Study: Violent Games Make Players “Comfortably Numb” to Suffering of Others

Call it the "Pink Floyd Effect."

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.

Both Bushman and Anderson have previously published research with negative findings about violent games. 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 percent longer to help than either people going into the theater or people who had just watched a nonviolent movie.

Prof. Bushman (left) 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.

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  1. chadachada321 says:

    I don’t see how that "fight" could be anything higher than a 3….

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  2. chadachada321 says:

    The violent ones were probably taking longer to assess the situation…

    That’s my take. After playing something thought-provoking/strategic (like a first-person shooter), I’d probably need to make sure the surrounding area is safe before rushing in to help someone..

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  3. janarius says:

    "Didn’t bother to see how these people would react to the same situations before the "fight".  Therefore we don’t actually have data to properly compare the before and after effects of how they would react."

    Can you clarify on this?

    I hoped you didn’t miss that, but it’s a WOMAN with a sprained ankle. Would you help her? I know men would be callous in helping another man with a sprained ankle, but they’d react differently towards a woman right?

    Yes, they did took crowd effect into account and mentioned that in their paper.

    It is interesting to see how important factors like neighborhood violence might have a stronger effect. However, the researchers are trying to tell that this effect applies in a generalizable way: It happens to everyone.

    I’m not sure if you are confusing the two experiments in the study. There wasn’t an emergency for the young lady with the crutches, she just accidently dropped her crutches and she’s trying to pick them up despite her "apparent" injuries. An innoucuous accident with someone who’s having trouble picking up her crutches.

    The tests subjects in both experiments don’t know it was staged, if they know that, then the data would be useless. Even the researchers know that too.


  4. Father Time says:

    "I call foul how does this prof know that those same individuals that took more time to help after coming out of a violent game/movie would have helped any quicker when coming out of a non violent game/movie."

    That’s precisely why studies like these need large sample sizes. Large groups of people lower the odds of individual variants effecting the results.

    His study had 320 people for the games and 126 people for the movies.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  5. Father Time says:

    Err nightwing if you could point to the parts of the research paper where they even attempted to answer that long list of questions I can appreciate it.


    "How would that have reacted to these events BEFORE having watched/played/been exposed to ANY form of violent media?"

    That is an interesting question that would indeed be relevant. Perhaps they should repeat the experiment with people who weren’t watching or playing anything just for curiousity’s sake.

    Although I don’t see how this goes below junk science.

    With all due respect nightwing I think you overreact sometimes.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  6. janarius says:

    They did took that into account, actually their study is based on mob mentality and they just add another factor to see whether violent media (i.e. watching violent or playing violent video games) makes helping much less likely or slowly. So no I wouldn’t call that foul.


  7. Monte says:

    "Nor did they compare it to non-media forms of violence to see if it’s media itself or just violence."

    Actually, the first thing that came to mind when i read that line was considering sports… people just coming out from watching a boxing match or people just leaving a football game or something.

  8. Inimical says:

    All of their statistics were done right, but if my understanding from stats courses is correct, p < .04 and p < .03 is debateable with a test like this. The cut-off is 5% (.05) and it’s desirable to have one that is < .01

    As far as I know, studies with "clear findings" usually have p > .0001 and have been replicated with that statistics numerous times. If you take a look at anything that is considered a big finding in psychology research, it is usually much lower than 3%.

    However, there is no denying that effects were there, it just needs to be replicated and I think, personally, it needs to be done with a probability of less than 3%.

  9. zel says:

    I like your breakdown. This is an excellent example of how you can spin the exact same data to make it sound negative when a more unbiased view can show it really is rather mixed and doesn’t really confirm much of anything. I’m sure it just sounds so much better if he discovered some kind of link. Too much politics in science, i don’t trust politicians and much less political scientists.


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  10. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Maybe they were expected to try to claw at the screen to get to the other side and break the fight up? That’s what I would do… 🙂

  11. Nekowolf says:

    Those damn bastards, with their subjectively hilarious outakes! They must be stopped from airing!

    QUICK! To the Jackal, I mean, Jackophone!

  12. hellfire7885 says:

    ….. when I feel the littlest bit of pride in my state, which is an economic toilet, this happens.



  13. SimonBob says:

    It’s funny, because I think we’re getting confirmation bias on our confirmation bias here — every time a study says games cause violence (or some derivative thereof) we jump up to attack it.  What a coincidence, eh?

    The Mammon Industry

  14. Nekowolf says:

    Not only is this a load of shit, but U-of-M sucks, too 😛 MSU all the way! *only saying that cause my sis goes to MSU*

  15. shamrock says:

    I LOL at this type of study. I mean, couldn’t it just be the result of personality types and not the violent video games? I think stuff like this is for chuckles. The debates will rage on. Nobody will or can prove anything. We are all different right? We’re human. Depending on your bias, you will find the findings of your choice out there. *goes back to playing fps games for 10 hours*

    I’m new!
    My sites Dora Coloring & Buy Tel Domain & Dot Tel Domain

  16. Andrew Eisen says:

    Of course not.

