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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Andrew EisenNow, having said that, what sites are you reading that are claiming that if "you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem" or that gamers are "obligated to stop harassment"? Or was that hyperbole too?09/21/2014 - 1:03am
Andrew EisenFirst of all, ONE person in the Shout box suggested an obligation to call harassers out on their harassing but only after YOU brought it up. Plus, Techno said "when you see it happening." If you don't see it, you're not under any obligation.09/21/2014 - 1:02am
Sleaker@Craig R. - at this point I don't even know what the hashtags are suppsed to be in support of. what does GamerGate actually signify.09/21/2014 - 12:21am
Sleaker@AE - Hyperbole for the first 2, but it seems like some of the comments in the shout are attempting to place blame on fellow gamers because they aren't actively telling people to stop harassing even though they don't necessarily know anyone that has.09/21/2014 - 12:16am
Andrew EisenSleaker - Who the heck are you reading that is claiming "all gamers are bad," we "need to pass laws or judgement on all gamers," that if "you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem," or that gamers are "obligated to stop harassment"?09/20/2014 - 9:44pm
erthwjimhe swatted more than just krebs, I think he swatted 30 people http://krebsonsecurity.com/2014/05/teen-arrested-for-30-swattings-bomb-threats/09/20/2014 - 9:31pm
Craig R.Btw, the guy who swatted security expert Brian Krebs? He got picked up recently. It can be done.09/20/2014 - 8:55pm
Craig R.Such things are not done in a vacuum... hence why the 4chan and other logs show what fools you've all been, tricked into doing the trolls' work09/20/2014 - 8:49pm
Sleaker@Technogeek - How do you call someone out that anonymously calls in a SWAT team, or sends threats to people?09/20/2014 - 7:04pm
Technogeek"It also doesn't mean you're obligated to stop harassment from all gamers that are doing so." I'd say you're certainly obligated to call them out when you see it happening.09/20/2014 - 5:17pm
SleakerNow if you disagree with anything in my last 2 posts then we obviously have a difference in world view, and wont come to any sort of agreement. I'm fine with that, maybe some people aren't?09/20/2014 - 5:09pm
SleakerIt also doesn't mean that just because a news outlet says that Gamers are the problem and you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem. It also doesn't mean you're obligated to stop harassment from all gamers that are doing so.09/20/2014 - 4:59pm
SleakerJust to re-iterate: People getting harassed is wrong. Just because someone is harassed by so called 'gamers' doesn't mean that all gamers are bad. nor does it mean that you need to pass laws or judgement on all gamers.09/20/2014 - 4:56pm
SleakerAnd furthermore just because someone doesn't 'crusade against the evil' that doesn't make them the problem. You can have discussion with those around you. There's a thing called sphere of influence.09/20/2014 - 4:54pm
Sleaker@Conster - one person getting harassed is a 'problem' only so far as the harassee's are doing it. Just because a select few people choose to act like this doesn't make it widespread. Nor does it immediately make everyone responsible to put an end to it.09/20/2014 - 4:54pm
james_fudgeno worries09/20/2014 - 4:15pm
TechnogeekI misread james' comment as "we can't have a debate without threatening" there at first. Actually wound up posting a shout about death threats and "kill yourself" not technically being the same thing before I realized.09/20/2014 - 3:59pm
james_fudgeDon't hit me *cowers behind Andrew*09/20/2014 - 3:20pm
ConsterYou take that back right now, james, or else. *shakes fist menacingly*09/20/2014 - 3:00pm
james_fudgeOur community is awesome. We can have a debate without threatening to kill each other.09/20/2014 - 2:50pm
 

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