Research: Sense of Humanity Lost When Playing Violent Games

New research from the University of Queensland suggests that playing violent video games leads to players seeing themselves and their opponents as "lacking core human qualities" such as warmth, open-mindedness, and intelligence. The research, conducted by Dr. Brock Bastian from UQ's School of Psychology, was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

While the methodology and age of the participants were not detailed, the study observed a group of participants as they played Mortal Kombat against the CPU, each other, and cooperatively. Participants' behavior, emotions, and cognitions changed to show a "loss of humanity" as they played, according to Bastian. The study also explored whether fighting against the CPU (as opposed to other players), diminished participant's humanity. In both types of play the findings were compared against a similar but non-violent (and undisclosed) video game. He noted that – given his findings – people's concerns about the effects of violent video games are warranted..

"There are good reasons to be concerned: the negative effects of violent video games have been well documented and appear to be more significant than those associated with other forms of violent media," he said.

The second part of the study had participants playing cooperatively against the CPU.

"Although we made no specific predictions about how participants would view co-perpetrators, we were open to the idea that their dehumanization would be less evident given they were not the targets of violence," Bastian said. "The findings of Study 2 also showed that simply playing a violent game with another person did not affect perceptions of their humanity. Ratings of other people's humanity were only lowered when the other was the target of cyber-violence, not when the other was a co-perpetrator of that violence."

Bastian went on to say that he believes the findings point to the potential long-term effects that violent video game play have and suggests that repeated exposure to these games may result in dramatic changes in self-perception. He also thinks that the reason violence in video games is more powerful that other forms of violent media is because people identify with and feel responsible for the violence they partake in within virtual environments.

"We also expected that, in line with previous work on real-life violence, players would view their opponents as less human when they were the targets of violence compared to when they were opponents in a non-violent video game," he said. "In addition, we found that although players felt dehumanized when engaging in video game violence, even when this is directed towards computer-generated avatars, it is only when another player is the target of this violence that they are also dehumanized."


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. Kajex says:

    If you were anything like me, you did it even when they pissed you off with their poor AI and incessant screams of "FRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK!!!!" And felt bad when they died, too.

  2. Requiem Of Forgotten Lore says:

    That's funny.  I remember trying my damnedest to save all the NPCs in the opening area of Dead Rising several times and I even felt bad that I couldn't do anything to save them.  Of course they might consider Dead Rising to be too warm and cuddly.

    Obviously biased study is obvious – especially with a shear lack of data.

    Now where's that Scumbag Hat?  This research group needs it.

  3. finaleve says:

    Let's break it down here…

    Doing something more recent, Call of Duty.  The basic premise of the games acts as a extremely overly-dramatic fiction of war, either historical or imaginary.  The reality of it is, the situations that the game puts you in?  Yeah, you would lose your humanity.  Same thing can happen to REAL soldiers but… well I believe studies exist on this already.

    Let's go with a game called Battleship (A game most know) where the point is to sink the other players ship.  Are we ignoring the fact that Captain Bill of the PT Boat might have a family of 4 at home?  No, because its "Kill or be kill" and that is how it is in war.

    That last one a stretch?  Sure, but so is this stupid study.  Someone's humanity can't be judged in a game (Unless it's Dark Souls but that is a different story).  People play games to unwind.  When I would play Black Ops, I'd mostly screw around in-game, and yet outside of CoD I am probably the nicest guy out there.  Have I lost my humanity?  Apparently.

  4. DorthLous says:

    What? The basis of the scientific method REQUIRES that you state your hypothesis prior to your study as well as establish how you'll measure it. Failure to do so means you can take whatever anomalous results from the study and try to present them as how things always are.

  5. narcogen says:

    This stops being worth paying attention to when Bastian says, "We also expected…"

    You don't go into a study expecting anything, because if you do, you will find it, whether it's there or not. The weasel words "we were open to the idea" mean essentially the same thing.

    As for not seeing one's opponent as human… we don't even know what the game was. Maybe the opponents were not human?

    Why would the developers of a game, who want the player to shoot their antagonists, go out of their way to humanize said antagonists? Few games reward players who refuse to engage their opponents in combat if that's the point of the game.

  6. Avalongod says:

    sorry Zippy, that was actually meant as a reply to Janarius, not you.  Your post managed to slip in just as I hit reply I guess.  :/

  7. Vake Xeacons says:

    Exactly my point. Since when has "warmth, open-mindedness, and intelligence" been "core human qualities"? What happened to human nature?

  8. Zerodash says:

    "[lacking] warmth, open-mindedness, and intelligence."

    So, it makes everyone seem like a member of the religious right?


  9. Avalongod says:

    Yeah but that study was by Greitenmeyer who like Anderson and Bushman has a history of making exaggerated claims of "harm", ignoring any research to the contrary and then, by happy coinkeedink, finding research results to support his a priori beliefs.

    I think that's what some folks here are speaking to…the rather obvious moral agenda of some of these scholars, the kind of failure to be more honest about the research field that led to it being criticized during Brown v EMA. 

  10. ZippyDSMlee says:

    So you are trying to derive "humanity;4. A humane characteristic, attribute, or act. " in a situation where everything is trying to kill you…… how logical is this thought process?

  11. -Jes- says:

    Let's see…

    An obvious agenda-based conclusion.. Derived from vague results with about no relation to the conclusion.. From a 'test' based on parameters that have yet to be disclosed, lending even LESS credibility to the aforementioned conclusion..

    Wow, never seen THAT before. -_-


    And besides, "the negative effects of violent video games have been well documented-".

    Where and when? Oh, right, there is no such documentation.

    All this diatribe has amounted to, is pointing out the obvious bias shown by the University of Queensland on the topic at hand.

  12. TheOnlyJoumae says:

    I agree with ya'll but the first thought that popped in my head was "You used Mortal Kombat for research? Wtf?" lol

  13. MechaTama31 says:

    So they won't disclose who they were testing, what they were measuring, how they were measuring it, or what they were comparing it to?  "Science", indeed.

  14. Sora-Chan says:

    all of these studies are starting to just blur together. Its getting to the point of "why are we paying attention to these?"

    and I don't mean just the anti-game ones, the pro-game ones are starting to do the same thing.

    ╔╦═╣Signature Statement╠═╦╗

    If you don't like something I said in a post, don't just hit the dislike, let me know your thoughts! I'm interested in knowing everyone's opinions, even when they don't mesh with my own.

    Night Theme for GP:

  15. Erik says:

    Wait, maybe I'm missing it in the article.  What is their earmark for humanity?  How did they measure it?  I mean I hope they don't gauge humanity in accordance to actions against pixels on a screen.  If so then I would say that there needs to be a new study done, on how researchers can't tell reality from fantasy.

  16. RedMage says:

    "While the methodology and age of the participants were not detailed" Giant red flag.  How can we know how reliable the study is if we don't even have threadbare knowledge of the methodology?  Were these five year olds?  Twenty year olds?  Fifty year olds?

    This whole thing just reeks of fishiness.

Comments are closed.