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Human Centipede II: How harmful are violent films and video games? Researchers shed some light.

British officials have banned a sequel to horror film “The Human Centipede.” In the film, a man watches the original movie -- in which a German doctor sews three people together -- becomes aroused and decides to re-create the film for himself.

Can a horror film portray sexual violence in such a manner that it truly causes viewers harm? The censors seemed to think so. It certainly doesn’t help that the film plays on the precise fear underlying criticism of all such films: that a viewer could like what they see and attempt to reenact it.

In their decision, the British censors wrote, “The explicit presentation of the central character’s obsessive sexually violent fantasies is in breach of its Classification Guidelines and poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers.”

While filmmakers may protest the move as an infringement on artistic license, British officials may have a point: A 2010 study in the Oxford journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience showed that violent films and video games can increase aggression in boys.

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A 2003 study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that men exposed to high rates of TV violence during childhood were more likely as young adults to have shoved their spouses and three times more likely to have been convicted of a crime as other men.

The authors, however, are quick to point out that perhaps it’s because those who watch violent films are people who already gravitate toward violence.

And, they add, the worst kind of violence may not be that performed by villains but when protagonists kill and receive reward for it in a movie -- thus providing a sort of “positive” model of violence for viewers.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.


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