    I’m telling you it was less than two seconds.

    People who had just seen a violent movie averaged 6.89 seconds to help.  People who hadn’t seen a movie yet or saw a nonviolent film averaged 5.46 seconds.


    Andrew Eisen

  17. LAG - Law Abiding Gamer says:

    Do those results even fall outside the margin of error for these types of studies, given the sample size?  I’m just asking…I have no idea what they should be.

    ***Homicide-free video gaming since 1972!***

  18. Andrew Eisen says:

    Interesting facts about this study (more details in my earlier post):

    -None of the games used appear to be from the last decade.  They range from ’91 to ’98.

    -The staged fight was prerecorded and played back.  A thrown chair and kicked door were the only "real" elements.

    -Regardless of the type of game, only a quarter of the participants actually helped the "victim."

    -Regardless of the type of game, the overwhelming majority heard the fight (only about 10 or 12 of the total 320 didn’t).

    Neither group interpreted the fight as very severe.  On a scale of 1 to 10 it was ranked 5.91 by those who played a violent game and 6.44 by those who didn’t.

    The time difference between violent and nonviolent movie goers to help the lady outside was less than two seconds.


    Andrew Eisen

  19. mogbert says:

    Wait, you are telling me the "26% longer" was a difference of TWO SECONDS!!!


    Basically, he took a non-conclusive result and phrased the results in such a way to make them seem conclusive. Somehow, I doubt "People who play a violent game may be 4% less likely to help someone" doesn’t move forward his personal agenda. 

    Come on people, this guy is asking to be debunked.

  20. elal says:

    Why would I get up from playing Halo to help somebody with a sprained ankle? It’s just an ankle. They could atleast fake a serious injury. Also, how close was the fight to the players? Out in the hall, or in the same room? Did the subjects know it was fake? Was this in a group? That’s another pesky variable, and to get results, you must remove all unecessary variables.

    Maybe they were not able to pause right away. If I’m in the middle of a battle or cutscene and the guy just has a sprained ankle, he can wait a few second for me to ask if he wants help. Who wants to get up from a really interesting game or movie? I’m sure all of us have hesitated when interrupted, especially if it’s for a non-emergency.

  21. nighstalker160 says:

    I I I I I I have become…comfortably numb

    GREAT song by the way.

    But come on, seriously? What were the control factors? How were subjects selected? What other variables might have come into play? Were these controlled for?

    This study wreaks of bad science.

  22. Paulrus says:

    Maybe video games have something to do with my apathy towards violence. Maybe. But there are other factors too. They’re just focusing on the popular media again.

    I wish I could make a better comment than that, but this is just more obvious news. Only difference is the Pink Floyd reference.

    Every week it’s more of the same. A politician gets pissed, Jack does something silly, and a scientist proves or disproves Halo’s effect on the criminally insane. These stories don’t bring a lot of intreast and input from me as much as the RapeLay story did.

    I’m an attention whore. So visit my DevaintArt and feed my ego. Feed the whore.

  23. Monte says:

     Wow, Bushman makes it sounds like the violent media watches were standing around watchign for a considerable amount of time… but a difference of less than 2 seconds? and this is somehow evidence of a problem? That guy really is just trying to fish fro results; it’s no wonder these studies never hold up in court

    Not to mention, they need to higher a scriptwriter… Seriously, that dialouge seems so obviously fake and unnatural it makes my brain hurt. 

  24. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    Sounds like another batch of data along the lines of "2 miliseconds longer of an airhorn". And about as convincing.

    How can you call people’s reaction to a RERECORDED fight legitimate data for your study? Seeing it on a screen immediately removes you the situation, yet did they try and control for this?

  25. BearDogg-X says:

    Yet another pathetic B.S. junk science "study" from a pair of agenda-seekers.

    Bushman and Anderson should have their degrees revoked.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  26. Doom90885 says:

    I swear to god the more degrees and credentials these "experts" people have, the less common sense they have. First off there are way too many variables that play as potential factors of the outcome and it would be impossible to come up with a clear conclusion with that many factors present. It looks like the guy did one test, got the results he seeked and case closed. To get the most accurate results any idiot knows you have to repeat the experiment time after time so that there is no doubt that the results are indeed accurate. I would get into all the potential factors that influence the conclusion but I’d probably spend a week here writing them down so……

  27. Kincyr says:

    I guess it just turns out that those who watch violent media can tell acting from reality

    岩「…Where do masochists go when they die?」

  28. Alex says:

    This was my first thought as well. They’re taking a short-term aftereffect and using it to, at the very least, strongly imply that there are lasting effects.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  29. nightwng2000 says:

    I tried Googling for articles, especially "studies", about the general public getting involved with criminal or violent acts.

    A quick scan didn’t show any immediate "studies", but I pulled a few articles.  And further research along these lines will show more logical reasoning why those individuals didn’t get involved.


