FPS Gamers Less Likely to Help Pick Up Spilled Pencils

Jo Frost, best known stateside as the principal in the show Supernanny, has a new show airing in the UK and in its debut episode she attempted to tackle the issue of violent videogames.

The Guardian has a run down of the program (Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance), in which Frost, with the assistance of Iowa State University’s Dr. Douglas Gentile, conducted an experiment on 40 boys.

In one experiment, the boys were split in half, with 20 playing a football game for 20 minutes while the other 20 played a first-person shooter for the same amount of time. Following their game play session, all 40 boys watched violent news footage and had their heart rate monitored. Boys who played the FPS were found to have slower heart rates while watching the violent on-screen reports versus those who played the sports game, leading to a voice over that declared, “Shockingly, just twenty minutes of violent gameplay was enough to densensitise the boys.”

Author Keith Stuart took the methodology to task, writing, “I’m no neuroscientist, but with the biological stress response recently engaged, surely it’s no surprise that in the few minutes after violent gameplay, test subjects react differently to violent stimuli?”

Stuart continued:

So really, what does this all say about the long-term effects of exposure to violent videogames? I would suggest very, very little.

An additional experiment, in which Gentile knocked over a can of pencils in front of each boy individually, was supposed to measure empathy. Reportedly only 40.0 percent of the boys who played the FPS helped to pick up the pencils, versus 80.0 percent of those who played the football game.

The combination of the two tests, and the resulting conclusions, were a bit too much for Stuart to take:

Cognitive neuroscience is a complex field – it is perhaps not something to be prodded and poked at during a piece of realty TV voyeurism masquerading as documentary material.

He added:

…if just 20 minutes of exposure is enough to turn normal boys into desensitized monsters, our streets should be filled with violence. They’re not.

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  1. Deamian says:

    I’m happy this happened outside of my country ; I would be pissed to know my tax money served to pay for a ridiculously useless research like this one, only to be told "Soo.. umm.. we have no solid proof of anything we say yet, but… Yeah, just go with it, it’s realty TV."

  2. Adamas Draconis says:

    "Body filled with happy" I like it! Can I use it for my after-whatever phrases?

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  3. Adamas Draconis says:

    What he meant is if you response is the average (which it is) then how is it a sign of being affected by anything besides annoyance at the idiot dileberately dropping crap infront of you and wanting you to pick it up?

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  4. Adamas Draconis says:

    Ryno! You know better then to inject the scientific method into the debate on video game violence!

    Bad! Bad Ryno!

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  5. Tammej says:

    When I’m pumped and sportsy, my body filled with HAPPY because I was running all the time, of course I help pick up more pencils. I don’t feel any strain when I do that, I just had my exercise. Psst. It’s called hormones.


    Whereas, if I’ve been sitting in front of a game at that time, I’ll feel quite stiff. I’m less inclined to do backflips just to be nice.


    You might have as well done the test with people doing a deskjob versus people returning from a nice swim. 

  6. Mr.Tastix says:

    So what? How does not helping someone pick up pencils mean I’m less empathetic towards somebody else? As said, I am rather apathetic in general but there are a great deal of topics I can share my condolences to someone and understand how they’re feeling: picking up pencils isn’t one of them.

    I feel empathy is the wrong word here, empathy means "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." but at my age, I don’t see many people who will find picking up pencils they spilt as rather stressful (by no means do they not exist, they’re just not the majority).

    Now, if I had just murdered a couple of hundred people in a video game then couldn’t express empathy towards someone who comes rushing in crying because their mother just got murdered (but I could do this normally) THEN I would say there is a problem. How likely is that however?

    — Randi Tastix

  7. Weatherlight says:

    I believe it goes something along the lines of: Due to the sample sized used in the collection of this data the findings show that their is a statistically insignificant difference between the boys who played football game and the boys who played an FPS.

    At least that is what my stats professor taught me to say 😀

    On the other hand I want to make a joke about the FPS players not wanting to reduce their field of vision for fear the sniper would get them.


  8. gamegod25 says:

    Do we really need to do any studies at all? If videogames were really as dangerous as people like Atkinson and you know who think then the entire country would be in anarchy because there are millions of gamers! And those people who did those shootings were obviously unstable to begin with. If you found they watched FOX news would they be calling for that to be taken off the air?

  9. Zerodash says:

    Is that why every year at Quakecon, there is a massive riot as legions of killer gamers rampage and murder uncontrollably?

  10. ChrowX says:

    And that’s just the problem with this whole thing. Your response to this kind of thing is actually the typical one. If someone makes a mess, they get to clean it up. If they deliberately do it, even more so.

  11. TBoneTony says:

    I like the last few paragraphs, saying that Violent Videogames have verry little to do with violence in real life,

    But we will see in the next generation or so if people still believe in that sort of stuff.


    If I can tell the world just one thing, it would be that we are all ok.

    Not to worry because worrying is wastefull and useless in times like these.

    So in conclusion, what should people worry about when it comes to videogames?

    Nothing at all.


  12. Magic says:

    This is due to technology – monitors never display correctly when they’re being filmed due to the high refresh rate not being captured by cameras.

    There is the possibility that nothing is on the screen when Supernanny shows it to parents, but there’s also the chance that she’s showing them the relevant video then in post-production they virtually add it to the footage for the benefit of the viewer.

