We've all seen a variety of video game studies before, but the latest provides the psychology community and the gaming industry with a little something new.
In a recent study conducted by Bruce Bartholow, associate producer of psychology in the Missouri College of Arts and Sciences, it seems they located a link between desensitization and an inclination to aggression and violent behavior. As Bartholow states at the start of the summary:
"Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally."
The study had 70 young adult participants between the ages of 18 and 22 randomly assigned to play either a violent or non-violent video game for 25 minutes. After, researchers tested brain responses when the participants viewed a series of photographs, which ranged from a man riding a bike to a man holding a gun in the mouth of another man. Lastly, participants competed against an opponent in a task that allowed them to punish their opponent with a controllable blast of loud noise. The level of noise participants chose was the gauge of aggression.
Those who played a violent game ( Killzone , Grand Theft Auto , Hitman , and Call of Duty were used) set louder noise blasts during the competitive task (indicating more aggression), while those who played a non-violent game weren't as punishing. Furthermore, for those who weren't used to playing violent video games, researchers found reduced brain response to the violent photos, a clear indicator of desensitization. And the less the response to violence, the more likely they were to be extra aggressive. Said Bartholow:
"The fact that video game exposure did not affect the brain activity of participants who already had been highly exposed to violent games is interesting and suggests a number of possibilities. It could be that those individuals are already so desensitized to violence from habitually playing violent video games that an additional exposure in the lab has very little effect on their brain responses. There also could be an unmeasured factor that causes both a preference for violent video games and a smaller brain response to violence. In either case, there are additional measures to consider."
Bartholow's recommendation is that we should find a way to moderate the effects of such media violence, "especially among individuals who are habitually exposed." One of the more frightening statistics cited was one that said the average elementary school child spends 40 hours a week playing video games. …that sounds questionable from our end, but maybe we'll talk to Bartholow about that. Finished the lead researcher:
"More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."