    (This last one, there’s no space between woman and _is_being.  I had to break it to fit properly.)

    Usually, what you’ll find with such articles has the bias "hubby hitting wife".  But there are a couple of clear references to what has happened to some individuals who DID get involved to their dismay.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  30. Geoff says:

    It’s hard to get grant money if you don’t present research that has some kind of "result".


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  31. wrench says:

    A few summers ago at a pool side BBQ. One of my nieces friends went under and didn’t come back up. Out of a crowd of 20 people. When the kids started yelling. Only 2 people jumped in.

    Does that mean the other 18 people didn’t care the the girl was drowning?


    No, it just means the time it took them to process what happened and how to react took longer in those 18 than the 2 that dove in. The girl was find scared everyone to death but she was fine. 2 cell phones perished in the incident though. Same with this study. How long it takes for anyone to react depends on too many variables not JUST what they were doing.

  32. Geoff says:

    Hmmmm, what I took from the study:

    -Didn’t bother to see how these people would react to the same situations before the "fight".  Therefore we don’t actually have data to properly compare the before and after effects of how they would react.

    -If you think a sprained ankle is serious, you’re a pussy.  Yeah they hurt, it sucks, but people get them all the time and it isn’t like it’s even remotely life threatening.  Put some ice on it, maybe wrap it up a bit.  If it swells up, go see a doctor.  But it’s not a damn gunshot wound.  What did they expect from the participants, to hold their hand and tell them it’s going to be ok until the EMTs showed up?  Maybe those that played violent video games aren’t be less helpful, maybe those that played nonviolent games are a bunch of overreacting idiots.

    -They also did not seem to take into effect mob mentality

    -Nor did they compare it to non-media forms of violence to see if it’s media itself or just violence.  What about a person from an abusive home?  Or bad neighborhood?  What about the damn military?  Case in point: I was hanging out with two friends, one from McWhitetown Suburbs and one that grew up in the projects of the Bronx.  A gunshot goes off in the distance.  My friend from the ‘Burbs goes "Holy shit, what was that?!"  Friend from the Bronx goes "Oh, that’s a shotgun." in the most casual voice.  As these are college students it’s hard to make such a generalization since they’ve had a good 18+ years of absorbing so many other factors. 

    -Does not say what the "emergency" is outside the theatre.  They do realize that, depending on the emergency, some people won’t help either because it isn’t that serious (like a sprained ankle) or that by getting involved might actually make the situation worse, especially if you’re crowding around and getting in the way of officials who need to be there like cops, EMTs, firefighters, etc.  If there’s a bad car accident in front of your and a person appears unconscious in the car you do NOT move them unless their life appears to be immediently threatened like the car’s on fire.  You call the paramedics and wait for the, excuse the caps, TRAINED FUCKEN PROFESSIONALS do their job.  For all you know the guy in the car may be injured in such a way that, if you move him incorrectly, the injury could become worse.  Likewise in our sue-happy society you could be sued for helping a person in such a situation if it can be proven that your intervention either lead to an injury or the aggrevation of an injury.

    -Did the test subjects know that these events were staged?  I’m assuming they weren’t, but having pre-existing knowledge that the events are fake can affect the outcome a bit.

    -A sprained ankle?  Really? 

    Man, it must be getting hard to get grant money these days. 


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  33. jccalhoun says:

    Every time I read these psychological papers I realize that I’m in the wrong field.  If this is the kind of article that can get published I’m wasting my time actually trying to come up with an argument and a conclusion.  Apparently all it takes to get published as a psychologist is to say, "I did an experiment.  Here’s what happened. The end."  No real discussion of why the result happened or alternative explanations.  No discussion of the faults of the study. They didn’t even bother to ask the people why they did what they did. 

    Now, I have no idea of how well respected this journal is or how representative this article is of the kind of articles that appear in the journal so I may be way off base but this does little to inspire me to see out other articles published in this journal.


  34. Cell says:

    Study: America’s Home Videos Makes People Laugh at Other’s Pain and Suffering:

    Researchers at the University of Senseless Research have released a report that claims the people who watch America’s Home Videos have a higher chance to laugh at other’s pain and suffering. “We played a clip from a recent showing of the program where a child sled down a hill and bowled over his father. The subjects then proceeded to laugh. We then did a field trial where an actual child slid down a hill and ran into a parent. We found quite remarkable results. Instead of laughing the onlookers checked to make sure the parent was ok. One subject even had a cell phone ready to call for an ambulance. Clearly these results show that America’s Home Video watchers are callous bastards who wouldn’t lift a finger to save their mother from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal,” explained head researcher Professor Peter Piper.

    The release of this study has led to the increase of demands that Congress do something to save the children.

  35. M. Carusi says:

    Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olsen have already pointed out several inaccuracies with this guy’s previous research, so it’s hard to take this study at face value.  The only way we could take a study like this seriously is that if the exact same situation was recreated outside of a study.  Even then, is there some time limit for how long it will take for the alleged "effects" of violent games to wear off so that people will immediately help others who seem to be in distress?  