  13. chadachada321 says:

    40% of FPS gamers vs 80% of football game players…

    So…8 kids vs 16 kids? That doesn’t seem like a big different at all, given the sample size. That is definitely within the possible margin of error. Especially because there are no controls and all sorts of other problems already mentioned.

    -Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

  14. Jahkaivah says:

    You know what I have always found hilarious about Supernanny?

    Whenever she gets her laptop out to show the parents the blatently staged recordings of their attempts to raise the children, the video is clearly edited onto the screen, heck the laptop is probably just a fake prop to boot.

    "Here I want you to look at this blank screen and pretend your watching a video of how much you suck."

  15. locopuyo says:

    The FPS players  had a faster heart rate during the game because FPS games are more intense than football games which have breaks from the action between plays.  

    The slower heart rate after would be resting after intense action.  

    And seriously.  Who would get a fast heart rate watching the news?  You are sitting down watching with no interaction. 


  16. Ryno says:

    Yes to both. Also there should be a control group, as well as having the two groups switch games and see if there are the same results. And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.


    Saying that Jack Thompson is impotent is an insult to impotent men everywhere. They’ve got a whole assortment of drugs that can cure their condition; Jack, however…

  17. Bennett Beeny says:

    Shouldn’t the person who was clumsy enough to knock over the pencils be the one who has to pick them up? I’m just saying.

  18. Mr.Tastix says:

    I’d love to know who funds this type of bullshit, honestly.

    There’s a difference between helping someone pick up a container of pencils and grabbing one of the pencils and stabbing someone in the eye with it.

    Maybe it’s because I’m not that empathetic naturally but I fail to understand how helping someone pick up pencils would show you have empathy towards that person anyway. Consoling someone when they’re depressed because one of their family members died is expressing empathy, helping someone pick up pencils when those pencils were deliberately dropped in front of them isn’t.

    — Randi Tastix

  19. Erik says:

    I wonder if this were true why I am unable to bring myself to play a low karma character in FO3 or a renegade character in ME2?

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  20. Glasofruix says:

    Just a question, isn’t a real study conducted with more than 40 subjects and longer than 20 minutes?

  21. Roh02 says:

    hey studies show that playing games like FPS gives you better hand eye coordination maybe just maybe the FPS players were able to spot it was her own fault maybe even deliberate.

  22. imroadkill2 says:

    Now they should take the same kids. 

    Force the players of the sports games to play Ultra-violent games for 2 weeks.

    Force the players of the FPS games to play We Love Katamari.

    Then knock over the pencils again, lets see if we get the same results.

  23. Longjocks says:

    Cool. I petition that we turn to the Supernanny for all our scientific research in the future. Sounds like they have their finger on the pulse of gaming issues.

  24. Zero Beat says:

    In that case, after the picked up the pencils, did they then throw them in the general direction of the test-giver, aiming for the space just above his head so that he could jump up and use his head to knock them into the cup?

    A question that must be answered!  FOR SCIENCE!


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

  25. mr_mlk says:

    Wrong football. 🙂

    A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. Benjamin Franklin

  26. Zero Beat says:

    Recovering fumbles.  Wait a minute…

    After picking up the pencils, did they then run away with them?  This question must be answered!  FOR SCIENCE!



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

  27. Mr. Blond says:

    Previous "studies" tended to say that people who played violent games had higher physiological arousal. Now when something to the contrary is shown, they are twisting that into kids being desensitized. This is another example of the researchers wanting to have their cake and eat it too. I shouldn’t be surprised since Gentile is one of the prime examples of a pop psychologist waving junk science.

  28. Vake Xeacons says:

    How dare that Stuart guy bash Supernanny’s idocracy with his common sense? It’s abominable, I tell you! How can some author stand against the logic of Reality TV? Simply, he can’t! Any Austrailian politicain or disbarred lawyer will tell you!

  29. Zero Beat says:

    That last quote from Stuart says everything about the video game violence debate.


    Also, where are the armies of expertly trained super-assassin ninjas with perfect marksmanship these games produce?


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

  30. Kincyr says:

    were the rest twitching their middle fingers in an attempt to right-click the pencils in order to pick them up?

    which brings me wondering, where does football teach about picking up anything?

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

  31. divisionbyzero says:

    The problem is most FPS gamers think that by walking over the pencils they are picking them up. It’s sad, really.

  32. Valdearg says:

    I think this study just shows that three times as many FPS players are assholes, than Sports game players, LOL..


  33. ChrowX says:

    This should really be titled, "Violent Videogames make a few certain people possibly less inclined to help with minor inconveniences that people caused themselves."

    Seriously, picking up pencils that someone else dropped and watching the news..? That’s how you determine the effect of videogames? Pitiful.

  34. Ryoshi says:

    Is there some organization I can give money to to fund tattooing Keith Stuart’s quotes on the inside of some choice media outlet conglomerate CEO’s eyelids or something?  I’m really sick of seeing common sense pissed all over during prime time.

  35. Avalongod says:

    Oddly enough there was a psychological study going way back that did use pencils as symbolic of penis envy.

    And again, based on his past record, anything involving Douglas Gentile can be assured to have only most fleeting relationship with objective science.


  36. ryagor says:

     I think it would be just as equally valid to take away from this that playing football games make you homo-erotic and therefore more likely to pick up a sexy man’s dropped pencil. Am I actually suggesting this be a way to interpret the results? Of course not that would be RETARDED, because there is no actual science going on in that study at all. Most studies require this little thing known as a CONTROL.

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