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."