Although most researchers on the subject agree that playing violent video games appears to increase physical aggression, a vocal minority continues to dispute this. To examine issues
raised by the counterclaims on this topic, Dartmouth researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 24 studies from around the world from 2010 to 2017 with over 17,000 participants, ages nine to 19 years-old. The studies all examined how violent video game
play affected changes in real-world physical aggression over time, ranging from three months to four years. Examples of physical aggression included incidents such as hitting someone or being sent to the principal's office for fighting, and were based on
self-reports by children, parents, teachers and peers.
Dartmouth's study examined three specific critiques of the literature on video game play and aggression:
To address claims that previous meta-analyses overestimate the association of violent video game play and aggression because they include "non-serious" measures of aggression, this meta-analysis was limited to studies
that measured reports of overt, physical aggression over time. Despite this more stringent criterion, findings supported the hypothesis that playing violent games is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression.
To investigate claims that effects are often inflated because many studies do not take into account other variables predictive of aggressive behavior, Dartmouth researchers compared analyses that included or did not include
information on such variables and found that taking these data into account had only a minor effect on the size of the observed relation between violent video game play and aggression.
To evaluate claims that the estimated
effect of violent game play on aggression is inflated because of a bias against publishing studies that fail to find a relation of violent game play and aggression, Dartmouth researchers conducted a variety of different tests and found no evidence of
In addition to providing evidence that violent video game play is associated with increased aggression over time, the study also reports that this effect appears to be significantly different for various ethnic groups: the largest
effect was observed among white participants, with some effect noted among Asians and no effect observed among Hispanics. Although speculative, the authors suggest that this effect may reflect a greater emphasis on maintaining empathy toward victims of
aggression among Eastern and Hispanic cultures in contrast to an emphasis on "rugged individualism" in Western cultures.
Lead author Jay G. Hull , the Dartmouth Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said:
Although no single research project is definitive, our research aims to provide the most current and compelling responses to key criticisms on this topic. Based on our findings, we feel it is clear that violent video game
play is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression.
Co-author James D. Sargent, the Scott M. and Lisa G. Stuart Professor of Pediatric Oncology said:
notable critic of the violent video game aggression literature conducted studies in primarily Hispanic populations and found no evidence of this association. If all of my studies showed null findings, I too, would be skeptical. I hope our findings prompt
skeptics to reevaluate their position, especially since some of our other research indicates that violent video game play may increase deviance with implications for multiple risk behaviors.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, have found no relationship between aggressive behaviour in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. The study used nationally representative data from
British teens and their parents alongside official E.U. and US ratings of game violence. The findings were published in Royal Society Open Science.
The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one,
but it hasn't tested very well over time, says lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is
cause for concern.
The study is one of the most definitive to date, using a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games. Unlike previous research on the topic, which relied heavily
on self-reported data from teenagers, the study used information from parents and carers to judge the level of aggressive behaviour in their children. Additionally, the content of the video games was classified using the official Pan European Game
Information (EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (US) rating system, rather than only player's perceptions of the amount of violence in the game.
Our findings suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous
studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games, says co-author Dr Netta Weinstein from Cardiff University. An important step taken in this study was preregistration, where the researchers publically registered
their hypothesis, methods and analysis technique prior to beginning the research.
Part of the problem in technology research is that there are many ways to analyse the same data, which will produce different results. A
cherry-picked result can add undue weight to the moral panic surrounding video games. The registered study approach is a safe-guard against this, says Przybylski.
While no correlation was found between playing video games and
aggressive behaviour in teenagers, the researchers emphasize that this does not mean that some mechanics and situations in gaming do not provoke angry feelings or reactions in players. Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness
and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behaviour, says Przybylski. This would be an interesting avenue for further research.
Researchers should use the registered study approach to investigate other
media effects phenomena. There are a lot of ideas out there like 'social media drives depression and technology addiction that lowers quality of life that simply have no supporting evidence. These topics and others that drive technological anxieties
should be studied more rigorously 203 society needs solid evidence in order to make appropriate policy decisions.'
The data was drawn from a nationally representative sample of British 14- and 15-year olds, and the same number of
their carers (totalling 2,008 subjects). Teenagers completed questions on their personality and gaming behaviour over the past month, while carers completed questions on their child's recent aggressive behaviours using the widely-used Strengths and
Difficulties Questionnaire. The violent content in the games played were coded based on their rating in the official Pan European Game Information (PEGI; EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB; US) rating system, as well as player's subjective
rating. The findings of the study were derived from a study following the Registered Reports Protocol; the study's sampling plan and statistical approach were evaluated before the data were collected. Multiple linear regression modelling tested whether
the relations between regular violent video game play (coded by researchers) and adolescents' aggressive and helping behaviours (judged by parents) were positive, negative, linear, or parabolic.
Violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players but insufficient evidence exists about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency, according to a new American Psychological Association task force report.
Appelbaum, the task force chair, commented in the review:
The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive
affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression
Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades but to date, there is very limited research addressing
whether violent video games cause people to commit acts of criminal violence. However, the link between violence in video games and increased aggression in players is one of the most studied and best established in the field.
single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently, the report states. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent
video game use is one such risk factor.
In light of the task force's conclusions, APA has called on the industry to design video games that include increased parental control over the amount of violence the games contain. APA's
Council of Representatives adopted a resolution encouraging the Entertainment Software Rating Board to refine its video game rating system to reflect the levels and characteristics of violence in games, in addition to the current global ratings. In addition, the resolution urges developers to design games that are appropriate to users' age and psychological development, and voices APA's support for more research to address gaps in the knowledge about the effects of violent video game use.
The task force conducted a comprehensive review of the research literature published between 2005 and 2013 focused on violent video game use. This included four meta-analyses that reviewed more than 150 research reports published before 2009. Task
force members then conducted both a systematic evidence review and a quantitative review of the literature published between 2009 and 2013. (A systematic evidence review synthesizes all empirical evidence that meets pre-specified criteria to answer
specific research questions) This resulted in 170 articles, 31 of which met all of the most stringent screening criteria.
In addition to the report described above, the APA released a declaration:
A Resolution on Violent Video Games - that strongly encourages the Entertainment Software Rating Board to refine the ESRB rating system
specifically to reflect the levels and characteristics of violence in games in addition to the current global ratings .
While the ESRB said that it has had an open dialogue with the APA - and will continue to do so, it also said that
it doesn't need to make changes to the ratings system. It cited an 8-year-old FTC report on the reliability of the ratings system (compared to other entertainment industry ratings systems) and a Hart Research poll that found parents were familiar with
Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When, by Christopher Ferguson; Journal of Communication
Since the 1920s, scholars and politicians have blamed violence in movies and
other media as a contributing factor to rising violence in society. Recently the responses to mass shootings in Aurora, CO and at Sandy Hook Elementary followed this theme as media consumption came into the equation. But can consumption of violent media
really be a factor in real-world violence? A recent study published in the Journal of Communication by a researcher at Stetson University found that there were no associations between media violence consumption in society and societal violence.
Christopher Ferguson (Stetson University) published his findings in the Journal of Communication. Ferguson conducted two studies that raised the question if whether the incidence of violence in media correlates with actual violence
rates in society. The first study looked at movie violence and homicide rates between 1920 and 2005. The second study looked at videogame violence consumption and its relationship to youth violence rates from 1996-2011. He found that societal consumption
of media violence is not predictive of increased violence rates in society.
For the first study, independent raters evaluated the frequency and graphicness of violence in popular movies from 1920-2005. These were correlated to
homicide rates for the same years. Overall, movie violence and homicide rates were not correlated. However, during the mid-20th century, movie violence and homicide rates did appear to correlate slightly, which may have led some to believe a larger trend
was at play. That correlation reversed after 1990 so that movie violence became correlated with fewer homicides. Prior to the 1940s, movie violence was similarly related to fewer homicides, not more.
In the second study on video
game violence, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings were used to estimate the violent content of the most popular video games for the years 1996-2011. These estimates of societal video game violence consumption were correlated against
federal data on youth violence rates during the same years. Violent video game consumption was strongly correlated with declines in youth violence. However, it was concluded that such a correlation is most likely due to chance and does not indicate video
games caused the decline in youth violence.
Previous studies have focused on laboratory experiments and aggression as a response to movie and videogame violence, but this does not match well with real-life exposure. Other studies
have indicated that, in the short term, the release of violent movies or video games is associated with declines in societal violence. However, no one has examined these trends long-term. Some scholars have argued that movies are becoming more violent,
but none have examined whether this phenomenon is a concern for society. This study is the first to suggest that movie violence and video game violence consumption probably are increasing over time, but that there is little evidence that this has caused
a problem for society.
Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from
more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health, Ferguson said. This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral
agendas with little practical value.
Members of the media and others often have attributed violence in video games as a potential cause of social ills, such as increased levels of teen violence and school shootings. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that media acceptance of
video game violence has increased as video game technology has improved over time. Greg Perreault, a doctoral student at the MU School of Journalism, examined the coverage of violent video games throughout the 1990s by GamePro Magazine, the most popular
video game news magazine during that time period. Perreault found that journalists from GamePro expressed a considerable amount of concern about the level of violence in the game software companies were creating in the early 1990s, when video game design
was limited by technology. Perreault said:
Early in the '90s, when video games were still a relatively new medium, journalists expressed quite a bit of concern about the level of violence in many of the games,. It is
interesting because the simulated violence in these games was so mild relative to modern-day games.
As technology improved throughout 1990s, new gaming systems such as the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation were
released, along with the capacity for higher levels of graphic violence. Perreault found that despite this increase, the levels of concern about violence from GamePro journalists decreased. Perreault said:
technology improved and the animations became more and more life-like, game creators had increased capability to design more graphic violence, including blood and gore. Despite this increasing amount of violence, journalists seemed to be less and less
bothered by the blood and guts. This is important to note because journalism often mirrors the culture of the audience it serves. As technology improved, the entire gaming community became more and more comfortable with the levels of violence that were
simultaneously increasing in video games. In a sense, the gaming community grew up. They aged from children using video games as toys to adolescents and adults using them as recreational devices. It appears that journalists reflected this trend in their
Perreault says the video game rating system is another example of this trend. He says when the rating system first was created, gaming journalists opposed it; however, as games become more and more violent,
the rating system is used continually as a defense against outside criticism:
As more and more parents and outside sources criticize violent games, gamers and gaming journalists point to the rating system and say that
parents should not allow their kids to play violent games with explicit ratings. Ultimately, the trend in violent games is a reflection of what interests our society. Similar trends can be found in the increased number of 'R' rated movies as well as the
popularity of gangster rap and other violent music. Video games are just another way our culture is expressing itself.