    M. Carusi

    Capitol Gaming

  36. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    You would have to wonder, seeing that it is based on 320 accounts, how realistic was the "accident" by the end of the study? I’m not an actor, but I can imagine the people involved in this getting tired of repeating their little act over and over and over.

    Also, is there any pre-study control done on the participants? Some more information on the "accident" would also be helpful. Was it a big strapping healthy looking man who sprained his ankle? Or a vulnerable and weak looking guy? Was it a woman? Who was the other person involved?

    To be honest, unless the guy was rolling on the floor screaming, I wouldn’t do much to help. It’s a sprained ankle for goodness sake! I see a guy sitting on the floor holding his ankle going "Owwww!", I would imagine, "That must be sore, he’ll be alright in a while though". I might ask if he was ok, but unless he asked me for help to stand I wouldn’t offer it. Not being medically trained I could end up doing more harm to a person who seems injured by moving them.

    Maybe the correct findings that should be drawn from this study is that people who play violent games are able to discern better when a person needs help or not. It’s obvious that not playing violent games makes people "Hyper-sensitive and empathic" to other people’s pain no matter how minor and compels them to act!

  37. jccalhoun says:

    Craig Anderson is the boy how cried wolf of "aggression." He has never done a study on any form of violence that didn’t end up finding that the medium caused "aggression." I’m sure that if he studied sleep he would find that caused "aggression" too.


  38. vellocet says:

    I’m interested in what would happen if you got someone to watch a non-violent movie that has antisocial content… something like… Swimming with Sharks or Boiler Room.

    Or how about playing a non-violent game in an anti-social way such as The Sims and consistently make your sim piss his pants.

    Or playing a violent game socially, like counter-strike and constantly helping your teammates.


  39. Andrew Eisen says:

    Interesting but I’m noticing several potentially serious problems with the study.  However, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and wait ’til I read it.

    EDIT: Found it.

    Games used (Couldn’t they use a game made in the last decade?):

    Violent – Carmageddon (’97), Duke Nukem (’91), Mortal Kombat (’92), Future Cop (’98)

    Nonviolent – Glider Pro (’91), 3D Pinball (’96), Austin Powers (cancelled far as I know.  Maybe they used one of the AP Pinball games?), Tetra Madness (never heard of it)

    Script for the staged fight (prerecorded):

    First actor: You stole her from me. I’m right, and you know it, you
    Second actor: Loser? If I’m a loser, why am I dating your ex-girlfriend?

    First actor: Okay, that’s it, I don’t have to put up with this shit any

    When the recording reached this point, the experimenter
    threw a chair onto the floor, making a loud crash, and kicked the
    door to the participant’s room twice.

    Second actor: [groans in pain]
    First actor: Ohhhh, did I hurt you?
    Second actor: It’s my ankle, you bastard. It’s twisted or something.
    First actor: Isn’t that just too bad?
    Second actor: I can’t even stand up!
    First actor: Don’t look to me for pity.
    Second actor: You could at least help me get off the floor.
    First actor: You’ve gotta be kidding me. Help you? I’m outta here.
    [slams the door and leaves]

    The whole fight was a recording.  The only thing live was the crash and two kicks to the door.  Who do they think they’re kidding?  Maybe the delivery was tops but that’s some crap dialog.  (To be fair, after finding that only 50% thought the fight was real, they worked on improving it until 100% were convinced.)

    Okay this is interesting:

    -Helping rates between violent and nonviolent video game players, 21% and 25%, respectively

    -Heard the fight: 94% and 99%, respectively

    -Fight severity on a scale of 1 to 10: 5.91 and 6.44, respectively

    Oh, and the difference between the amount of time it took to help the lady outside the movie?  Less than two seconds.


    Andrew Eisen

  40. Cerabret100 says:

    That’s actually a very documented effect, i can’t recall an official name, but i’ve been warned against it when discussing hypothesis creation and such in my Bio Labs.

  41. JohnMidnight says:

    Um… I think of it this way.

    If I can’t do a damn thing about that persons suffering. Why bother? I have a life and bills to pay man!


    Having now read the article. Yea I would of bothered a damn slight quicker than 16 seconds thank you for that poor sap. ANd I’ve played "violent" games since I was "gasp" 5, thank you very much.

    Then again, having sprained my own ankle, I might of been cynicl in helping him like saying, "Suck it up you big baby"

     Regarding reporting a Fight, jesus christ, did he research these idiots after high school?! NO ONE REPORTS FIGHTS IN HIGH SCHOOL! Think they’d START when they finished?!?!
    I never reported a fight, ever, found a number of them. Why you don’t report a fight? Isn’t it obvious? YOu want to be next? I’m sorry, I’d like to avoid that.

  42. Zerodash says:

    Wouldn’t the fact that game characters are FAKE have anything to do with this?  I really don’t give a rat’s ass about how Pac Man or Master Chief feels when they die.  I don’t care because they aren’t real.

