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."

Subscribe
Notify of
104 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dridion
Dridion
9 years ago

Oh God, here we go again!

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

Its all crap anyway!

I have been playing very violent games since the first wolfenstein, doom, heretic etc. and I still cringe when I look at disgusting photos. I don't like horror movies. and yeah if you put me in that noise punishment thing, i would sit there and blast the crap out of the other guy, but thats because its funny, because I can do it, and have no consequences. Just like in a game! I know that in a game, I can blow someones face off, and nothing would happen, because its only a game.

Jdogtoocool
Jdogtoocool
9 years ago

@Akuma07
Good point I'd also blast the crap out of the other guy lol but seriously all of this studies are very interesting and all but the only way they'll ever really be taking completely seriously and feel validated will be whenever they make a solid solid error proof finding.

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
9 years ago

Fact 1:

When it comes to children and video games, it's up the parents to guide their children.

Fact 2:

No matter what steps are taken to ensure that a child makes good decisions, it all comes down to the individual child to make a good choice.

These studies, while educational, are generally worthless due their ignoring of these two facts.


Last edited by maxpontiac on 5/26/2011 3:53:55 PM

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

Ever notice that the more uneducated/poorer the person the more fast food and videogames they tend to play?

I understand it's the parent's responsibility but unfortunately too many parents are complete morons incapable of correctly raising their children.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

If the study followed the guidelines of a good statistical analysis then the finds and the study are not worthless, but from the information given it can't be determined if this study holds enough water to get behind.

I will say this though, whether or not this is a good study holds little to no relevance to the media that will undoubtedly tout this as irrefutable proof that video games are making our children violent little socio-paths bent on the destruction of civilised society as we know it.

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
9 years ago

Vertigo –

I honestly believe with some parents, it comes down to them not caring.

Coverton –

You make an excellent point about the medias willingness to use this as mudslinging, but I am not sold on the validity of this study.

To me, it's just another case of "finding something to blame" instead of having accountability. People need to be responsible for their decisions, and the entities that run studies such as this need to realize that it's not someones/somethings fault.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

Max –
Oh by no means am I sold on the validity either. I need to know more of the information before I am willing to say that the results hold any validity at all, and the small amount of participants has me hesitant that I would be satisfied with the rest of the information that could be given.

Doppel
Doppel
9 years ago

@LimitedVertigo

"Ever notice that the more uneducated/poorer the person the more fast food and videogames they tend to play?"

You play with Fast Food?

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

Limited vertigo,

Poverty has nothing to do with video games. What you just said doesn't even make sense, if someone is poor, how CAN they play more games? they wouldnt even have the money to buy new ones.

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
9 years ago

Akuma, slight correction, he didn't say poor, he said "poorer". That being said, I highly doubt he was speaking about homeless people.

Go into a "poor" persons house, and they still have nice things.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

Akuma07,

What Nightmar said.

Just because you're poor doesn't mean you're living under a bridge.

@Doppel

Yes, with your mom's sweaty knuckles.

Chelsea United
Chelsea United
9 years ago

Akuma the way Vertigo said it sounded like he meant people that act like scum, you know those people that live in a fairly nice house but treat it like a pigsty? And, I'm just generalizing here, but that type either has no kids or 234213454123542435345 of them. You know people like that, you get my point.

Jdogtoocool
Jdogtoocool
9 years ago

@pontiac
Well aside from playing with fast food and sweaty mothers knuckles I completely agree with you. I've alway known that parents need to take care of their children while gaming and that the ESRB labels are there for a reason. both are great points you make

robinhood2010
robinhood2010
9 years ago

Good points everyone.

But this study was on adults, not children.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

Few things that I don't like about this study, first 70 participants is a small sample size; second was this a random sample of a large population or were the participants all males; third what's the SD of the aggression frequency; fourth were the findings statistically significant and to what level?

I'm sure that there is a good amount of validity to these finding but I want to read the report on the findings before I get behind it whole-heartedly.

I have no doubt that there is a correlation between desensitisation and violence but I want to know how strong of one.

Do you know if there is a link to the findings report, Ben?

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

Damn covert, I'm impressed. Always enjoyed your presence here now you're coming off all smartsy ūüôā

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

You're making me blush.

Really, I'm not smart outside of things to do with psychology and whatnot though. It's just a field that has interested me since I was a child and had my first EZ-Bake-Psychiatry-Couch.

Lotusflow3r
Lotusflow3r
9 years ago

Plus everyone is an individual. Surveys and tests in this area, never make sense.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

I actually have the full study in PDF form; I asked that they send it to me.

I'm not quite sure if it's for public use, though…

At any rate, I plan to talk to Bruce Bartholow about this subject at some point.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

Ben, if it turns out to be public acceptable I would like a copy if at all possible.