Perreault will present his research at the International Communication Association conference in
Seattle this May.
A recently released University of Glasgow study that takes the data from a survey of 11,000 children born between 2000 and 2002 comes to the conclusion that playing video games - even at a young age - does not lead to behavioral problems.
of the study aimed to examine both television and video games screen time, in the hopes of finding connections with attention disorders, anger issues, and other problems that might be connected to both. Researchers wondered aloud if games may have
more powerful effects due to active user engagement, identification with characters and repeated rehearsal and reinforcement.
But their research went in another direction. They learned that exposure to video games had no effect on behavior,
attention or emotional issues, and that watching three or more hours of television starting at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioral problems in youngsters between 5 and 7. Television and video games did not lead to attentional or emotional
problems and there seemed to be no difference between boys and girls in the survey results.
The survey relied heavily on parents reporting average screen time and later behavioral problems, but the size of the research pool -- more than 13,000
families -- left researchers confident their results were solid. Researchers also said they modified the results to take into account various parenting approaches and socio-economic differences.
Past research has found that playing a classic prosocial video game resulted in heightened prosocial behavior when compared to a control group, whereas playing a
classic violent video game had no effect. Given purported links between violent video games and poor social behavior, this result is surprising. Here our aim was to assess whether this finding may be due to the specific games used. That is, modern games
are experienced differently from classic games (more immersion in virtual environments, more connection with characters, etc.) and it may be that playing violent video games impacts prosocial behavior only when contemporary versions are used.
Methods and Findings
Experiments 1 and 2 explored the effects of playing contemporary violent, non-violent, and prosocial video games on prosocial behavior, as measured by the pen-drop task. We found
that slight contextual changes in the delivery of the pen-drop task led to different rates of helping but that the type of game played had little effect. Experiment 3 explored this further by using classic games. Again, we found no effect.
We failed to find evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behavior. Research on the effects of video game play is of significant public interest. It is therefore important that
speculation be rigorously tested and findings replicated. Here we fail to substantiate conjecture that playing contemporary violent video games will lead to diminished prosocial behavior.
A recent study by Texas A&M International University chair and associate professor, psychology Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson shows that childhood media consumption is not a predictor for future adult criminal behavior.
The long-held (and as of
yet unproven) argument has been that violent video games or other violent media have a direct causation to violent crimes like school shootings. But according to a new study from TAMIU, genetics, environment, the lack of maternal nurturing, and a number
of other factors combined are better predictors of adult criminality. The TAMIU study used data from a National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which included a representative sample of U.S. adolescents.
Dr. Ferguson said:
We basically find that genetics and some social issues combine to predict later adult arrests. Despite ongoing concerns about media influences, media exposure does not seem to function as a risk factor for adult criminality.
Genetics alone don't seem to trigger criminal behavior, but in combination with harsh upbringing, you can see negative outcomes. In our sample, experiencing maternal warmth seemed to reduce the impact of genetics on adult criminality.
Researchers also noted that other factors such as family environment, peers and socioeconomic status can also be predictors of adult criminality. The research also found that being exposed to maternal affection may have the
potential to decrease criminal behavior in individuals who might otherwise be at risk.
People may object morally to some of the content that exists in the media, but the question is whether
the media can predict criminal behavior. The answer seems to be no.
The Effect of Violent and Nonviolent Video Games on Heart Rate Variability, Sleep, and Emotions in Adolescents With Different Violent Gaming Habits
By Malena Ivarsson, BA, Martin Anderson, MD, Torbjorn Akerstedt, PhD
and Frank Lindblad, MD
Objective To study cardiac, sleep-related, and emotional reactions to playing violent games versus nonviolent video games in adolescents with different gaming
Methods Thirty boys (aged 13--16 years), half of them low-exposed (1 hour/day) and half high-exposed (3 hour/day) to violent games, played a violent games/nonviolent video games for 2 hours during two different evenings in
their homes. Heart rate and heart rate variability were registered from before start until next morning. A questionnaire about emotional reactions was administered after gaming sessions and a sleep diary on the following mornings.
Results During sleep, there were significant interaction effects between group and gaming condition for heart rate. There was also a significant interaction for sleep quality, and sadness after playing.
combinations of the extent of previous violent games and experimental exposure to a violent games or an nonviolent video games are associated with different reaction patterns---physiologically, emotionally, and sleep related. Desensitizing effects or
selection bias stand out as possible explanations.
Abstract: Video games are an increasingly popular leisure activity. As many of best-selling games contain hyper-realistic violence, many researchers and policymakers have concluded that violent games cause violent behaviors.
Evidence on a causal effect of violent games on violence is usually based on laboratory experiments finding violent games increase aggression. Before drawing policy conclusions about the effect of violent games on actual behavior, these experimental studies should be subjected to tests of external validity.
Our study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent
criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in
violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates.
Scott Cunningham of Baylor University
Benjamin Engelstatter of Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group
Michael R. Ward of University of Texas at Arlington - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics
A longitudinal study of the association between violent video game play and aggression among adolescents.
Willoughby T, Adachi PJ, Good M. Department of Psychology, Brock University, Ontario, Canada
In the past 2 decades, correlational and experimental studies have found a positive association between violent video game play and aggression. There is less evidence, however, to support a long-term relation between these behaviors.
This study examined sustained violent video game play and adolescent aggressive behavior across the high school years and directly assessed the socialization (violent video game play predicts aggression over time) versus selection
hypotheses (aggression predicts violent video game play over time).
Adolescents were surveyed annually from Grade 9 to Grade 12 about their video game play and aggressive behaviors. Nonviolent video game play, frequency of
overall video game play, and a comprehensive set of potential 3rd variables were included as covariates in each analysis.
Sustained violent video game play was significantly related to steeper increases in adolescents' trajectory
of aggressive behavior over time. Moreover, greater violent video game play predicted higher levels of aggression over time, after controlling for previous levels of aggression, supporting the socialization hypothesis.
contrast, no support was found for the selection hypothesis. Nonviolent video game play also did not predict higher levels of aggressive behavior over time. Our findings, and the fact that many adolescents play video games for several hours every day,
underscore the need for a greater understanding of the long-term relation between violent video games and aggression, as well as the specific game characteristics (e.g., violent content, competition, pace of action) that may be responsible for this
The Daily Mail researched a few press release quotes.
Lead researcher Professor Teena Willoughby said:
The current study is the first to demonstrate a relation between sustained
violent video game play and the progression of aggressive behaviour.
It is clear that there is a long-term association between violent video games and aggression. This is an important and concerning finding, particularly in light
of the hours that youth spend playing these games.
Professor Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, said:
The study as a whole does
provide one of the strongest pieces of empirical evidence to date that there is a direct relationship between playing violent video games and subsequent aggressive behaviour.'
There is a long-lasting and at times intense debate about the possible link between violent computer games and aggressiveness. A group of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are now questioning the entire basis of the discussion.
In a recently published article, they present a new study showing that, more than anything, a good ability to cooperate is a prerequisite for success in the violent gaming environment.
A study, authored by Ulrika Bennerstedt, Jonas Ivarsson and
Jonas Linderoth and titled How gamers manage aggression: Situating skills in collaborative computer games , is presented in International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.
The Gothenburg-based research group spent
hundreds of hours playing online games and observing other gamers, including on video recordings. They focused on complex games with portrayals of violence and aggressive action where the participants have to fight with and against each other. The
situations gamers encounter in these games call for sophisticated and well-coordinated collaboration. We analysed what characteristics and knowledge the gamers need to have in order to be successful, says Jonas Ivarsson, Docent (Reader) at the
Department of Education, Communication and Learning.
It turns out that a successful gamer is strategic and technically knowledgeable, and has good timing. Inconsiderate gamers, as well as those who act aggressively or emotionally, generally do not
In a nutshell, we're questioning the whole gaming and violence debate, since it's not based on a real problem but rather on some hypothetical reasoning, says Ivarsson.
Recent video games have begun depicting religion as a violent, problematic force, according to research from a new University of Missouri study.
Greg Perreault, a doctoral student at University of Missouri's School of Journalism, studied five
extremely popular games from the last few years that incorporate religion heavily into their storylines: Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Assassin's Creed, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow , and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
In each case, Perreault found that religion became equated with violence within the video games' narratives. Perreault said in a press release:
In most of these games there was a heavy emphasis on a 'Knights Templar' and crusader motifs. Not only was the violent side of religion emphasized, but in each of these games religion created a problem that the main
character must overcome, whether it is a direct confrontation with religious zealots or being haunted by religious guilt.
Just because religion was associated with violence, however, does not mean it was always depicted as evil. For
example, Perreault noted that in Mass Effect 2 , the character of Thane is an extremely spiritual assassin who assists the player.
Of those five games, Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion all deal
with religions created specifically for the game. The remaining two titles, Assassin's Creed and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow , both center around Catholicism.
Still, Perreault emphasized that he did not believe game
developers were attacking religion with these themes:
It doesn't appear that game developers are trying to purposefully bash organized religion in these games. I believe they are only using religion to create
stimulating plot points in their story lines. If you look at video games across the board, most of them involve violence in some fashion because violence is conflict and conflict is exciting. Religion appears to get tied in with violence because that
makes for a compelling narrative.
While Perreault's study of just five games is far from an exhaustive survey of all of modern video games, he does believe game writers should be aware of how they use religion in their plots.
A new report from the Swedish Media Council comes to the conclusion that there's no conclusive evidence that there is no evidence that violent computer games cause aggressive behavior .
The Media Council is a Swedish government agency in
charge of film and media classification and whose mission statement is to reduce the risk of harmful media influences among minors and to empower minors as conscious media users.
The findings are based on a review of more than 100 articles
about violent games and aggression which have been published in international scientific journals since 2000. The review found that there is a clear and statistically significant link between violent games and aggressive behavior. But the review also
found that many of those same studies use different methods to measure aggression, and few produced a clear connection to violent behavior. Many of those same studies suffered from serious methodological deficiencies and didn't provide sufficient
evidence to establish a causal relationship.
The studies that did attempt to examine other causes of aggression found that factors such as poor physical health or family problems were factors that lead to violent behavior and a propensity to play
If research can't provide any simple answers about how games make children aggressive, perhaps we adults should stop judging the games children play based on whether they are violent or not, Media Council researcher Ulf
Dalquist said in a statement.
A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play on the brain has found changes in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of game
play. The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
The controversy over whether or not violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many
years, making it as far as the Supreme Court in 2010. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that the games have a prolonged negative neurological effect.