  43. Adrian Lopez says:

    These two are always finding negative effects in video games. It seems to me that if you look hard enough for a particular effect, you’ll manage to come up with an experiment that appears to find it.

  44. CMiner says:

    Serious BS.

    "These studies clearly show that violent media exposure can reduce helping behavior."

    No, no they don’t.  Put a person in a situation where they experience anything; Noise, smells, flashing lights, a clock buzzing every 7 seconds, anything, and they will become used to it for a limited amount of time.  It does not mean they are desensetized, it just means that for that limited amount of time afterward, the person doesn’t see the (noise|sight|smell|etc) as a change in their environment, and it is those changes that we most readily pick up on.

    Seriously, were did these people study scientific process?

    "People exposed to media violence are less helpful to others in need because they are ‘comfortably numb’ to the pain and suffering of others"

    A huge leap to a conclusion, completely unjustified, tainted by flawed methodology.

  45. sirdarkat says:

    I call foul how does this prof know that those same individuals that took more time to help after coming out of a violent game/movie would have helped any quicker when coming out of a non violent game/movie.  On top of that did he take into account mob mentaility … if one in the group reacts more react if no one reacts then the rest are less likely to inniate the reaction.

    I just love people that try to sum up something all on one item when the number of factors are so great that not one single one could be singled out as the cause.


    So once again I call foul.

  46. nightwng2000 says:

    How do the subjects react to watching a real violent act on TV news?

    In still pictures in a newspaper? 

    In still pictures of a magazine describing the event from a week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and longer ago? 

    To written reports with no pictures? 

    To violent acts within their own families? 

    To violent acts to friends?

    To violent acts to strangers in their own community, city, state?

    To violent acts to strangers across the country or around the world?

    I can break it down by thousands of differing personalitites, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, ways the exposure occurs, and so forth. 

    How would that have reacted to these events BEFOER having watched/played/been exposed to ANY form of violent media?

    This "study" doesn’t even reach the level of junk science.

    Someone’s license and/or degree needs revoking for such incompetancy.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  47. ProfPew says:

    I agree, and with Anderson’s reputation for horrible methodology, his media effects type of studies and his bias towards violent digital media… it makes me just go "Oh, him again."

    Then again, it’s good that guys like him leave so much to criticize. It provides other media researchers with the incentive to improve on it and to stay on guard for possible biases even more.

  48. doubleohpsycho says:

    Aside from the methodological questions asked above:

    What I want to know, and what all of you should want to know (and I won’t know for a while because my school’s library is notoriously slow) is the effect size, or r. How much of A can account for B? 

    All of Anderson’s and Bushmans (and other researchers) studies have, at best, effect sizes of .12 to .19. Which is considered a small effect. This is based on several meta-analyses.

    Second, you’d also want to know the confidence interval. Because the p-value which makes it significant, really means nothing. It just says the data is unlikely to be due to chance.

    Anderson’s studies usually have notoriously low effect sizes, and they are usually inflated when they use pen and paper survey methods.

    Just some food for thought for everyone that might decide to read this study.

  49. strathmeyer says:

    "People who watch violent movies slower to react to fake fight. Also, after playing a video game people are less likely to over-react other people having a confrontation" not as good a premise for a scientific paper?

  50. Anthrax says:

    I’m not even a Pink Floyd fan, and I just have to say: Don’t use that awesome song for a cause so stupid!

  51. ChrowX says:

    I can understand videogames being a factor in amount of time to react, but there are multiple reasons why a person may not react to a person in crisis or in a simple scuffle.

    Consider that in large groups of people watching something bad happen very few ever react or do something to stop it. Mob mentality almost always says "Someone else will do it, I don’t have to waste my time trying to stop the fight."

    Also consider the context of the situation. What if the person who just got hurt was the jerk who started the fight? Who is going to help them or report anything? Consider the lab situation where the person probably has a professor or similar authority figure around which the subject considers in charge of the situation. It’s not their job as students to deal with and report fights, so why should they immediately jump into action?

    The big problem here is that this has nothing to do with videogames. This is like some poor misguided experiemnt testing a person’s initiative versus their trust in a nearby authority figure.

  52. Mattie says:

    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.

    The same can be said about people who’ve been in abusive homes growing up, or in the army.

  53. David says:

    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.

    What about the charities that have been set up and sponsored by gamers?  I mean, Get Well Gamers and Child’s Play, do they mean nothing?

  54. Meohfumado says:

    I’m not questioning the methodology of the study, or its conclusions.


    My only question is: Who cares?

    Society doesn’t have to be "helpful."  In fact, in this day and age, being "helpful" is more likely to get you messed up, than keeping to yourself.

    In many neighborhoods, you don’t help the person who got beat in a fight.  You know why?  Because that guy/girl isn’t a "victim," they were a willing participant.  In addition, you have no way of knowing if they are bitter about getting beat and are instead going to get a gun or a knife with which to exact their vengeance.

