Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to Violence

February 15, 2011 -

According to researchers at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada), violent video games do not desensitize players to violent imagery. The study was led by Holly Bowen (a PhD candidate in psychology) and co-authored by psychology professor Julia Spaniol. Researchers examined 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."

The study involved 122 undergraduate students (male and female) who had some experience with video games in the last six months (45 participants) and those who had no prior video game "exposure" (77 students).

Male and female gamers claimed familiarity with Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy and NHL. Males also listed Call of Duty and Tekken among their top five favorite games, while female video game players preferred Mario Kart and Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

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 emotional stimuli.

"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.

"While we are working with young adults, there may be still differences among kids who play VVGs [violent video games]," said Spaniol.

Researchers are already working on a new study that looks at the brain activity of violent video game players while they view emotional images. They also plan to examine what impact chronic exposure to violent video games has on players outside of a lab setting.


Comments

Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

Nice. I'd definitely be interested to see the same experiment run on a much younger age group.

Shame it's another study that will conveniently never be cited by anti-videogame lobbyists though.

Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

I will have to read this when I'm not at work! I was taught by Julia Spaniol during my time there.

Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

Just read it.  Nice well done study.

In reading the article the authors seem unaware of the controversies in the field though, assuming video game research is consistent other than their study (apparently they only read Anderson's work and believed him at face value).  Nonetheless they are honest in reporting their null results.

It's in Applied Cognitive Psychology (a Wiley journal) for those who wish to find it, in the "articles in press" section. 

Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

Apparently, although violent games do not desensitize players to violence, games do seem to have the effect of desensitizing writers to correct spelling.

The study was LED, not "lead"!

Jeez! Since when was English Language knocked off the curriculum for aspiring writers?

Sorry, but this sort of half-assed commitment to the writer's craft really pisses me off. A spell check doesn't catch everything - a writer has to have a working knowledge of the language, or he/she is going to make silly errors like this that make him/her look incompetent.

Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

Yeah.  "The study was led" part is a good example of why a writer should give a once over after they write something.


Re: Study: Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players to ...

I'm glad that this study seems to be neutral on if there is connection with vg-violence and rl-violence, and results are still pleasant, unlike those that just sticks on their anti-videogame opinions.

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Why cant' the United Nations have an international law that protects artist's works from censorship and banning? Cause world is still filled with chickens.

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PHX Corphttp://www.ign.com/videos/2014/12/17/what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-tetris-ps4 I give up on ubisoft12/17/2014 - 6:01pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://comicbook.com/blog/2014/08/16/exclusive-original-unaltered-cut-of-star-wars-trilogy-to-be-rele/ Yeah, this'll never happen.12/17/2014 - 5:03pm
NeenekoThey have and exercise control over which games are allowed on their privately controlled 'open forum'. Their endorsement is fairly minimal since it is only 'we do not reject this', but it is still an endorsement of sorts.12/17/2014 - 3:58pm
NeenekoHistorically there have been issues with libraries allowing some groups but not others. Perhaps 'endorsement' is too strong a word, but their editorial control IS a preapproval process, even if the standards are pretty minimal.12/17/2014 - 3:56pm
E. Zachary KnightLet's put this a different way. My local library allows any group to reserve and use multipurpose rooms. That does not mean that the Library endorses all events that take place in those rooms.12/17/2014 - 12:54pm
E. Zachary KnightValve's editorial control comes from removing problem games and accepting games to Steam. They make no claim over any games otherwise.12/17/2014 - 12:52pm
E. Zachary KnightNeeneko, It is not at all a form of endorsement. Grenlight is an open forum for game developers to pitch their game to Valve/Steam and Steam users. Does Valve have some editorial control? Yes, but not to the point that they preapprove games.12/17/2014 - 12:51pm
Neeneko@EZK - I disagree. Greenlight is built off Valve's brand. While not an explicit endorsement, it is a form of it, otherwise Greenlight would have no value over other platforms.12/17/2014 - 12:05pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.latino-review.com/news/exclusive-viola-davis-bags-amanda-waller-role-in-suicide-squad Latino Review says Viola Davis will be Amanda Waller. History of Latino Review says "wait for a REAL news site to confirm".12/17/2014 - 10:48am
PHX Corphttp://www.polygon.com/2014/12/17/7407869/assassins-creed-unity-glitch-broken-problems-xbox-one-patch -Facepalm- Screwup means Assassin's Creed Unity's patch is the 40GB full game on Xbox One12/17/2014 - 10:17am
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E. Zachary KnightA Game being on Greenlight is not an endorsement of said game by Valve, Steam or anyone related to Valve or Steam. Greenlight is a combined sales pitch to Steam and its users.12/17/2014 - 9:51am
E. Zachary KnightThe Life cycle of a Greenlight game: A game gets made->Developer puts it on Greenlight->Gamers vote for it->Valve decides it is worthy of a Steam release->Game is sold on Steam. While the game is merely on greenlight, it is not available for sale on Steam12/17/2014 - 9:50am
InfophileGreenlight games may in the future be sold through Steam. A game there may be "greenlit" and then sold on Steam proper, or it may not, and never actually be sold on steam. That quote refers to them selecting some games from Greenlight which they will sell12/17/2014 - 9:39am
MechaTama31"Today we’ve Greenlit another batch of 50 titles to advance through Steam Greenlight, and be offered worldwide distribution via Steam." Am I missing something here? Because it sounds like Greenlight games are sold through Steam.12/17/2014 - 9:00am
MechaTama31From the Greenlight page: "Browse through the entries here and rate up the games you want to see made available via Steam"12/17/2014 - 8:59am
MechaTama31Greenlight games aren't sold through Steam? Then what exactly *is* Greenlight?12/17/2014 - 8:58am
prh99I just wish if they are going to curate (as selective and rare as that is) for content, they'd do little for quality (like does this game actually function at all). Personally, I avoid GreenLight and Early Access like the plague because of lax standards.12/17/2014 - 1:34am
prh99EZK: My point wasn't that they are responsible for people's purchase decisions, but that their policies and criteria for approval needs some work. As far as refunds go, you know it's bad when EA has a better policy. EA, former worst company in America.12/17/2014 - 1:21am
Andrew EisenAnd 'Hatred' is back on Steam Greenlight. No comment from Valve so far as I've seen.12/17/2014 - 12:14am
 

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