For the first time, we have found that a sample of
randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home, said Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at
Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior.
For the study, 22 healthy adult males, age 18 to 29, with low past exposure to
violent video games were randomly assigned to two groups of 11. Members of the first group were instructed to play a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrain from playing the following week. The second group did not play a
violent video game at all during the two-week period. Each of the 22 men underwent fMRI at the beginning of the study, with follow-up exams at one and two weeks.
The results showed that after one week of violent game play, the
video game group members showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe during the emotional task and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex during the counting task, compared to their baseline results and the results of the control
group after one week. After the second week without game play, the changes to the executive regions of the brain were diminished.
These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,
Dr. Wang said.
Coauthors are Tom Hummer, Ph.D., William Kronenberger, Ph.D., Kristine Mosier, D.M.D., Ph.D., and Vincent P. Mathews, M.D. This research is supported by the Center for Successful Parenting, Indiana.
Politics points out that the Center for Successful Parenting, Indiana is in fact a nutter group with a website that is designed for parents to learn about the negative side effects of violent video.
A one-year longitudinal study with 324 German third and fourth graders was conducted in order to find out whether a preference for violent electronic games socializes children to become more aggressive or whether
aggressive individuals tend to select this type of game.
Cross-lagged panel analyses suggest that children who were rated as openly aggressive at Time 1 intensified their preference for violent electronic games over
time. We determined that it could be ruled out that this selection effect was due to a number of underlying variables ranging from ecological variables (neighborhood) to family variables (migration status, older brother) and child variables (gender,
self-esteem, level of achievement).
The research suggested there was a risk that this preference for violent video games would become entrenched in these children.
However, the researchers found no evidence in the group they studied that violent computer and video games led to increased aggression in real life.
This is the good news from our study into the educational effects of media, said Jens
Vogelgesang of Hohenheim University: But it should be noted that this applies expressly only to the group of 8-to-12 year olds that we looked into in a study on the effects.
One of the researchers seems disappointed that results don't
support the concept that games cause violence. The research team leader Maria von Salisch throws in a totally out of context comment:
In the case of older children, the negative effects from violent games on their
behaviour has already been documented and this remains a cause for concern.
We are unable to rule out the possibility that an entrenched preference for violent computer and video games might over the course of a
game-playing career lead to greater readiness to commit acts of violence.
What sort of researchers title their supposed scientific study with nutter phrases like 'downward spiral' anyway?
Being exposed to strong language on TV as well as playing video games are linked to aggression in teenagers, a university report shows.
A US study in the medical journal Pediatrics appears to be the first to examine the impact of strong
To explore the issue, scholars at the mormon Brigham Young University in Utah gathered information from 223 middle school students.
Family life professor at the university, Sarah Coyne, explained that the findings revealed that
exposure to bad language is associated with acceptance and use of similar language, which in turn influences both physical and verbal aggression. Professor Coyne said:
On the whole, it's a moderate effect.
We even ran the statistical model the opposite way to test if the violent kids used more profanity and then sought it out in the media, but the first path we took was a much better statistical fit even when we tried other
Profanity is kind of like a stepping stone. You don't go to a movie, hear a bad word, and then go and shoot somebody. But when youth both hear and then try profanity out for themselves it can start a downward slide
toward more aggressive behavior.
Researchers from the University of Bonn have found brain activity patterns in heavy gamers that differed from those of non-gamers. The study's results have just been published in the scientific journal Biological Psychology.
epileptologists and neurologists from the University of Bonn studied the effect of shoot em up game images and other emotionally charged photos on the brain activity of heavy gamers. Compared to people who abstain from first-person shooters, they show
clear differences in how emotions are controlled, reported lead author Dr. Christian Montag from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bonn.
21 subjects ranging in age from 20 to 30 years played first-person shooters for about 15
hours per week on average. During this study, they were shown a standardized catalog of photos that reliably trigger emotions in human brains, using video glasses. At the same time, the researchers recorded the responses in their brains using one of the
brain scanners at the Life & Brain Center of the University of Bonn. The images included photos as they are used in the violent games, but also shots of accident and disaster victims. This mix of images allowed us to transport the subjects both to
the fictitious first-person shooter world they are familiar with and to also trigger emotions via real images, explained Dr. Montag. This catalog of photos was also shown to a control group of 19 persons who had no experience with violent video
When the subjects regarded the real, negative pictures, there was greatly increased activity in their amygdalas. This region of the brain is strongly involved in processing negative emotions. Surprisingly, the amygdalas in the subjects
as well as in the control group were similarly stimulated, reported Montag: This shows that both groups responded to the photos with similarly strong emotions.
But the left medial frontal lobes were clearly less activated in the users
of violent games than in the control subjects. This is the brain structure humans use to control their fear or aggression. First-person shooters do not respond as strongly to the real, negative image material because they are used to it from their
daily computer activities, Montag concluded: One might also say that they are more desensitized than the control group.
On the other hand, while processing the computer game images, the first-person shooters showed higher activity in
brain regions associated with memory recall and working memory than the control group members. This indicates that the gamers put themselves into the video game due to the computer game images and were looking for a potential strategy to find a
solution for the game status shown, said Dr. Montag.
One question raised while interpreting the results is whether the users showed altered brain activity due to the games, or whether they were more tolerant of violence from the start and as a
consequence, preferred first-person shooter games. The researchers from the University of Bonn were able to suggest an answer to this question based on the fact that they took into account various personality traits such as fearfulness, aggressiveness,
callousness or emotional stability. There were no differences between the subjects and the control group in this area, reported Dr. Montag: This is an indication that the violent games are the cause of the difference in information processing
in the brain.
Some video game players are transferring their screen experiences into the real world - prompting thoughts of violent solutions to their problems, say researchers.
Fans of computers can become so immersed in their virtual
environment they do things in the real world as if they were still playing.
The findings come after sailor Ryan Donovan was sentenced to 25 years in jail for shooting dead an officer on a nuclear sub to copy the violent video game
Grand Theft Auto.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University have for the first time identified evidence of Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), which results in some gamers integrating video experiences into
their real lives. The study to be published in the next issue of the International Journal of Cyber Behaviour, Psychology and Learning.
The study involved 42 in-depth interviews with participants aged between 15 and 21 years old,
all of whom were frequent video game players and had been recruited from gaming forums.
They thought in the same way as when they were gaming, with half of participants often looking to use something from a video game to resolve a
In some cases these thoughts were accompanied by reflexes, such as reaching to click a button on the controller when it wasn't in their hands, while on other occasions gamers visualised their thoughts in the form
of game menus.
Violent solutions to real life conflicts appeared to be used by few of the players, at least in their imaginations says the study.
One 15-year-old gamer
said: There (in the video game) you can get guns. This I want to do in real life, to get some guns, shoot down people. This I want to do sometimes with irritating people.
The study concluded: The close resemblance to
real life scenarios in video games may have opened a 'Pandora's Box for some players.
The Daily Mail has today reported that video games blur real life boundaries and prompt thoughts of violent solutions to players' problems .
This headline is based on a small study exploring whether frequent video game
players integrated elements of video game playing into their real lives - a theoretical process the researchers called game transfer phenomena (GTP). The study showed that most gamers experienced GTP, including experiencing brief involuntary impulses to
perform actions as they would when playing a game. For example, they might try to click a button on their controller while it was not in their hand.
It is important to note that not all the players were affected by the games and
the degree that people were affected varied significantly from person to person. Additionally, it is not clear from this study whether GTP was related to the game played or whether it related to the specific characteristics of individual game players.
Many of the actions reported by participants were also unusual or novel, and do not provide evidence that games affect perception of behaviour. For example, one participant said that they like to pack their suitcase neatly like Tetris blocks.
Further studies will be needed to investigate whether GTP is a real, significant phenomenon and the potential link between GTP and a player's individual characteristics.
Mail's report covering this study tended to focus on the violent and negative aspects of game transfer phenomena (GTP) highlighted in the study. The Daily Mail presents GTP as a proven phenomenon with definite results, but the results of this
interview-based study are debatable and GTP is still only a theory.
News coverage also linked the study results to a recent murder trial where video games were reportedly implicated. This angle seemed to be a confused addition to
news coverage of the research, as it could suggest to readers that games were found to be the primary cause of the incident, or that they could cause ordinary people to consider murder.
Research from Brock University in Canada seems to indicate that playing highly competitive video games may lead to aggressive behavior faster than playing games with more violent content. Competitiveness, says a new study published by the American
Psychological Association, may be the main video game characteristic that influences or causes aggression.
In a series of experiments lead by Paul J.C. Adachi, M.A., a PhD candidate at Brock University in Canada, video games were matched on
competitiveness, difficulty, and pace of action. Researchers found that video game violence did not elevate aggressive behavior on its own. The more competitive games produced greater levels of aggressive behavior than less competitive
games, no matter how much violent content was found in the games.
In one of the experiments, 42 college students played one of two video games, Conan or Fuel , for 12 minutes. Both games were even when it came to competitiveness,
difficulty and pace of action, but differed in levels of violence. After participants finished playing the game, they were then told they were going to take part in a separate food tasting study. Participants had to make up a cup of hot sauce for a taster
who they were told did not particularly like hot or spicy food. The participants could choose from one of four different hot sauces (from least hot to most hot) for the taster to drink. The authors found that there was no significant difference in
the intensity and amount of the hot sauces prepared by the participants who played Conan and those who played Fuel. The authors concluded that video game violence alone was not sufficient to elevate aggressive behavior.
In the second
experiment, 60 college students played one of four video games: Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe , Left 4 Dead 2 , Marble Blast Ultra , and Fuel . Afterward, the students completed the same hot sauce test from the first study.
Electrocardiograms measured the participants' heart rates before and during video game play. On average, students who played the highly competitive games - Fuel and Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe - concocted what researchers called significantly more of a hotter sauce
than participants who played Marble Blast Ultra and Left 4 Dead 2. They also had significantly higher heart rates.
These findings suggest that the level of competitiveness in video
games is an important factor in the relation between video games and aggressive behavior, with highly competitive games leading to greater elevations in aggression than less competitive games.
Psychological studies invariably find a positive relationship between violent video game play and aggression. However, these studies cannot account for either aggressive effects of alternative activities video game playing substitutes for or the possible
selection of relatively violent people into playing violent video games. That is, they lack external validity.
We investigate the relationship between the prevalence of violent video games and violent crimes.
Our results are consistent with
two opposing effects. First, they support the behavioral effects as in the psychological studies. Second, they suggest a larger voluntary incapacitation effect in which playing either violent or non-violent games decrease crimes.
video games lead to decreases in violent crime.
