Study: Violent Game Players Less Sympathetic to Others

A new study from Simmons College researchers comes to the conclusion that children exposed to more violent games for longer periods of time are less able to sympathize with others. The new study published in the Journal of Children and Media surveyed 166 Boston, MA and southern New Hampshire schoolchildren. The study was overseen by Simmons College professors Edward T. Vieira and Marina Krcmar. They examined the relationship between violent games and kids’ attitudes toward violence.

The duo surveyed children age 7-15 about their favorite games, how many hours a week they played, and questions to gauge their ability to sympathize with others, to see things from another person’s perspective, and whether they saw violence as an appropriate response in situations where it would be deemed justified or unjustified. The favorite "violent games" included Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Counter Strike, Mortal Kombat: Deception, and World of Warcraft.

"To make a judgment about violence, at least two skills are necessary," the paper read. "First, a child must be able to imagine the point-of-view of both parties in the aggressive conflict. Second, he/she should be able to feel some sympathy or imagine some sympathy towards each party. Only at this point can a moral judgment be appropriately made."

The researchers found that children with more exposure to violent games were less able to sympathize with others and that violent game players tended to have different perceptions on whether justified violent acts were permissible. The same group that had trouble being sympathetic also were more likely to accept unjustified violence, researchers said.

"Those who play more violent video games perceive violence in the name of retaliation and self-protection as more justified, much like the view of violence presented in video games," the paper continued.

Obviously there are limitations to this study including small sample size, and the fact that it is simply a survey. We’re also not sure how the questions were phrased, and if participants were given a list of games to choose from or made their own choices. Below is what one of the study’s researchers told GameSpot:

"Exposure to violent video games is directly associated with justified violence," Edward T. Vieira told GameSpot. "Therefore, there are cases where violence is justified such as self-defense or defending loved ones. One might have a ‘normal’ ability to empathize, for example, and see some types of violence as acceptable. We could apply this to societal issues such as capital punishment and wars."

"On the other hand, the study suggests that children who are heavy violent gamers are associated with less perspective-taking (empathy ability) and less perspective-taking predicts gratuitous violence (unjustified) as acceptable. This appears to make sense, because it suggests that there is no ‘reason’ for the violence; it is done for its own sake or some emotional motive. It intimates that the unjustified condition requires other factors such as perspective-taking. Therefore, the unjustified condition does involve gaming exposure, but gaming exposure mediated by the cognitive ability to perspective-take."

Source: GameSpot

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  1. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    People consider my very caring and i’ve been palying violet games since Mortal Kombat 2.

    Irks me that they tak data from such a small group and apply it to all.

  2. 0
    Shahab says:

    That is an interesting study but waaay too limited in scope to draw any conclusions from. Personaly, and I know anectodal evidence means nothing scientifically, I grew up with videogames from a young age, many of them violent. I would consider myself to be very sympathetic and caring in regards to other people, even those that are often demonized by our culture, like Muslims today and illegal immigrants.

  3. 0
    Monte says:

     Exactly. The people behind this study are not taking into account the pre-existing personalities of the kids in these studies and thus bascially claiming that violent video games are the CAUSE of their feelings. Fact of the matter is though, gamers like to play games that MATCH their pre-existing interests. If they like Sports they will likely play sports games, If they like cars they will likely play racing games, if they have little problem with violence or like violence then they will play violence, and if they were raised to hate violence then they probably won’t be playing those games.

  4. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    Might just be that kids who don’t like that kinda violence don’t play the games. Where’s the evidence that the games caused it?

  5. 0
    GrimCW says:

    isn’t that a common factor in almost any study, especially the ones sponsored by one group or another?

    the thing is, most people tend to be simple minded enough to just take whatever their told, as long as the aforementioned group gets the "results" they wanted, they can further convince people that their cause is correct, and many won’t question this logically.

    thus we find the major issue in releasing these half baked studies in the first place, and not contending them, or at least running some sort of damage cleanup.

    Fox news is the prime example of BS gone awry, and people still swear by them.

  6. 0
    nightwng2000 says:

    New observational study shows researchers who do studies on violent video games tend to be biased, unprofessional, incompetent in their assumptions, unable to do thorough research, are incapable of analyzing their participants as complex individuals, and tend to lie, deceive, even distort the truth for their own agendas.

    And comparing the repetitive "studies" done by researchers as the above, observational research is far more accurate than the methods THEY use.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  7. 0
    Shalewind says:

    I’d flip this one around. If they want to imply causality – how about – the children are less sympathetic to others therefore they play "violent " games…

    As an aside, I agree even the statement that there is correlation is weak at best.

  8. 0
    Avalongod says:

    I’d want to know if they controlled for other important variables. Bivariate correlations don’t mean much and are often inflated.  Unfortunately I don’t have access to this particular article…

  9. 0
    Arell says:

    No examples of what they consider "unjustified" violence, I mean what scenarios did they question these kids about?  Also, to what extent was the form of acceptable violence?  Were the kids talking about punching someone, or shooting them in the face?  If we’re talking about someone i school sytematically harassing you, there’s a big difference from sucker punching him, and bringing a gun to class.

  10. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    That’s a pretty broad range of "violent games" (as I’ve said many times before): FPSes, Sandbox, Fighter, and even a MMORPG, ranging from Teen to Mature. And all these make kids less sympathetic to others than…who? Kids who were exposed to less violent games? Non-violent games? Or no games at all? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of research into counter-study (and rarely ever is).

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