Ferguson Pokes Holes in Study Indicating that Violence Desensitizes Teens

Results from a new study seem to indicate that teenagers brains reacted less emotionally the more they were exposed to violence, but another researcher has thrown some cold water on the results.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) performed its study by using an MRI brain scanner and electrodes on 22 boys between the ages of 14-17, according to Live Science. The subjects were asked to press one of two response buttons while watching a series of violent videos in order to rate the current video as either more or less aggressive than the previous one.

It was reported that:

Brain activity fell over time in response to each new violent video clip, and the most aggressive videos showed increased desensitization over time. Boys who had reported the most exposure to violent media each day before beginning the study also showed the greatest desensitization.

Jordan Grafman from the NINDS, stated, “In our study, any effect would be temporary, but in the course of life with repeated exposures to violent media, you are shaping your brain networks to be more accommodating to aggression.”

Grafman also suggested that the findings from his study might have implications for violent videogames, a notion that Texas A&M International University Psychologist Chris Ferguson disagreed with, saying that it would be “deeply irresponsible” to apply the study’s findings to other media or real-life violence.

Ferguson also pointed out that the NINDS study did not measure the boys reactions to real-life violence, or how viewing the clips affected their behavior.

“At first they got excited and then over time they grew bored,” stated Ferguson, adding, “That’s all this study really says.”

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  1. 0
    Positive_Gamer says:

    “At first they got excited and then over time they grew bored,” stated Ferguson, adding, “That’s all this study really says.”

    Wow!  Someone actually used common sense for once!

  2. 0
    Neeneko says:


    If teens get ‘bored’ with violence in this context, would it not mean they would be LESS likely to be violent in real life?  Usually people do not bother with things that have lost their thrill.

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