The University Record, January 18, 1993

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Editor’s Note: These summaries of research projects were presented to the

Regents at their December meeting by William C. Kelly, vice president for research. The material here was prepared for the Record by the staff of ResearchNews, a publication of the Division of Research Development and Administration.

Liberalization and Its Limits: State Formation and State Violence in the Arab World

In 1983, a group of Arab intellectuals went before the United Nations to protest the erosion of civil and political rights in the Arab states. In response, their home countries joined forces to oppose the group, setting aside decades of enmity in order to preserve control over their populations.

Jill Crystal, assistant professor of political science, is studying the nature of strong state control in the Arab world. Crystal believes this pattern of control results from a combination of economics, social structure, ideology and state institutional influence. In this project, she will explore these factors, primarily by studying historical records, such as material generated by human rights monitoring groups, newspaper accounts, and documents based on interviews with human rights activists. Crystal plans to publish her research findings in a book in late 1993 or 1994. This project is funded by a two-year, $45,000 grant from the United States Institute of Peace and a $7,344 grant from the U-M.

Childhood Viewing of TV Violence and Adult Aggression

Aggressive, antisocial and criminal behaviors in young adults are problems worldwide. Decades of research into the causes of these behaviors shows that one factor is exposure to televised and filmed violence during childhood. Rowell Huesmann, professor of communication, is continuing research that tests the extent to which extensive early-childhood exposure to media violence promotes attitudes accepting of aggression, aggressive behavior, antisocial behavior, and criminality in young adults.

Huesmann is conducting follow-up studies of subjects in their early twenties who were originally tested and interviewed by investigators 14 to 15 years earlier. The studies include samples of children representative of urban populations in four different countries: Finland, Poland, Israel and the United States. This study will determine what familial or child characteristics might increase or reduce long-term effects of TV violence. The project is funded by a four-year, $774,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Russian People and Foreign Policy

Political scientists have long regarded foreign policy as an area where public opinion plays a limited role in decision making, even in Western democracies. In the late 1980s, however, it became evident that a role for public opinion in foreign policy decision-making was taking shape in the former Soviet Union. For example, it appears that the Soviet decision to withdraw from Eastern Europe and to acquiesce in the re-unification of Germany was influenced by survey data showing that Soviet citizens were not intensely opposed to such actions.

William Zimmerman, professor of political science, is exploring the linkages between the attitudes of mass and attentive publics and the foreign policy behavior of post-Soviet Russia. The major source of data for this study is two surveys, one of 1,000 ordinary citizens in European Russia, the other approximately 240 influential individuals. Both will ask questions about the economy, the government, the media, and the Institutes of the Academy of Sciences. In addition, Zimmerman will draw on eight surveys undertaken prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This project is funded by an 18-month, $57,000 grant from the National Council for Soviet and East European Research.