Lotus: Yes, everyone is an individual, but if you take enough cross sections i.e. samples of a wide enough population then you can predict the behaviour of the general public. Does that mean that everyone will fit the mold? No, but it does mean that you have a large confidence that at least 68% of people will fall into a certain range of behaviour when you take an individual from the same population that the sample was take from and the study was conducted on. This doesn't seem to be a survey but a scientific study, but not one I am willing to commit to believing without first knowing all the factors


Last edited by coverton341 on 5/26/2011 4:08:29 PM

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

Its like grabbing 5 guys off the street, giving them each a beer, then giving them each a glass of wine, and ask them "Which did you enjoy more?"

If the results were 3 said beer, 2 said wine. They would publish some report saying "Studies have proven that men like beer more than wine"

Its a total crock. There isn't and never will be any REAL evidence that violent games cause violent tendencies. Because there is only a few things that cause violent tendencies, war, and bad parenting.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

Akuma,
I agree with the first part of your statement, and I don't know if I can agree with the second half because there never has been an accurate study, to the best of my knowledge, properly studying the effect of violent video games on violent tendencies.

Simcoe
Simcoe
9 years ago

I really hate when studies are released via press-release.

Coverton has the right idea and is asking all the right questions, questions that should easily be found in the methodology of this paper.

I'm really hoping that this study will be showing up in a peer-reviewed journal. Ben does your source say anything about which journal the article will be published in, along with a doi (digital object identifier) string?

If this study is found in a scientific journal, I'd have little doubt on it's validity as psychology and human behaviour are not my areas of expertise. Also, it's always easy to find fault with sample size, but scientists have to balance time and funding with other commitments. As this seems to be the first actual scientific study on the subject, I'd say it's a good start.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

Ugh…please don't turn this into N4G.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

LV, it'll be a cold day in heck before this place is allowed to turn into N4G.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

I see their point. I think it comes down to the maturity of the gamer. Children should not be playing games like GTA or DeadSpace.

I don't see anything wrong with a mature adult playing any type of game out there (even Rapelay) but I do have a problem with parent's allowing their children to engage in adult content.

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
9 years ago

1. There should be parent licensing. If you do not qualify, you may not have a child. If you have a child anyways, your child is taken away from you.
2. That 40 hour a week stat (if correct) is very sad. However, I can believe it. The TV is the modern day babysitter. Now more than ever, both parents have to work. Most parents can’t afford daycare, so they tell the kid to stay home, don’t leave the house. Well, that kid is going to watch TV at home, and if he/she likes games, he will play games for several hours until mom and dad get home.

It is sad to look at the average kid these days. Overweight and very disrespectful to authority. They have no moral compass, and sadly show no respect to their elders. How did we get to this point? Look no further than the parents.

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
9 years ago

Oh, meant this to reply to MaxPontiac, oh well Limited, you'll do… =)

main_event05
main_event05
9 years ago

Right. The way I see it, by the time some on 18 or so they most likely are who they will be, morally at least. In my opinion, almost nothing short of a brainwash can change that.

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

If this study was performed on young adults, then I dont see any problem here. By adulthood, someone should have already developed the tendencies and personality traits that make who they are. Playing a violent game shouldn't affect them, unless it already has in their younger years.

And @ MyWorstNightmare
Yes, it is like this all over the world, these days kids are very disrespectful, and it is getting worse every year. But it is NOT linked to video games, it is because parents are getting worse themselves. When you see those overweight disrespectful kids, i ALWAYS see an even more overweight, even more disrespectful parent with them.


Last edited by Akuma_ on 5/26/2011 6:10:04 PM

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
9 years ago

Akuma, truth!

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
9 years ago

Nightmar you don't just reply to me? I'm hurt.

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
9 years ago

I was in Gamestop yesterday & what I witnessed was a WTF moment & actually quite sad….

I was the only customer in the store when a little kid who looked to be no older than 5 or 6 dragged his young mom by her arm into the store.
He then ran over to the 360 games & yelled to him mom that he wanted "this game".

Well "this game" was a used COD MW2, and after him mom saw that high price, she said, "I'm not getting you this cause it's too much money".

Well, the kid suddenly screaming over & over again "this game, this game" until she finally relented, took it up to the counter and was paying for it as I stepped up along side her.

I asked her if she knew it was rated M, & there was a lot of violence in it considered to be way too gory for any kids that young.

Her reply was…"yeah, but what am I supposed to do when (name deleted) keeps demanding at the top of his lungs that I get him this game".

My only reply back…. "Start showing some back-bone any become a real mother by NOT letting your kid control you for a change.