According to a group of researchers in England, games with goals such as football are more likely to make participants aggressive than anything encountered in Grand Theft Auto or Call Of Duty .
According to research conducted by Dr.
Simon Goodson and Sarah Pearson of Huddersfield university, games with goals cause more of an aggressive reaction in participants than killing an animated character because sports is closer to real life.
Researchers measured the heart rates,
respiration and brain activity of 40 male and female participants randomly selected to play violent Xbox 360 game or a football game. They found that when players killed someone in a game it caused little brain activity. But when participant's conceded a
goal or foul in the sports game it caused a higher level of brain activity.
Dr. Goodson added that participants generally reacted with more agitation during the football game and that maybe violent games have been misrepresented as the worst thing
a gamer can play.
Dr. Goodson is presenting his research this week at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
According to researchers at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada), violent video games do not desensitize players to violent imagery. The study was lead by Holly Bowen and co-authored by psychology professor Julia Spaniol.
the impact of chronic exposure to violent video games on emotional memory and responses to negative stimuli.
Emotional long-term memory helps us avoid negative situations, Bowen said. This has significant implications for public health.
For example, if you remember the negative experience of being involved in a bar fight, you will avoid future situations that may lead to an altercation.
Participants were shown 150 images representing three different stimuli: negative,
positive and neutral scenes. One hour later, the students viewed those same images again (along with a new set of 150 distractor images) in random order. As each image was displayed, participants had to respond whether or not they had seen it
before. Finally, at the end of the experiment, the students completed a self-assessment test regarding their state of emotional arousal.
The researchers believed going into the study that game players would prove to be less sensitive to the
negative images and therefore show reduced memory for these materials. The results showed no difference in the memory of video game players and non-players. Exposure to video games were not associated with differences in self-reported arousal to
The findings indicate that long-term emotional memory is not affected by chronic exposure violent video games, said Bowen. Researchers caution that further study is needed to see if these results apply to all age groups
and not just young adults.
New research by Dr. Christopher Ferguson from Texas A&M International University finds that depression in young people has more of a correlation to aggressive and violent behavior than gaming does - at least among Hispanics.
302 (mostly) Hispanic youths between the ages of 10 - 14 years-old, from a small city on the border of Mexico. The population of this unnamed city was primarily of Hispanic dissent. Participants were interviewed at the start of the study and at the end
of the study 12 months later.
He then looked at how much exposure the subjects had to violence in video games, television, and negative events in their lives. Negative events included neighborhood problems, bad relationships with adults,
antisocial behavior, family attachment, delinquent peers, family interaction and communication, exposure to domestic violence, depressive symptoms, serious aggression, bullying, and delinquent behavior.
One year later, 7% reported being involved
in at least one criminally violent act during the previous 12 months, with the common crime being physical assaults on other students or the use of force to take something away from someone else. 19% reported engaging in at least one nonviolent
crime during the same period, such as shoplifting or theft on school property.
Ferguson found that symptoms of depressions were a strong predictor for youth aggression and rule breaking. Depression was especially influential in those who
were identified as having preexisting antisocial personality traits. The research did not find that exposure to violence from video games or television at the start of the study was a good predictor of aggressive behavior in young people.
Furgeson's research will appear in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
A new study into the effects of computer games has revealed that fast-paced action games turn us into faster and better decision-makers.
Scientists at the University of Rochester in New York conducted a series of tests to gauge whether regular
bouts of high-speed gaming could help to improve our cognitive abilities.
The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily video-gamers, splitting them into two groups.
The first group were told to play
adrenalin-packed action games such as Call of Duty 2 and Unreal Tournament , in which participants dash around online arenas shooting each other. The second group were given The Sims 2 , a more sedate, strategy-based game that mimics
the pace of everyday life.
After 50 hours of playing, both groups were given a series of tests to see whether they could make quicker decisions. Scientists discovered that those who had trained on the action games made decisions 25% faster than
their counterparts. They also answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game-playing peers.
It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate – they are just as accurate and also faster, said Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist at Rochester who has been testing how computer games affect the brain and eyes for much of the past 10 years.
Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.
This benefit, researchers suggest in a forthcoming edition of Current
Biology , has repercussions in the real world, such as improving our ability to multitask, drive, read small print and keep track of friends in a crowd.
Decisions are never black and white, she said. The brain is always computing
probabilities. As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake.
Action-filled computer games – which
force the brain to make a whole series of fast-paced decisions in a split second – appear to improve our ability to make those decisions quickly.
Young adults—male and female—who play violent video games long-term, handle stress better than non-playing adults and become less depressed and less hostile following a stressful task, according to a study by Texas A&M International University
associate professor, Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson.
The article on the research appears in the European Psychologist 2010.
In this study, 103 young adults were given a frustration task and then randomized to play
no game, a non-violent game, a violent game with good versus evil theme, or a violent game in which they played 'the bad guy.' The results suggest that violent games reduce depression and hostile feelings in players through mood management, Dr.
Whether violent video games cause aggression or violent crime has been a source of contention in public and academic circles. The results do not support a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior.
Ferguson said that the results of this study may help provide others with ways to come up with a mood-management activity that provides individuals with ways to tolerate or reduce stress:
It probably won't come to a surprise to gamers that playing games may reduce stress, although others have been skeptical of this idea. This is the first study that explores this idea, however. It does seem that playing violent games
may help reduce stress and make people less depressed and hostile.
In a special issue of the journal Review of General Psychology, published in June by the American Psychological Association, researchers looked at several studies that examined the potential uses of video games as a way to improve visual/spatial skills,
as a health aid to help manage diabetes or pain and as a tool to complement psychotherapy. One study examined the negative effects of violent video games on some people.
Much of the attention to video game research has been negative, focusing
on potential harm related to addiction, aggression and lowered school performance, said Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, of Texas A&M International University and guest editor of the issue. Recent research has shown that as video games have
become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.
contrast, one study in the special issue shows that video game violence can increase aggression in some individuals, depending on their personalities.
In his research, Patrick Markey, PhD, determined that a certain combination of personality
traits can help predict which young people will be more adversely affected by violent video games. Previous research has shown us that personality traits like psychoticism and aggressiveness intensify the negative effects of violent video games and we
wanted to find out why, said Markey.
Markey used the most popular psychological model of personality traits, called the Five-Factor Model, to examine these effects. The model scientifically classifies five personality traits: neuroticism,
extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Analysis of the model showed a perfect storm of traits for children who are most likely to become hostile after playing violent video games, according to Markey.
Those traits are: high neuroticism (e.g., easily upset, angry, depressed, emotional, etc.), low agreeableness (e.g., little concern for others, indifferent to others feelings, cold, etc.) and low conscientiousness (e.g., break rules, don't keep promises,
act without thinking, etc.).
Markey then created his own model, focusing on these three traits, and used it to help predict the effects of violent video games in a sample of 118 teenagers. Each participant played a violent or a non-violent video
game and had his or her hostility levels assessed. The teenagers who were highly neurotic, less agreeable and less conscientious tended to be most adversely affected by violent video games, whereas participants who did not possess these personality
characteristics were either unaffected or only slightly negatively affected by violent video games.
These results suggest that it is the simultaneous combination of these personality traits which yield a more powerful predictor of violent video
games, said Markey. Those who are negatively affected have pre-existing dispositions, which make them susceptible to such violent media.
Violent video games are like peanut butter, said Ferguson. They are harmless for the vast
majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems.
Inspired by a plotline from the 2003 movie Runaway Jury , University of Southern California researcher Kwan Min Lee, and associates, conducted research under the title Will the Experience of Playing a Violent Role in a Videogame Influence
People's Judgments of Violent Crimes?
The inspiring scene from Runaway Jury involved the lawyer for a defendant accused of committing a violent shooting tried to have a hardcore video game player selected as a member of the jury.
The lawyer carried the belief that a hardcore gamer would judge the shooter less negatively because of similar, though virtual, experiences.
52 undergrads were involved in the study—who had never played the game used in the experiment ( True Crime
)—and were randomly assigned to either a game-playing group or a control group. The game-playing group was tasked with playing True Crime for 2 hours. Both groups were then asked to read two real-life crime cases committed by police officers and
two by generic criminals, and then to answer a series of questions in which they judged the crime and the criminal.
It was reported that, people who played the violent game had more favorable judgment of the crimes and perpetrators than
people who did not play the violent game in terms of their negative judgment of the perpetrators.
The researchers concluded that that even a few hours of game playing as a particular game character can significantly influence one's attitude
towards real-life criminal behaviors conducted by an individual similar to the game character.
It was also theorized that perhaps the jury selection process should take into account both real and virtual experiences as it was shown that
attitudes towards real criminals can be influenced while taking on a similar role in a videogame.
Games may not bad for you after all, according to a joint study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and Leiden University in the Netherlands.
More precisely, first-person shooters are better at training you
for the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and less effective at making you a killing machine.
DOOM'd to switch: superior cognitive flexibility in players of first person shooter games, a research paper published on Frontiers in Cognition
focuses on the benefits of playing first-person shooters.
Thirty-four adults (17 video game players and 17 non-gamers) participated in the study, with video game players defined as those who have played video games at least four times a week
for a minimum period of 6 months. All of the video game players had some experience with games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Unreal Tournament, Battlefield , and Grand Theft Auto IV . Non-gamers were described as having little
to no video game experience. All of the participants were recruited among student populations and through advertisements on internet forums catering to video game players.
While details of the study are pretty complex, the short story
is that the video game players were able to rapidly react to fast moving visual and auditory stimuli, and to switch back and forth between different subtasks faster than the non-video game playing group. The study also conducted test to make sure that
these results weren't based on age or I.Q. After eliminating those possibilities, researchers found that it had more to do with first-person shooter games than any other possible factors.
A new study conducted by a Wheaton College professor has concluded that people that play action and puzzle games are better able to think through complex problems.
Rolf Nelson, a professor of psychology, conducted the study and published his
findings in the November edition of the journal Perception.
In the study, he had 20 students try to solve a spatial relation problem. The students were then given a puzzle game or action game to play. Once done with the game, the students were
given the chance to finish the spatial relation problem again.
Results showed that puzzle players finished the task slower, but with more accuracy, while action players finished the task quicker but less accurately. Both finished quicker than if
they had not played a game at all.
