brutality that we see on t.v., their response, “It is just a movie.” I come to terms with the fact, I cannot control their environment 100% of the time, but I can address what we see and what is wrong with it. Use it as a learning opportunity.

    A couple of my boys play video games, at times, even the violent ones WOW and Counter Strike. Grand Theft Auto has been played, but we have been able to convince them that it is too raw, the roles are not the simple Good guy/bad guy, instead it glorifies the criminal and demeans women.

    I HATE VIDEO GAMES, but I know I must find a way to address this without alienating them. My boys, ages 14, 16 and 18 play. that is a togh age to stay close to in general. I spend time, my husband too (he and I have never played any video games, not even pac man) discussing and getting their take on what is the purpose and we listen.

    KEY: WE LISTEN, watch them play at times, we ask for explanation of what is going on in the game. Instead expecting them to quit cold turkey, leaving the attraction there and banning it completely (they will play somewhere else and lie to us..it is just a matter of opportunity) We show them articles like yours here, articles about addiction, and show them, in God’s word, reminders of Guarding their hearts and minds. I cannot take credit for being uncomfortable with the violence,it is easy for me to say (that is awful) for men, young men even, violence seems to be a natural attraction. We need to help them process through it in a healthy way. It is out there, right?

    I have one son, 16 who wants to join the Marines after reading the book “Flags of our Fathers” , my 20 yr old wants to be a firefighter (he doesn’t play the games, he did play “Age of Empires”) my 18 yr old wants to be a doctor, He is not attractive to violent shows, but loves the game WOW and playing with his bothers in a private group just the 3 of them, (not with the whole world)and my 14 yr old can take it or leave it, but he loves to do things with his brothers.

    I am monitoring the situation, we it gets bad we pull the plug, if it translates to bad behavior we cut it out. But all the while, we keep open discussion about who we are in Christ, the fact the world is evil and there are principalities and dominions under the command of SATAN and their goal is to seek out, destroy and kill those who love the Lord.

    We find opportunities to remind them to be mindful of that fact and be on their guard, to KNOW Satan can and will use anything he can to trick and lure us away from the truth, and in doing so we become useless for God’s kingdom. Sure, these things are not an the same as sinning, but, please, question, are they profitable. ….

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