And with that said, I walked out before she could recover.

Some parents just aren't deserving of any right to have children.


Last edited by BikerSaint on 5/27/2011 1:18:03 AM

Lotusflow3r
Lotusflow3r
9 years ago

The bottom paragraph quote, has much truth to it and i really hope violence decreases in games in time.
No, i don't find it offensive or anything like that, i actually think it's just way too much (see Dead Island gameplay walkthrough video) that i think it's embarrassing and added to actually sell the product.

Mainly, i just want violent military shooters to tone down..,they know full well kids play that stuff, it's exactly as Kojima bravely said in MGS4 (Snake and EVA chat before motorcycle chase), it's as if they're programming kids to know who the "enemy" is and how it's dealt with.

Before i go rambling off on boarder line conspiracy theories, i'll nutshell my view on violence lol.

Needs to be lessened a lot because it's getting silly. You can still come across as violent/disturbing without using too much gore if you're clever, see the early Silent Hills. You will remember them as grotesque violent games….but were there overly violent scenes? Nope.

matt99
matt99
9 years ago

Sure they know kids are playing, but how is that the developer's problem/fault if they are making a game intended for adults?

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
9 years ago

I am an adult, and I question why things have gotten so violent, sexual and profanity filled on a regular basis.

I honestly believe developers are either pushing the envelope for the sake of doing just that or are forgetting that there is a thing called imagination.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

What I find perverse is that we as a society are far more tolerant of violence than we are of human sexuality. That's not to say I think we need more sexuality in games – well, not unless they are properly rated of course. But what I am saying is that is seems rather sad that we are far more accepting of violence. Personally, I am not more accepting of violence, but from what I see around me, I am an exception to the rule.

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

But Highlander, you forget that naked people are dirty whereas killing the "enemy" is what our end goal is.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

Indeed!

Yes, you are correct, a pair of shapely but nude boobs is a far more dangerous thing than repeatedly killing enemies with a head-shot for extra points… ūüėČ

Full frontal nudity could be terms a WMD – Weapon of Mass Depravity and clearly more dangerous than participating in turkey shoot against the virtualized Iraqi army.

…Oh, hang on, even I can't say all of that with a straight face… boobies FTW!

coverton341
coverton341
9 years ago

Boobies FTW indeed sir, and by god what horrid grammar I used in my previous post. "is what our end goal is"? Terrible and I feel ashamed now.

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

I don't think there is a problem with the level of violence, society is the one who created it anyway, not the developers.

Developers arent just making a more violent game just because they can, they are doing it because they feel it is what they must do to stay ahead of other games. Violence is becoming more socially acceptable. The majority of kids these days watch stuff like UFC, i think THAT has a much bigger affect on kids than a video game.

We cannot blame developers for societies mistakes.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

Dude, just as the Colosseum of Rome was an indicator of the depravity and decadence of Roman society, so our forms of entertainment are yardsticks to the state of our own society. If the ever increasing level of violence in games is simply a reflection of society, then we are doomed to a future of random and extreme violence.

Simcoe
Simcoe
9 years ago

I agree with Highlander, for some reason, violence or gore in game and specifically television is much more accepted than sexually suggestive themes (and nudity) and profane language. We all remember the big deal when Hot Coffee was found in GTA:SA, even though it's a game where the protagonist goes around shooting, running over and participates in organised crime.

I will say, given the track record, I'm surprised that the nudity in Heavy Rain and LA Noire haven't been made into more of a big deal.

The Doom
The Doom
9 years ago

Mundus: Again I find a study that seeks to prove that video games cause humans to be violent… Strange fate, isn't it?

Lotusflow3r
Lotusflow3r
9 years ago

Yup, never understood that logic either. You have to be originally tapped to act out a violent act. I believe games can influence, like ALL media, but never cause violence.

matt99
matt99
9 years ago

I wonder if they would be as desensitized to the violence if they were witnessing actual violence in person, because both photos and video games have a level of disconnect from not being there in person.

In any case I definitely agree that moderation is key, and that kids should not be playing violent video games…but that's a whole other can of worms.

maxpontiac
maxpontiac
9 years ago

I believe Vertigo put it best when he stated that it should all come down to the maturity of the child.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
9 years ago

Videogames do something different, they encourage ad reward violence in the game mechanic. You are not simply being exposed to pictures, but interacting with the event, and being rewarded for being violent, often you are rewarded more, for being more violent.

Plus, this study isn't about kids, it's about young adults. So we can't really start falling back on saying that it's the parent's job.


Last edited by TheHighlander on 5/26/2011 4:39:18 PM

Akuma_
Akuma_
9 years ago

Urrggghh…..

All young adults, were kids at some point. So vertigo's point still stands.