From the study abstract:
To understand the way in which video-game play affects subsequent perception and cognitive strategy, two experiments were performed in which
participants played either a fast-action game or a puzzle-solving game. Before and after video-game play, participants performed a task in which both speed and accuracy were emphasized. In experiment 1 participants engaged in a location task in which
they clicked a mouse on the spot where a target had appeared, and in experiment 2 they were asked to judge which of four shapes was most similar to a target shape. In both experiments, participants were much faster but less accurate after playing the
action game, while they were slower but more accurate after playing the puzzle game. Results are discussed in terms of a taxonomy of video games by their cognitive and perceptual demands.
Education minister Mike Russell said the technology, often seen as a distraction, could motivate young people to develop skills.
Russell said the Nintendo DS console, for example, could lead to surprising educational benefits for young people,
particularly its top-selling brain-training games.
He said: We need to embrace new technologies and tap into all the resources available to us to ensure that our young people develop successfully in a modern society within which
computers are so important.
Educational computer games can be a great way of motivating young people to learn in a way that is relevant and enjoyable for them.
Computer games are often perceived as solely a distraction to learning. But
alongside traditional learning aids, they can help make learning more engaging.
Parents and teachers across the country are starting to see the benefits they can have.
Dr David Miller of the University of Dundee has conducted studies
into the effects of brain-training games on improving learning in partnership with government education body Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).
Miller said it was clear many games had tremendous learning potential. The research focusing on a
brain-training game showed it could improve pupil's basic computational skills. Children who used the game for 20 minutes each morning over a ten-week period demonstrated statistically significant gains in accuracy and speed of processing.
said: Research is starting to point towards computer games providing some real and tangible benefits to young people. These can include faster processing of information, enhanced selection of relevant material and higher levels of engagement. Computer
games are part of our culture and while we may have concerns about aspects of some popular games, many have huge potential for supporting learning.
University of Rochester researchers found that children who played video games were quick thinkers and had good hand-eye co-ordination.
Contrary to the widely held belief that video games are contributing to Britain's obesity crisis, a team of
American researchers has found that there are benefits to sitting in front of a screen for hours on end.
Dr Matthew Dye said there were good points about playing video games even though many critics claim they distract children from more healthy
outdoor pursuits: Avid players got faster not only on their game of choice, but on a variety of unrelated laboratory tests of reaction time .
Sceptics agree that gamers are fast but that they become less accurate as their speed of play
increases. Gamers don't lose accuracy in the game or in lab tests as they get faster - this is a result of the gamer's improved visual cognition.
Dr Dye said video game fans did well on hand-eye co-ordination tests and comprehension tests: Playing video games enhances performance on mental rotation skills, visual and spatial memory, and tasks requiring divided attention.
Dr Dye said that parents and grandparents should play their children's computer games to improve their own memory and brain function: Training with video games may serve to reduce gender differences in visual and spatial processing, and
thwart some of the cognitive declines that come with ageing .
Results of a study performed by researchers at Iowa State University have led them to believe that there is a relation between frequent videogame playing and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Video Games and Cognitive Control was
designed to quantify the effects of playing videogames on two types of cognitive activity—proactive and reactive. Proactive attention is described as a gearing up mechanism, or where a player can anticipate what is coming next, versus reactive
attention, which is more of a knee-jerk response (a monster jumping out).
A visual task was used to test both attention types with brain waves and responses measured in both frequent videogame players and occasional players. Both groups were
charged with identifying the color of a word when the color and word matched, such as 'RED' presented in red, or did not match, such as 'RED' presented in blue or green. This is also referred to as the Stroop task.
While reactive control
was similar in both groups, frequent gamers (participants in this study who play four or more hours a day) had a propensity for exhibiting significantly diminished proactive attention.
From a press release: While admitting that the study
did have a few limitations, the researchers hoped that our results may serve to constrain the claims of some scholars, game manufacturers, and journalists who have suggested that playing action video games 'improves attention.'
The study is
being published in the October 2009 issue of Psychophysiology.
Did you know that playing violent multiplayer games will make you more aggressive against strangers than friends? That's the conclusion of a new study published in the latest issue of the Evolution and Human Behavior science journal.
The study, conducted by psychologists from the University of Missouri, observed 42 young men divided into 14 teams of three. The players played Unreal Tournament 2004 within their team and against other teams. When playing against teammates, the mode was Deathmatch. When playing against other teams, the mode was Onslaught. Before and after each match, the testosterone and cortisol levels of each player was tested.
According to the study's abstract from the journal's web site:
For 14 teams of three young men, salivary testosterone and cortisol were assessed twice before and twice after competing in within-group and
between-group video games that simulated violent male-male competition. Men who contributed the most to their teams' between-group victory showed testosterone increases immediately after the competition, but only if this competition was played before the
within-group tournament. High-scoring men on losing teams did not show this immediate effect, but they did show a delayed increase in testosterone. In contrast, high-ranking men tended to have lower testosterone and higher cortisol during within-group
tournaments. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that men's competitive testosterone response varies across ingroup and outgroup competitions and is muted during the former. The testosterone response during the between-group competition also
suggests that violent multiplayer video games may be appealing to young men because they simulate male-male coalitional competition.
The Researchers at the Mind Research Network found that playing Tetris for three months had increased efficiency and beefed up the amount of gray matter in the brains of a group of adolescent girls.
The results, which will be published in BMC
Research Notes later this week, showed that focusing on a challenging visuospatial task such as a video game could not just increase brain activity but alter the structure of the brain as well by thickening the cortexes.
So, what benefit
does a fatter, more efficient brain offer? According to one of the study's authors, Dr. Richard Haier, it may be a way to help combat the mental decline that occurs with age.
A report published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin maintains that playing pro-social games increases helping behavior by participants while playing violent games increases hurtful behavior.
previously reported on the research, which combines the results from three separate studies conducted in the U.S., Japan and Singapore. But a press release issued today by the University of Michigan offers new insight about the methodologies used by the
UM's Brad Bushman said:
These studies show the same kind of impact on three different age groups from three very different cultures. In addition, the studies use different analytic
approaches---correlational, longitudinal and experimental. The resulting triangulation of evidence provides the strongest possible proof that the findings are both valid and generalizable...
[The research] suggests
there is an upward spiral of prosocial gaming and helpful behavior, in contrast to the downward spiral that occurs with violent video gaming and aggressive behavior...
Taken together, these findings make it clear that playing video games is not
in itself good or bad for children. The type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing.
Perhaps the most interesting experiment involved 161 U.S. college students. From the press release:
After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could
win $10 if they solved all the puzzles. Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners. And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the
Multiplying unrelated long odds reveals that violent games provoke aggressive thoughts
Thanks to Chris
My favourite line is: Does that mean playing violent videogames is going to create a school shooter? No, not
if there aren't any other risk factors. But in kids who have a lot of other risk factors, can it contribute to the likelihood of some sort of extreme violent behaviour occurring? Probably, it can. More so than other risk factors? We don't know. There's
no data on it.
Don't let that lack of data get in the way of a good opinion there Professor.
In a guest lecture at Macquarie University, Sydney, Professor Anderson, Director of Centre of the Study of Violence at Iowa State University spoke of the risks of violent videogames.
Research was clear by 1975 that media violence caused
aggressive behaviour, Prof. Anderson said: We know that short term exposure to violent media can lead to aggressive behaviour and aggressive thinking within five minutes of watching a violent film or playing a violent game, while long term
exposure can lead to aggression into early adulthood.
To highlight this connection, Prof. Anderson examined the likelihood of violent videogames leading to aggressive behaviour by drawing on well-known examples of cause and effect. Such
examples included the chances of regular consumption of aspirin leading to heart attacks, the chances of asbestos causing cancer, and the chances of condom use reducing the risk of contracting HIV. In all these examples, violent videogames proved to be a
higher risk factor, going as far as being approximately three times more likely to happen than asbestos exposure leading to cancer.
On the scale of youth violence risk factors, violent videogames were more likely to increase aggression than
substance abuse, poverty, and anti-social peers. Violent games are more likely to provoke aggressive thoughts in players.
Anderson was careful to point out that this did not necessarily mean that everyone who played violent videogames would begin
committing violent acts. Rather, violent games made players more prepared to think aggressive thoughts.
He cited another study where college students were asked to play a pro-social, neutral, and violent game, after which each was tested to see
how willing they were to help their peers solve puzzles. The study showed that those who played non-violent, pro-social games were more inclined to be helpful by choosing easier puzzles for their peers to complete, whereas those who had just played
violent games chose difficult puzzles to impede on their peers' ability to complete the challenge.
While Anderson believes that this increase in aggressive behaviour is a cause for concern, he doesn't think that violent games are solely to be
blamed for anti-social behaviour.
Extreme acts of violence always require multiple risk factors being present. You just don't ever have a school shooter, for example, who only has one risk factor. It just doesn't happen. There's usually four,
five, six, seven risk factors, sometimes more. Media violence is one of those risk factors. he said.
Does that mean playing violent videogames is going to create a school shooter? No, not if there aren't any other risk factors. But in kids who
have a lot of other risk factors, can it contribute to the likelihood of some sort of extreme violent behaviour occurring? Probably, it can. More so than other risk factors? We don't know. There's no data on it.
If you want to make blood-and-gore video games less appealing to minors, toss those restrictive age and violent-content warnings. The lure of something off-limits only increases demand, a new study says.
In the study, researchers tested 310 Dutch
children ranging in age from 7 to 17. Participants read fictitious game descriptions and rated how much or how little they wanted to play each game. In every group, the more objectionable the content, the more kids clamoured for the controller— forbidden fruit,
the researchers called the games.
The findings are published in the March issue of Pediatrics.
While research has found that ratings increase the attraction to raunchy TV shows and movies, the hypothesis had never been tested with
video games, reported two of the study's authors, Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Elly Konijn of VU University Amsterdam.
They suggest that youth should not be allowed to buy their own games, that parents and physicians be aware of
risk factors (such as a drop in grades) and that policy-makers rethink the classifications (such as M, appropriate for those 17 and older), which will only make the games "unspeakably desirable."
A just-released research report claims that playing violent video games makes players comfortably numb to the pain and suffering of others.
The study, conducted by University of Michigan professor Brad Bushman and Iowa State University
professor Craig Anderson, appears in the March 2009 issue of Psychological Science.
A press release describes the research methodology employed in the new report:
320 college students played either a violent or a nonviolent video game for
approximately 20 minutes. A few minutes later, they overheard a staged fight that ended with the victim sustaining a sprained ankle and groaning in pain.
People who had played a violent game took significantly longer to help the victim
than those who played a nonviolent game---73 seconds compared to 16 seconds. People who had played a violent game were also less likely to notice and report the fight. And if they did report it, they judged it to be less serious than did those who had
played a nonviolent game.
