Video Games May Dull Shock at Violence
Avid Players of Violent Video Games Less Shocked by Violent Images
Dec. 8, 2005 -- Got a video game on your holiday shopping list? New research
shows a possible side effect of overloading on violent video games.
The report recently appeared online in the Journal of Experimental
Social Psychology. The study links violent video games to two things:
aggressive behavior and less sensitivity to violent images.
"These findings, along with other recent research, suggest that chronic
exposure to violent video games specifically -- and not just frequent playing
of any video games -- has lasting deleterious effects on brain function and
behavior," write the researchers.
They included Bruce Bartholow, PhD, assistant professor in the University of
Missouri-Columbia's psychological sciences department.
Less Shock Value
"Hundreds of studies have shown that exposure to media violence
increases aggression," write Bartholow and colleagues.
"Media violence is believed to increase aggression, at least in part, by
desensitizing viewers to the effects of real violence," they continue.
Bartholow's team focused on violence in video games. They studied 39 healthy
male undergraduates who were about 19 years old.
The men reported how often they played video games and rated the violence of
those games. Next, they took tests of their aggressiveness and sensitivity to
Grossed Out or Not?
First, the men were shown a series of images while they wore caps studded
with sensors to monitor their brain waves. Researchers were particularly
focused on a brain wave that has been linked to negative and violent
Some images were violent. For instance, one showed a man on a subway holding
a gun to another man's head. Others were neutral, including a picture of a man
on a bicycle. A third set were disturbing but not violent, such as an image of
a dead dog.
The study showed less of the brain wave response in men who frequently
played violent video games when the violent images were shown.
Those men responded similarly to others when neutral and negative but
nonviolent images were shown.
Punishing the Competition
Next, the men were told they were competing against other participants in a
computer test. The winners were told they could send a blaring sound into their
opponents' head sets.
It was a setup, but the players didn't know it. The games were rigged. They
were designed to test each player's aggressiveness.
Fans of violent video games showed more aggression against their
More Work Ahead
The study was the first of its kind, and it only included young male college
students. There's more work to be done on the topic, the researchers note.
All tests were done in a lab. The study doesn't show if participants behaved
aggressively in their normal lives.
In August, the American Psychological Association called for less violence
in video and computer games sold to kids. However, experts noted that not all
studies have tied violence to such games.