    Just call the cops and be done with it.


    "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

  55. Lurker1 says:

    It’s difficult to evaluate the merits of a press release, because we have neither the study nor the magazine article. But a few items stand out.

    The videogamers were given a task to do during the staged injury – fill out a form.

    The movie watchers also had a task to do – ostensibly they were leaving and trying to get to their cars, etc.

    Did the control group have a comparable task with which they were occupied? If not, then what has been shown is that people who have something to do are less likely to help others than someone whose time is not occupied. This is not a surprising finding.

    I would also like to know the sizes of the groups. It says 320 gamers and 162 moviegoers. It does not say if the test members were tested one at a time, in small groups, or in in large ones. It also does not say the size of the control groups.

    How do you adjust for the conditions on a public street outside a theatre? If a police car or ambulance was driving by, I expect fewer people would feel their help was necessary. How was this controlled? What about the behaviors and reactions of people on that street who were not part of the study? If one of the non-participants goes to the "victim’s" aid, then that diminishes other people’s sense of responsibility.

    Then there is the question of screening. Were the gamers already gamers? Were the moviegoers regular moviegoers? What about the control groups?

    Videogames and movies have loud, fast, and suspenseful images. Were the contol group members exposed to something loud, fast and suspenseful that was non-violent, to adjust for this as a variable?

    I’m also not sure that the sweeping conclusion corresponds to the data. If the test subjects were numbed, why did they help at all, as it appears many of them did, albeit a few seconds slower?

    How about this – apparantly the injury was sustained in a fight. Where was the attacker? Was he still there and a possible threat to others? Perhaps people watching violent media are less likely to want to put themselves in a situation where they may get attacked, having just been exposed to images of people being greviously harmed.

    I’m not seing alternative interpretations eliminated.

  56. Chuma says:

    Were they in the middle of a Halo 3 game online?  Because, you know, a sprained ankle can wait, but some games cannot be paused :>

  57. Nocturne says:

    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.

    I conclude that those who play violent games take longer to react or report it as they must first determine if what they heard was the start of the inevitable zombie apocalypse or if the victam was attacked by a necromorph. Better safe than sorry.

  58. Michael Chandra says:

    Sorry but it’s a double-blind experiment, with a reasonable large sample size. That actually IS scientific. A 300% increase with an even split of 160/160 is far more than mere standard deviation, especially if the groups were split at random it should be statistically nearly completely impossible to end up with such a bad split.

    If with such a large testcase you’re claiming it fails at the scientific process, you can toss out quite a lot of medicine tests that prove an actual effect, because hey, apparently if it isn’t a few thousand test-subjects it’s not good enough.


    Edit: Where it fails at, by the way, is how it says a short-term effect translates to a long-term effect (most likely after repeated exposure). It might be that after clearing your head or doing something else the effect always dissipates and doesn’t stay with you permanently, even if you play violent games all the time.

  59. Michael Chandra says:

    Hm… Only if they actually get to do something else that would help them get their mind off things, not just doing things (like tests) related to the game/movie itself. (Do you feel more violent, blah, bluh, bloo.)

  60. Andrew Eisen says:

    Hell, I would settle for seeing what the data looks like an hour after playing video games.


    Andrew Eisen

  61. Michael Chandra says:

    Back to what I commented in first post, what are the long-term effects? What he should have done is taken a second group, make them do games/videos as well, then a day or two after call them back for a questionary or a reaction test "to see how it influences your senses in the long term". Then AFTER the test, have the ‘scuffle’ take place.

  62. MrKrnkle says:

    Wouldn’t a proper scientific study require the get a baseline for how long it each person would take to respond without having played a violent game? How can this "clearly show" it takes people longer if they had been playing violent games. Maybe these people, on average, would have taken that long to begin with. We don’t know because he fails at the scientific process.

  63. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Dosen’t age,time and I dunno life make you more comfertable with life IE suffering…?


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  64. EvilTikiMan says:

    Now that I am past my kneejerk reaction to this and its implications on videogames allow me to say that this study was pointless and quite frankly a waste of time. What they said has already been said AND printed in Psychology textbooks, only phrased differently. People who have been exposed to a consistant amount of a particular mood, idea, or whatever are likely to retain the train of thought pertaining to whatever it was for some time after. As a result your perceptions, mood, etc. are tinted to run with the material. If you watched a violent gorefest like Saw(and liked it) then you are likely to be in a more violent mood. If you just saw a martial arts movie, you are more apt to be in a combative type of mood. If you just saw a heart felt, soul jaring, tear-jerker, then you are more likely to be more emotional. This goes for, not only all forms of media, but life as a whole really. This is Psych 101 material and they are going on as if it is something new.


    Responsibility: Its time that the next generation takes up the reigns of power in our government, before the old fools who hold them steer this country of ours closer to capsizing. We must act before its to late to repair the damage.