In the second study, the participants were 162 adult moviegoers. The researchers staged a minor emergency outside the theater... The researchers timed how long it took moviegoers to help. Participants who had just
watched a violent movie took over 26% longer to help than either people going into the theater or people who had just watched a nonviolent movie.
Bushman commented: These studies clearly show that violent media exposure can reduce helping
behavior. People exposed to media violence are less helpful to others in need because they are 'comfortably numb' to the pain and suffering of others, to borrow the title of a Pink Floyd song.
Among young college students, the frequency and type of video games played appears to parallel risky drug and alcohol use, poorer personal relationships, and low levels of self-esteem, researchers report.
This does not mean that every person
who plays video games has low self-worth, or that playing video games will lead to drug use, Laura M. Padilla-Walker told Reuters Health. Rather, these findings simply indicate video gaming may cluster with a number of negative outcomes, at least
for some segment of the population, said Padilla-Walker, an associate professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
She and colleagues examined the previous 12-months' frequency and type of video game and
Internet use reported by 500 female and 313 male undergraduate college students in the United States. The students also recounted their drug and alcohol use, perceptions of self-worth and social acceptance, and the quality of their relationships with
friends and family.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showed stark gender differences in video game and Internet use, Padilla-Walker said. However, regardless of gender, clear correlations were seen between
frequent gaming and more frequent alcohol and drug use and lower quality personal relationships, as well as more frequent violent gaming and a greater number of sexual partners and low quality personal relationships.
The investigators linked
similar negative outcomes with Internet use for chat rooms, shopping, entertainment, and pornography, but a contrasting plethora of positive outcomes with Internet use for schoolwork.
Volunteers who played a simple cycling game learned to favour one team's jersey and avoid another's. Days later, most subjects subconsciously avoided the same jersey in a real-world test.
As video games become more immersive and realistic, all
involved ought to realise the potential, says Paul Fletcher, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, UK, who led the study
I don't think this is evidence that video games are bad, says Fletcher, a former gamer: We just need to be
aware that associations formed within the game transfer to the real world – for good or bad.
Fletcher and several colleagues recruited 22 volunteer subjects and told them they were testing an experimental sports drink delivery system.
Volunteer played a bicycling game on a laptop with two straws attached to their mouths.
If cyclists from their same team – as indicated by a jersey design – passed by, participants received a slurp of their favourite juice. However,
if a cyclist from the rival team passed the participant, he or she got a swig of salty tea.
Three days later, the same volunteers came back for a follow-up brain scan and a surprise test. Before the scan, Fletcher and his colleagues asked each
subject to sit in a waiting room with two chairs, both with small towels dangling on one arm. One seat corresponded to the insignia of the juice-giving jersey, the other to the symbol for salty tea.
Three-quarters of the subjects sat in the chair
that reminded them of juice, though most participants said they did not notice the towel design.
Our research suggests whatever you've learned in the computer game does have an effect on how you behave toward the stimulus in the real world,
A researcher at Texas A&M International University has concluded that there is no significant relationship between school shootings and playing violent video games.
Writing for the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender
Profiling, Prof. Christopher Ferguson criticizes the methodology used in earlier research linking games to violence and aggression. He also points out that no evidence of violent game play was found in recent high-profile incidents such as the Virginia
Tech massacre, the Utah Trolley Stop mall shooting and the February, 2008 shooting on the campus of Northern Illinois University.
Ferguson examines the notion of moral panic as it relates to the supposed relationship between violent video
games and school shootings:
Moral panics may emerge from culture wars occurring in a society... politicians, news media and social scientists, arguably [have] motives for promoting hysterical beliefs about
media violence, and video games specifically. Actual causes of violent crime, such as family environment, genetics, poverty, and inequality, are oftentimes difficult, controversial, and intractable problems. By contrast, video games present something of
a straw man by which politicians can create an appearance of taking action against crime...
Ferguson, who cites GamePolitics among his numerous sources, notes that many video game critics are unfamiliar with the medium:
It has been the observation of this author, for instance, that the majority of individuals critical of video games are above the age of 35 (many are elderly) and oftentimes admit to not having directly experienced
the games. Some commentators make claims betraying their unfamiliarity, such as that games like Grant Theft Auto ‘award points’ for antisocial behaviour... despite that few games award points for anything anymore, instead focusing on stories.
Ferguson also points out what he sees as design flaws in a number of studies relating to video games and aggression. He also examines school shooting research conducted by the FBI and Secret Service before concluding:
School shootings, although exceedingly rare, are an important issue worthy of serious consideration. However, for our understanding of this phenomenon to progress, we must move past the moral panic on video games and
other media and take a hard look at the real causes of serious aggression and violence...
the wealth of evidence... fails to establish a link between violent video games and violent crimes, including school shootings. The link has not merely been
unproven; I argue that the wealth of available data simply weighs against any causal relationship.
While video games are often slammed over violent content, a new study suggests that it is the challenge presented by a game rather than graphic violence which attracts players.
The research, which appears in the Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin , was conducted at the University of Rochester.
A press release quotes Andrew Przybylski, the study's lead author: For the vast majority of players, even those who regularly play and enjoy violent games, violence was
not a plus. Violent content was only preferred by a small subgroup of people that generally report being more aggressive.
Immersyve president Scott Rigby commented on potential ramifications for the video game industry: Much of the debate
about game violence has pitted the assumed commercial value of violence against social concern about the harm it may cause. Our study shows that the violence may not be the real value component, freeing developers to design away from violence while at
the same time broadening their market.
Researchers incorporated the popular Half-Life 2 and House of the Dead III into their study, using both high and low gore scenarios.
Video games found to be teaching life skills to gamers
Violent Video Games as Exemplary Teachers: A Conceptual Analysis. By
Douglas A. Gentile, Institute of Science and Society Iowa State University National Institute on Media and the Family
J. Ronald Gentile, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
This article presents conceptual and empirical analyses of several of the “best practices” of learning and instruction, and demonstrates how violent video games use them effectively to motivate
learners to persevere in acquiring and mastering a number of skills, to navigate through complex problems and changing environments, and to experiment with different identities until success is achieved.
principles allow for the generation of several testable hypotheses, two of which are tested with samples of 430 elementary school children (mean age 10 years), 607 young adolescents (mean age 14 years), and 1,441 older adolescents (mean age 19 years).
Participants were surveyed about their video game habits and their aggressive cognitions and behaviours.
The first hypothesis is based on the principle that curricula that teach the same underlying concepts across contexts should
have the highest transfer. Therefore, students who play multiple violent video games should be more likely to learn aggressive cognitions and behaviours than those who play fewer.
The second hypothesis is based on the principle
that long-term learning is improved if practice is distributed more across time. Therefore, students who play violent video games more frequently across time should be more likely to learn aggressive cognitions and behaviours than those who play the same
types of games for equivalent amounts of time but less frequently.
Both hypotheses were supported. We conclude by describing what educators can learn from the successful instructional and curriculum design features of video games.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games
By Christopher John Ferguson Department of
Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice, Texas A&M International University, Laredo, TX 78045, USA
Objective Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games may increase the risk of aggression
in players. Less often discussed is the possibility that playing violent video games may promote certain positive developments, particularly related to visuospatial cognition.
The objective of the current article was to conduct a
meta-analytic review of studies that examine the impact of violent video games on both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition in order to understand the full impact of such games.
A detailed literature search was used to
identify peer-reviewed articles addressing violent video game effects. Effect sizes r (a common measure of effect size based on the correlational coefficient) were calculated for all included studies. Effect sizes were adjusted for observed publication
Results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition. Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the
hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression. However playing violent video games remained related to higher visuospatial cognition.
Results from the current analysis did not support the
conclusion that violent video game playing leads to aggressive behavior. However, violent video game playing was associated with higher visuospatial cognition. It may be advisable to reframe the violent video game debate in reference to potential costs
and benefits of this medium.
Ferguson also commented:
It is not hard to ‘‘link’’ video game playing with violent acts if one wishes to do so, as one video game playing prevalence study indicated that 98.7% of adolescents play video games to
some degree with boys playing more hours and more violent games than girls.
However is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e. video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e. school
shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?
Games Cause Violence: But Not Much
Violent video games and anger as predictors
Do violent video games make players aggressive? The answer, according to Professor Patrick Markey, is yes. But Markey is no bog
standard game basher. He likes shooters and he thinks the effects of violent games have been taken way out of context by the media and by the industry’s enemies.
Image He says, When you look at the research there’s no question at all. Violent
video games do cause aggression. It’s so clear. You have to be dishonest not to see it. However, and this is a huge however, the effect is very, very small.
“It’s not as if this is a light switch that either video games do or do not cause
aggression. You have to think about the strength of that effect. Most people assume it has a really big effect, but what we find from research is it actually has a very tiny effect.
Markey conducted his research with Gary Giumetti at
Villanova University in Pennsylvania. 167 university undergraduates, participated in the study.
Two groups separately played violent and non-violent games (Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance; Doom 3; or Return to Castle Wolfenstein against Tetris
Worlds; Top Spin Tennis and Project Gotham Racing).
Overall, players of the violent video games produced significantly more aggressive responses than the non-violent games players. The mean number of aggressive responses for the three non-violent
video games did not differ from each other. Nor did the mean number of aggressive responses for the three violent video games.
This all looks like a clear case against violent games. However, when the results were compared against the initial
questionnaires, it turned out that mild-mannered people were affected the least by the games while ‘angry people’ were affected the most.
A new research published in American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry proposed that Eric Harris and
Dylan Klebold went on a killing rage at Columbine High School in 1999 because they were abruptly denied access to their M-rated games.
According to the study written by Jerald Block, a researcher and psychiatrist in Portland, the two young men
relied on the virtual world of computer games to express their rage and to spend time, and cutting them off in 1998 sent them into crisis. Very soon thereafter - a couple of days - they started to plan the actual attack.
through thousands of pages of documents released by Columbine investigators and found that Harris and Klebold had each been temporarily kept off computers at school or at home several times, and after each incident, according to Block, the boys' writings
or behavior became more violent.
After the Colorado rampage, the Secret Service searched for common threads in more than three dozen school shootings, said Cheryl Olson, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and Media at the Massachusetts
General Hospital. The commonalities they found were male gender and either being treated for depression or showing signs of depression . Some of the shooters were good students, some bad; some were bullies, some were bullied; and some played video
games, but most did not, she added.
Two-thirds of middle- school boys play M-rated games regularly, said Cheryl Olson. They're not turning kids into killing machines. The evidence just isn't there.
games tend to polarise opinions in a way that other entertainment media do not. People who do not play them cannot understand their attraction and that lack of understanding can lead to some games being demonised. While there is research designed to show
the short term physical reactions of video games players, there is very little information about why people play video games and what impact they think playing games has on them. The BBFC today published the results of a research project involving video
games players ranging from children as young as seven through to players in their early 40s; parents of young games players; games industry representatives; and games reviewers.
