We be come desensitized when we see a lot of something. Habituation is indeed the correct word for it. It goes down to the very basics: For example, I am a teacher, and I have been teaching for 12 years. There are a lot of behaviors coming from students that could make their parents, friends, and relatives literally want to throw them down a bridge, but I am so used to them that I simply let it go.
When the Sept. 11 attacks people would say many times how we have become so desensitized to violent scenes on TV that many stood motionless rather than outraged when they saw the airplanes hit the two towers. In fact, many said that they were thinking it was "kind of like another movie". Scary but true.
There is no question that the media can be very effective as propaganda machinery. Researchers have, indeed, found that continued exposure to violence may decrease normal sensitivity to aggression. This effect is termed habituation. Habituation defines the lessening of strong reactions after repetitions of the same stimuli.
In addition to the habituation to violence, there are concerns that watching a hero in a movie use strong violence may have an adverse affect upon youth. For, when someone they admire uses violence, there is a concern that the youth themselves may, then, think violence possesses some favorable qualities.
I also agree that violence on television, in the movies, etc. does have a desensitizing effect on people, especially children. I also do not think that it necessarily makes them violent people, but it just rids them of the "shock factor". In other words, when they see a violent act, they are less likely to respond in a surprised way.
On the other hand, most people know that a lot of what they see on television or in the movies is fictional and they are able to separate that from real life.
I agree. It's a fairly common phenomenon that repetition creates a callousness or desensitization. Think of other things in life which work this way. People who grow up in households where swearing or other foul or crude language is prevalent tend to use the same kind of language even at a young age. When a young child uses such language, othersare appalled but the offender doesn't blink. How about abuse of all kinds--yelling, hitting, whatever. Being in such an environment naturally inures one to the abuse, even though there may be pain involved. (Even a team which has "yellers" for coaches soon adapts and most members of the team learn to tune it out, or at least down.) The same must necessarily be true of violence. The assumption that being desensitized to violence creates or causes violent behaviors can not be true across the board, or every video game junkie would be out committing violent behaviors. Undoubtedly some do, but certainly most don't.
I definitely think it desensitizes viewers. I'm not sure that I would agree with the fact that it makes viewers more violent. I guess the most dangerous thing about the desensitizing aspect though, is that rather than creating more violence, it leads to apathy toward the subject - which can result in fewer people fighting to prevent it in real life. It is similar to children who grow up in violent homes and simply believe it is a way of life because they've never known anything different. They grow up tougher than other children, and probably put up with more than they should.