  65. sapjes says:

    "just a fist fight"

    You can easily kill somebody with one hit of the knuckle you know ^_^

    And yes, I think I’m chronically and comfortably numb 24/7 too.

  66. olstar18 says:

    Wow they were slow to pick someone up after a fight. Amazing but one question. WHO THE HELL CARES! When I see a fight if the loser is injured I stay back a bit and make sure the fight is over before I step in and as for reporting it if it was just a fist fight and no one is injured more seriously than bruises a sprain or a bloody nose i see it as just another minor fight and do not see any reason it should be reported.

  67. Andrew Eisen says:

    "The script may seem crappy, but they did make the effort to make script believable and tested out before doing the experiment."

    Yeah, I saw that and noted it in another post.


    Andrew Eisen

  68. janarius says:

    The script may seem crappy, but they did make the effort to make script believable and tested out before doing the experiment. (see last paragraph in the study 1’s procedure section).

    It was pre-recorded because they wanted to have a standardized event so that all participants would experience the same thing (interpretation on the part of the participant is another thing, but it’s a good thing as it helps determine whether violent media content has an influence in the participant).

  69. Andrew Eisen says:

    "…how did they choose who played which game."

    Random draw.

    "I would also have to question the acting ability…"

    Especially with the crap script.  The study only says the actors were "experienced."

    "and whether the actors knew which game was just played…"

    The dialog was prerecorded.  Participants were listening to that recording.  The experimenter, standing outside the room, threw a chair and kicked the door twice.


    Andrew Eisen

  70. Father Time says:

    Except it was pre-recorded.

    Are you guys just thinking of possible flaws and then assuming because of the bad result it must’ve had one of those flaws?


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  71. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Nice. That’s probably how it went.

    Staged fights or fake fights.

    Better choice: No fights.


  72. Andrew Eisen says:

    "Isn’t Craig Anderson also the same guy who wrote the book "Stop teaching our kids to kill?""

    No.  That was Dave Grossman.


    Andrew Eisen

  73. TBoneTony says:

    Isn’t Craig Anderson also the same guy who wrote the book “Stop teaching our kids to kill?”

    Also he has done this over and over again, using Psychology research that has in no way ever proved that Violent Videogames ever caused harm.

    He has also done flawed research after flawed research that has now way shown a strong positive correlation.

    Also even if players of non-violent games took a minute to report the crime, it can be just like for everyone when we are all in shock and disbelief that something like that has happened in real life.

    Giving shocks to real people, or noise blasts to people just to prove that violent videogames causes low levels of agression but are higher than those who don’t play violent videogames are not really saying anything

    So in conclusion, Craig Anderson is not really a true psychologist because he does not really understand how to read what the data said and he only reads it in his own opinion.

    He should be saked because real psychologists don’t come to those conclusions so easily.

  74. chadachada321 says:

    Yeah, a sprained ankle and a simple fist fight is hardly something to report or make a big deal of.

    Should’ve used something closer to "bleeding to death"-type stuff.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  75. Joran says:

    It’s called the bystander effect, also diffusion of responsibility.  Kitty Genovese is the famous case where a woman was assaulted and murdered, screaming for help, while over 20 people heard her and did nothing.

    It’s fascinating stuff.

  76. Zero Beat says:

    You mean the effect where it’s best to have two or three people around as opposed to one person or a large crowd, because one person would be scared of what might happen to them and the large group would think "someone else will call for help"?


    Myself, I take a recon first, ass-kicking second approach.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  77. barra_sadei says:

    There’s another thing behind the second experiment: crowds. In fact, there’s a name for the phenomemon when a group of people witness something as it happens, but don’t do anything about it. I can’t remember the name, but I remember it because I finally got around to reading Watchmen recently, which brought up the same event as my psychology teacher…

    Then again, why not ask people for their moral codes? Some people just don’t get involved… And a sprained ankle? Please. If you want to see if someone will help, do something a bit more serious…

  78. Andrew Eisen says:

    The ’07 study doesn’t cite a previous study using those games.

    And just to be clear, I’m not criticizing the use of old games (although I would if they were using something like Outlaw for the Atari 2600).  I’ve just always wondered why these studies invariably use such old titles.


    Andrew Eisen


  79. janarius says:

    …and that study in ’07 used those games because of another previous study that used those same games and so on. Eventually going back to studies where they first used those games. In any case, they’ve still got significant effects from those old games, are we expecting no effects just because the violence we see in those games seem innocuous in comparison to modern games? But most people would not call them non-violent. So I’m inferring there’s something (e.g. violent acts) that transcends time and medium that affects our behaviours.

  80. Wolvenmoon says:

    Did this measure the effects on people who had undergone similar physiological stresses? Violent video games have been shown to be stimulating, increasing heartbeat and making a person produce adrenaline. What could be seen here could be a case of simple exhaustion.

    An interesting test, I’d like to see it done with a heart rate monitor attached to the participants. Unfortunately I don’t think adrenaline can easily be measured.