The research set out to gain insights into a number of issues
the attractions of playing video games
what impact games players think playing has on them and their behaviour
whether the interactivity element of games alters the
what players think about the violence in some games
how they choose which games to play
what parents think about video games.
The key findings of the research were:
that children begin playing games at an increasingly early age, but that the overall age of games players is getting older
there is a sharp divide between male and female games players in their taste in
games and how long they spend playing
female games players tend to prefer ‘strategic life simulation’ games like The Sims and puzzle games and spend less time playing than their male counterparts
male players favour first ‘person shooter’ and sports games and are much more likely to become deeply absorbed in the play
younger games players are influenced to play particular games by peer pressure and
word of mouth, but negative press coverage for a game will significantly increase its take up
people play games to escape from every day life and to escape to a world of adventure without risk which is under the control of
the gamer, unlike the real world
games provide a sense of achievement and are active, unlike television and films which are passive. However, games are better at developing action than building character and as such gamers
tend to care less about the storyline than making progress in the game
gamers appear to forget they are playing games less readily than film goers forget they are watching a film because they have to participate in the game
for it to proceed. They appear to non-games players to be engrossed in what they are doing, but, they are concentrating on making progress, and are unlikely to be emotionally involved
gamers claim that playing games is
mentally stimulating and that playing develops hand eye coordination
violence in games, in the sense of eliminating obstacles, is built into the structure of some games and is necessary to progress through the game. It
contributes to the tension because gamers are not just shooting, they are vulnerable to being shot and most gamers are concentrating on their own survival rather than the damage they are inflicting on the characters in the game. While there is an appeal
in being able to be violent without being vulnerable to the consequences which similar actions in real life would create, gamers are aware that they are playing a game and that it is not real life
gamers are aware that
violence in games is an issue and younger players find some of the violence upsetting, particularly in games rated for adults. There is also concern that in some games wickedness prevails over innocence. However, most gamers are not seriously concerned
about violence in games because they think that the violence on television and in films is more upsetting and more real
gamers are virtually unanimous in rejecting the suggestion that video games encourage people to be
violent in real life or that they have become desensitised. They see no evidence in themselves or their friends who play games that they have become more violent in real life. As one participant said: I no more feel that I have actually scored a goal
than I do that I have actually killed someone. I know it’s not real. The emphasis is on achievement.
non-games playing parents are concerned about the amount of time their children, particularly boys, spend playing
games and would prefer that they were outside in the fresh air. However, they are more concerned about the ‘stranger-danger’ of internet chat rooms. While the violence in games surprises them and concerns some of them, they are confident that their
children are well balanced enough to not be influenced by playing violent games
while parents agree that there should be regulation of games some are happy to give their children adult games because they are “only games”.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
The BBFC classified just under three hundred video games last year. Most games in the UK are classified under a pan-European voluntary system, but those with adult content are required
to come to us. We take this part of our responsibilities under the Video Recordings Act very seriously. Our examiners actually play the games for up to five hours, assessing all levels of the games and considering all the key issues. Players and the
parents of young players can be sure that all aspects of the game have been taken into account before reaching a classification. We require key issues to be flagged and aids such as cheat codes to be supplied to us. We take context into account, and
examine works in a way which is as thorough and penetrating as anywhere in the world.
The element of interactivity in games carries some weight when we are considering a video game. We were particularly interested to see that this research
suggests that, far from having a potentially negative impact on the reaction of the player, the very fact that they have to interact with the game seems to keep them more firmly rooted in reality. People who do not play games raise concerns about their
engrossing nature, assuming that players are also emotionally engrossed. This research suggests the opposite; a range of factors seems to make them less emotionally involving than film or television. The adversaries which players have to eliminate have
no personality and so are not real and their destruction is therefore not real, regardless of how violent that destruction might be. This firm grasp on reality seems to extend to younger players, but this is no reason to allow them access to adult rated
games, as they themselves often admit that they find the violence in games like Manhunt very upsetting. Parents should not treat video games in the same way they would board games. We will continue to examine very carefully those games which come
to us, to flag any concerns we have and, if necessary, to use our statutory powers.
There is no question that video games are an important form of entertainment for an ever increasing number of people. As the technology improves the games will
become more and more realistic and it is important that games are properly rated to protect younger players from the games with adult content, which the BBFC does. This research provides some valuable insights into why people play video games and what
effect they think playing has on themselves and friends. It has also highlighted parental attitudes to video games. We hope that it will provide some food for thought for the industry, and everyone who has an interest in the impact of games and we will
be taking the research outcomes into account as we review our games classification policies over the coming months.
Research by Dr Vincent Mathews, of Indiana University School of Medicine
Presented to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)
Based on an article from the
Daily Mail 4th December 2006
Playing violent video games makes children lose their
An analysis of brain activity demonstrates they become more emotionally charged after using the graphic technology. At the same time there is a marked decrease in activity in parts of the brain which are linked to self-control,
focus and concentration.
The latest research from Indiana University School of Medicine, United States, shows that violent video games stimulate activity in the region of the brain governing emotional arousal in teenagers.
randomly assigned 44 adolescents to play either a violent or non-violent video game for 30 minutes. A scanning technique was then used to study the volunteers' brain functions during a series of tasks measuring inhibition and concentration.
group that had played the violent game showed less activity in the prefrontal parts of their brains involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control. There was more activity in the amygdala region, which helps govern emotional arousal.
Vincent Mathews, professor of radiology, who led the research, said: These findings raise concern that these types of video games are having some sort of effect on the brain and likely an effect on behaviour as well. This is the first time that
it has been demonstrated that violent video games can affect brain physiology and the way the brain functions.
Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than
playing a non-violent - but exciting - game. Additional investigation of the reasons for and effects of this difference in brain functioning will be important targets for future study, but the current study showed that a difference between the groups
The findings were presented to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago last week.
Violent video games can 'desensitise' players to the horrors of real-life brutality after just 20 minutes of playing
Published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Based on an article from the Daily Mail 18th August 2006
Violent video games can 'desensitise' players to the horrors of real-life brutality after just 20 minutes of playing,
scientists have claimed.
A new study found that students who played graphic games for only a short of period of time were less emotional when later confronted with scenes of real violence, such as beatings, stabbings and shootings.
the latest study, American psychologists carried out experiments on 257 college students, both male and female.
One group was given 20 minutes to play one of four violent games: Carmageddon, Mortal Kombat, Future Cop and Duke Nukem.
The other group was given one of four "passive" games to play including 3D Pinball, Glider Pro, 3D Munch Man and Tetra Madness.
Both where then shown ten-minute videos of shootings, stabbings, prison fights,
courtroom outbursts, and confrontations with police - and tested for their emotional response. This was measured by their heart rate and perspiration. Those who had engaged in violent games had 'lowered physiological responses'. In other words, their
heart rates were lower and they sweated less.
This supposedly showed they had become desensitised to the brutality of the real world, said psychologist Professor Nicholas Carnagey, of Iowa State University, who led the study.
who played the non-violent games had increased heart rates and perspiration when they saw the video footage - meaning they were upset by it.
Professor Carnagey said he was 'surprised' at how quickly the games dulled the players' response to
real-life violence. He warned: It appears that individuals who play violent video games get used to it. They eventually become physiologically numb to it.
The study, published the findings in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
said parents should be wary about the effect that violence in PC games and on television has on their children.
Er, doesn't this *actually* only prove the difference between 30 minutes of one type of imagery, vs 20 minutes of one type and then 10 minutes of a polar opposite?
In other words, the same effect you'd get from switching
channels between, say, a sitcom and a news channel, vs the effect of sticking with one channel for the full half hour...
Video games such as Gun and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas might be at the top of many Christmas lists this year, despite their graphic violent content and mature
ratings. These games might be mere entertainment to some, but a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that playing these violent games changes a person's brain function and desensitizes chronic players to real world violence.
Most of us naturally have a strong aversion to the sight of blood and gore, said Bruce Bartholow, assistant professor of psychological sciences at MU. Surgeons and soldiers may need to overcome these reactions in order to perform their duties.
But, for most people, a diminished reaction to the effects of violence is not adaptive. It can reduce inhibitions against aggressive behavior and increase the possibility of inflicting violence on others.
Bartholow, along with Brad Bushman
from the University of Michigan and Marc Sestir at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, asked 39 male undergraduate students how often they played their five favorite video games and how violent the games were. Next, the researchers showed
participants a series of images on a computer screen, including emotionally neutral images, such as a man raiding a bicycle; violent images, such as a man holding a gun to another man's head; and negative, but nonviolent images, such as a dead dog. As
participants viewed these images, the researchers measured a type of brainwave, known as P300, which is believed to reflect how people evaluate images like these.
After viewing the pictures, participants were told that the last part of the
experiment involved a competition with another participant to see who could press a button faster following a series of tones. Before each tone, participants set the level of a noise blast that their opponent would receive if the opponent lost. There
actually was no opponent.
The researchers found that the participants who routinely played violent video games showed less brain reactivity, measured by diminished amplitude of the P300 brainwaves, when they viewed the violent images compared to
the equally negative, nonviolent image. They also found that the smaller a participant's brain response to violent images, the more aggressively he behaved during the final part of the experiment.
These findings are among the first to link
chronic violent video game play, diminished brain responses and aggressive behavior, Bartholow said. People often assume that any negative effects of playing violent games are short-lived, but these results suggest that repeated exposure to
violent video games has lasting negative consequences for both brain function and behavior.
This study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
But some experts still remain unconvinced of a link.
Jonathan Freedman, a psychologist from the University of Toronto in Canada, said: All we
are really getting is desensitisation to images. There's no way to show that this relates to real-life aggression.
And Professor David Buckingham, an expert on the media and children at the Institute of Education, added there was still no
consensus on whether violent games caused aggressive behaviour or were just played by violent people: The debate we are seeing is very similar to the one that has raged for years about TV. The truth is there are many factors that
can lead to violence, such as being withdrawn and isolated, so it is hard to say it is because of one thing. In the absence of any proof, I think we have to be agnostic about it. However, I think there is an argument about the morality of some games.
Some actually encourage amoral behaviour to win the game and I think parents should be talking to their children to make sure they realise this is a joke. Children are generally good at telling fantasy from reality, but parents should be discussing this.
