A new University of Haifa study has suggested that watching TV coverage of terrorist events can lead to deterioration of psychological resources, such as commitment and a sense of success.
It may also lead to feeling threatened, which in turn can result in loss of resources and other negative affects.
"Mass media plays a central role in reporting on terrorism and political violence. The present study shows that watching this type of coverage on television has negative effects, even for someone who was not at all involved in an event being viewed," said Moshe Zeidner, who headed the study.
The current research, which Zeidner conducted with Hasida Ben-Zur and Shlomit Reshef, set out to examine whether exposure to television reportage of terror events or political violence toward Israelis could pose some form of "indirect threat" on the viewer, even if he or she had no involvement in the event.
As many as 78 students took part in the study, out of which 39 watched video clips of terror attacks or political attacks on Israelis, as broadcast in the news over the past decade. The control group watched same-length videos showing non-violent everyday events as they appeared in the news.
The results showed that the students who had viewed terror events felt more personally threatened and reported a significantly lower level of psychological resources (such as their sense of success, importance and commitment) after watching, compared to the control group.
The first group also reported higher levels of negative feelings and mood.
The researchers noted that earlier studies that examined first-hand exposure to threats showed that compromised psychological resources and heightened levels of negative feelings can trigger secondary trauma and post-trauma symptoms.
"It is early yet to relate to the long-term effects of viewing terror events in the mass media, but the current study does show that there are definite short-term effects," noted the researchers.