  81. KayleL says:

    I saw it on some video we watched at school, so I can’t cite it, but the research said that if you have a person alone in a room, then hear someone crying for help in the hall, the person in the room would help them. However, if there were a couple of people in the room, then the women in the hall cries for help, none of them would do anything at all. Does that mean you are more numb to violence around other people?

  82. gamadaya says:

    I’m guessing it’s kind of hard to do a before and after with an experiment like this.


    Internet troll > internet paladin

  83. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    I’m sorry, but a sprained ankle? Really? I’m supposed to rush to help someone with a sprained ankle?

    Also, where are the pre-game session results? Was there an actual change observed?

  84. Sporge says:

    True this does only show the short term effects, I would also like more details on the study such as how did they choose who played which game. 

    I would also have to question the acting ability… and whether the actors knew which game was just played…

  85. Vordus says:

    Needs some research into the amount of time this effect is for, really, to determine whether this is some sort of mental conditioning or merely a side effect of adrenaline rushes.

  86. finaleve says:

    In real life, it’s kind of hard to just jump into the fray.  There is a lot at stake in a fight, between getting just a scratch to death.  Anything could actually happen and thats where most people tend to just walk away.  I can see something where if there were a group of friends that decide to get involved to stop 2 people, but just 1 person stopping the fight is a bit hard.  The people who do not jump into the fight to stop it might understand the dangers of getting involved and back away.  Sure, the people who try to stop it might be doing the right thing, but doing the smart thing is better.

    How would you approach the fight?  Would you just jump in and put your arms out?  There’s a good chance someone would just take a swing at you and eventually would become an all-out brawl of people, much worse than what was going on.  Alerting authorities would be the wisest of choices as the situation can be maintained, but they might not arrive in time if something fatal were to happen or if things got more drastic.


    I’m thinking this study is at this point, useless, because there is more depth than what they thing is going on here.

  87. Shahab says:

    Yeah, but the behavior isn’t the important thing here, it is the difference in behavior between the two groups that is the issue. Of course this is only an effect that we are seeing, you can not say it was specifically the violence. There are soooo many variables that need to be controlled before you could start drawing conclusions from this.

  88. gamegod25 says:

    Ok three things:

    1) Wow it took them a couple seconds longer, how horrible! 

    2) That doesn’t show any long term effect or violent behavior

    3) Oh noes a sprained ankle, someobody call an ambulance! /sarcasm

    Yet another useless study that proves nothing.

  89. Avalongod says:

    Some of the other posters have done a nice job in dissecting this study.

    One thing I’d like to add is the issue of "demand characteristics"…this issue states that participants in an experiment will oftentimes try to guess what the hypothesis is, and try to produce the behavior expected of them.  Given that the dialog used in this study was, indeed, pretty obviously scripted, it wouldn’t be hard for research subjects to guess something was up.  Gee…something completely unusual happens during the middle of a psychology experiment…what are the odds it could be part of the experiment.

    Particularly with undergraudate students…and psychology students in particular (who know about such experiments), the potential for demand characteristics would be high.  That would be even more true if they were familiar with Dr. Bushman’s research in the past.

    Yes, Dr. Bushman and Anderson always seem to find what they’re looking for.  A close examination of the data of their studies often finds that, at very least, they should have been much more modest in their conclusions.  Unfortunately this kind of irresponsible science is just too common in psychology.

    Cool study title though.  Gotta give him props for that. 

  90. Nekowolf says:

    "Hey you! You, uh, bully! I saw…what does that say?…I saw what you, uh, did!"

    "What? You want…LINE!…you WANT to get a pounding, nerd?"

    "…hey, wrong card!…Uhhh…Don’t call me a nerd, you unsmart person!"

    "Oh yeah?" *fake punches*

    *pause* "Oh! Uhhh…Ow, you have punched me!…In the face! Oh help, I am in trouble!"

  91. DCOW says:

    Wait a second, your telling me that your basing this on a staged fight?


    I think the people who had been "exposed" to violence took longer simply because they realized it was staged!

  92. insanejedi says:

    What games were used during this? Because if I was playing M&M Kart Racing vs Mass Effect, I would totally be like "We gotta help that guy!" if I was playing M&M, but for Mass Effect I would most likely take longer to get up and help the person because it is inherently a more interesting game.

  93. Zero Beat says:

    Yeah, their methodology is improving.  And they don’t use proxies for anger, such as airhorn blasts and concluding a millisecond longer than "normal" makes you evil serial killer person.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  94. Soldat_Louis says:

    I notice that they didn’t single out "violent" video games, but also studied the effect on "violent" movies.

    On the other hand, there would be a lot to say about people’s (absence of) "helping behavior" during real-life incidents.

  95. Ouroboros says:

    Even taking this study at pure face value, I have to ask the obvious question: so what? It would seem that playing a violent video game has roughly the same effect as living in a major US city like LA or NYC; it teaches you to mind your own business.

Comments are closed.