The work will appear early in 2006 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
A brain mechanism that may link violent computer games with aggression has been discovered by researchers in the US. The work goes some way towards demonstrating a causal link
between the two - rather than a simple association.
Many studies have concluded that people who play violent video games are more aggressive, more likely to commit violent crimes, and less likely to help others. But critics argue these
correlations merely prove that violent people gravitate towards violent games, not that games can change behaviour.
Now psychologist Bruce Bartholow from the University of Missouri-Columbia and colleagues have found that people who play violent
video games show diminished brain responses to images of real-life violence, such as gun attacks, but not to other emotionally disturbing pictures, such as those of dead animals, or sick children. And the reduction in response is correlated with
The brain activity they measured, called the P300 response, is a characteristic signal seen in an EEG (electroencephalogram) recording of brain waves as we register an image. The P300 reflects an evaluation of the emotional
content of an image says Bartholow, being larger if people are surprised or disturbed by an image, or if something is novel.
The team recruited 39 experienced gamers, and used questionnaires to assess the amount of violent games they played. They
then showed them real-life images, mostly of neutral scenes, but interspersed with violent or negative (but non-violent) scenes, while recording EEGs.
In subjects with the most experience of violent games, the P300 response to the violent images
was smaller and delayed. People who play a lot of violent video games didn’t see them as much different from neutral, says Bartholow. They become desensitised. However, their responses are still normal for the non-violent negative scenes.
This may not be surprising - video games have been used to desensitise soldiers to scenes of war. But when the players were subsequently given the opportunity to “punish” a fake opponent in another game, those with the greatest reduction in P300 brain responses meted out the most severe punishments.
Even when the team controlled for the subjects’ natural hostility, assessed by standard questionnaires, the violent games experience and P300 response were still strongly correlated with aggressiveness. As far as I’m aware, this is the first
study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behaviour, says Bartholow.
But the study has failed to convince some critics. We habituate to any kind of stimulus, says Jonathan Freedman, a
psychologist from the University of Toronto, Canada, who has prepared several government-level reports on media and games violence. All we are really getting is desensitisation to images. There’s no way to show that this relates to real-life
He says that stopping people playing violent video games would be like preventing them from playing sports such as football or hockey.
Other researchers are more concerned. Craig Anderson of Iowa State University in Ames,
who has studied the effect, says: THese brain studies corroborate the many behavioural and cognitive studies showing that violent video games lead to increases in aggression.
Henry Jenkins is the
director of comparative studies at MIT.
1. The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence.
According to federal crime statistics,
the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It's
true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers — 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play
do NOT commit antisocial acts. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is
doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to
2. Scientific evidence links violent game play with youth aggression.
Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one
relatively narrow school of research, "media effects." This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds. In these studies, media images
are removed from any narrative context. Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be
played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That's why the vague term "links" is used here. If there is a consensus
emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor - when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behavior. But no research has found that video games are a primary
factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.
3. Children are the primary market for video games.
most American kids do play video games, the center of the video game market has shifted older as the first generation of gamers continues to play into adulthood. Already 62 percent of the console market and 66 percent of the PC market is age 18 or older.
The game industry caters to adult tastes. Meanwhile, a sizable number of parents ignore game ratings because they assume that games are for kids. One quarter of children ages 11 to 16 identify an M-Rated (Mature Content) game as among their favorites.
Clearly, more should be done to restrict advertising and marketing that targets young consumers with mature content, and to educate parents about the media choices they are facing. But parents need to share some of the responsibility for making decisions
about what is appropriate for their children. The news on this front is not all bad. The Federal Trade Commission has found that 83 percent of game purchases for underage consumers are made by parents or by parents and children together.
Almost no girls play computer games.
Historically, the video game market has been predominantly male. However, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the
past decade. Women now slightly outnumber men playing Web-based games. Spurred by the belief that games were an important gateway into other kinds of digital literacy, efforts were made in the mid-90s to build games that appealed to girls. More recent
games such as The Sims were huge crossover successes that attracted many women who had never played games before. Given the historic imbalance in the game market (and among people working inside the game industry), the presence of sexist stereotyping in
games is hardly surprising. Yet it's also important to note that female game characters are often portrayed as powerful and independent. In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong
women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.
5. Because games are used to train soldiers to kill, they have the same impact on the
kids who play them.
Former military psychologist and moral reformer David Grossman argues that because the military uses games in training (including, he claims, training soldiers to shoot and kill), the generation of young
people who play such games are similarly being brutalized and conditioned to be aggressive in their everyday social interactions. Grossman's model only works if:
we remove training and education from a meaningful cultural context. we
assume learners have no conscious goals and that they show no resistance to what they are being taught. we assume that they unwittingly apply what they learn in a fantasy environment to real world spaces.
The military uses games as part of a
specific curriculum, with clearly defined goals, in a context where students actively want to learn and have a need for the information being transmitted. There are consequences for not mastering those skills. That being said, a growing body of research
does suggest that games can enhance learning. In his recent book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, James Gee describes game players as active problem solvers who do not see mistakes as errors, but as opportunities for
improvement. Players search for newer, better solutions to problems and challenges, he says. And they are encouraged to constantly form and test hypotheses. This research points to a fundamentally different model of how and what players learn from games.
6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.
On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. ruled that video games do not convey ideas and thus
enjoy no constitutional protection. As evidence, Saint Louis County presented the judge with videotaped excerpts from four games, all within a narrow range of genres, and all the subject of previous controversy. Overturning a similar decision in
Indianapolis, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted: "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an
early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware." Posner adds, "To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be
quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it." Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. Many current games are designed to
be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences. The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience
guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right
circumstances, we can be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.
7. Video game play is socially isolating.
game play is social. Almost 60 percent of frequent gamers play with friends. Thirty-three percent play with siblings and 25 percent play with spouses or parents. Even games designed for single players are often played socially, with one person giving
advice to another holding a joystick. A growing number of games are designed for multiple players — for either cooperative play in the same space or online play with distributed players. Sociologist Talmadge Wright has logged many hours observing online
communities interact with and react to violent video games, concluding that meta-gaming (conversation about game content) provides a context for thinking about rules and rule-breaking. In this way there are really two games taking place simultaneously:
one, the explicit conflict and combat on the screen; the other, the implicit cooperation and comradeship between the players. Two players may be fighting to death on screen and growing closer as friends off screen. Social expectations are reaffirmed
through the social contract governing play, even as they are symbolically cast aside within the transgressive fantasies represented onscreen.
8. Video game play is desensitizing.
Classic studies of play behavior among primates suggest that apes make basic distinctions between play fighting and actual combat. In some circumstances, they seem to take pleasure wrestling and tousling with each other. In others, they might rip
each other apart in mortal combat. Game designer and play theorist Eric Zimmerman describes the ways we understand play as distinctive from reality as entering the "magic circle." The same action — say, sweeping a floor — may take on different
meanings in play (as in playing house) than in reality (housework). Play allows kids to express feelings and impulses that have to be carefully held in check in their real-world interactions. Media reformers argue that playing violent video games can
cause a lack of empathy for real-world victims. Yet, a child who responds to a video game the same way he or she responds to a real-world tragedy could be showing symptoms of being severely emotionally disturbed. Here's where the media effects research,
which often uses punching rubber dolls as a marker of real-world aggression, becomes problematic. The kid who is punching a toy designed for this purpose is still within the "magic circle" of play and understands her actions on those terms.
Such research shows us only that violent play leads to more violent play.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has weighed into the ongoing debate regarding a possible link between violent video games and "real-world aggression".
The University says the findings of the first long-term study into exposure to video games and subsequent stroppy behaviour may be "surprising", given that they show "robust exposure to a highly violent online game" did not
cause any substantial increase in said aggression.
The findings will indeed suprise attorney Jack Thompson who has vowed to prove the link between Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the 2003 murder of two police officers and a civilian police
worker in Fayette, Alabama.
As we recently reported, after being arrested for the triple homicide, 20-year-old perpetrator Devin Moore was alleged to have said: Life is a videogame. Everybody has to die some time. Moore is known to have
spent many hours playing GTA:VC, dubbed a "murder simulator" by Thompson.
Thompson declared: Moore rehearsed, hour after hour, the cop-killing scenarios in that hyper-violent video game. The makers, distributors, and retailers of
that murder simulator equipped Moore to kill as surely as if they had handed him the gun to do it. Blood is on the hands of men in certain corporate board rooms from Japan to New York.
While the eventual outcome of Thompson's campaign in
uncertain, the Illinois findings will do little to further his cause. Report lead author Dmitri Williams said researchers found "no strong effects associated with aggression caused by this violent game", referring to Asheron's Call 2 (AC2)
which guinea pigs played an average 56 hours over the course of a month.
Williams explained: Players were not statistically different from the non-playing control group in their beliefs on aggression after playing the game than they were
before playing. Nor was game play a predictor of aggressive behaviors. Compared with the control group, the players neither increased their argumentative behaviors after game play nor were significantly more likely to argue with their friends and
Williams did, however, warn: I'm not saying some games don't lead to aggression, but I am saying the data are not there yet. Until we have more long-term studies, I don't think we should make strong predictions about long-term
effects, especially given this finding.
In fact, the issue is rather more complicated than critics and defenders of video games might suggest. Williams noted: This game featured fantasy violence, while others featuring outer space or even
everyday urban violence may yield different outcomes.
Williams admitted that because the test didn't centre solely on younger teenagers, he could not say that teenagers might not experience different effects. Older players in their
study were perhaps more strongly influenced by game play and argued with friends more than their younger counterparts.
Williams summarised: If the content, context, and play length have some bearing on the effects, policy-makers should
seek a greater understanding of the games they are debating. It may be that both the attackers and defenders of the industry's products are operating without enough information, and are instead both arguing for blanket approaches to what is likely a more
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's findings appear in the June issue of Communication Monographs in an piece entitled Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test of Aggression in an Online Game.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's test was conducted as follows:
The new study involved two groups of participants: players – a
"treatment" group of 75 people who had no prior MMRPG [massively multiplayer online roleplaying game] play and who played AC2 for the first time; and a control group of 138, who did not play. The participants were solicited through online
message boards and ranged in age from 14 to 68, the average age being 27.7 years.
Self-reported questionnaires were completed pre- and post-test online and included a range of demographic, behavioral and personality variables. Aggression-related
beliefs were measured with L.R. Huesmann’s Normative Beliefs in Aggression (NOBAGS) scale. Aggressive social interactions were measured with two behavioral questions: in the past month, did the participant have a serious argument with a friend, and in
the same time period, did they have a serious argument with a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Because of the study's design, only moderate or large effects caused by exposure to the game were capable of being detected.