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Repression Versus Sensitization in Response to Media Violence as Predictors of Cognitive Avoidance and Vigilance


  • The research reported in this article was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation to the first author (Kr 972/8-1). The authors are grateful to Lucyna Kirwil for her methodological advice. The support of Annika Bergunde, Cathleen Kappes, Julia Kleinwächter, Kaspar Schattke, and Jessica Wenzlaff is also gratefully acknowledged.

concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara Krahé, University of Potsdam, Department of Psychology, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, D-14476 Potsdam, Germany. Email:


ABSTRACT Repression and sensitization as situational modes of coping with anxiety were examined as predictors of trait measures of cognitive avoidance and vigilance. In this study, 303 undergraduates saw a violent film clip to elicit anxiety. Increases in skin conductance level (SCL) and state anxiety (STA) from baseline were measured to identify repressors (high SCL, low STA) and contrast them with sensitizers (low SCL, high STA) and genuinely low anxious individuals (low SCL, low STA). State anger was also recorded. Trait measures of vigilance and cognitive avoidance were collected 2 weeks earlier. Significant SCL × STA interactions indicated that repressors scored higher on cognitive avoidance and lower on vigilance compared to sensitizers and low anxious participants. Repressors were less likely than sensitizers to report gaze avoidance during the clip. The anger by SCL interaction was nonsignificant, suggesting that repressors and sensitizers differ specifically in the processing of anxiety rather than negative affect in general.