Brad Bushman Research: Frustration Leads to Violent Video Game Choices

A new study from Brad Bushman of Ohio State University comes to the conclusion that some players of violent video games are led there out of a sense of frustration because they cannot engage in taboo behaviors in the real world such as stealing or cheating. Don't worry, the latest Bushman study will connect this to aggression, violent video games, and a negative effect of some kind… The temptation to steal or cheat is sometimes great — especially when the risk of being caught is low. A new study suggests that denying people the opportunity to engage in these taboo behaviors may lead them to seek out violent video games as a way of managing their frustration.

The study, led by researcher Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Bushman, with the help of Ohio State doctoral student Jodi Whitaker and colleagues André Melzer and Georges Steffgen from the University of Luxembourg, used this new study to explore if young people might use violent video games as a "cathartic outlet" when attempts to cheat or steal in the real world are thwarted. To do this researchers gave 120 male college students a multiple choice history exam. Study participants were told they would be rewarded with "delicious food" for answering items correctly:

Some of the students received an envelope that contained an already completed exam with "100%" marked at the top but no name written on it. The researcher acknowledged the "mistake" and handed those students another envelope. For some, the second envelope contained a blank exam and their opportunity to cheat was taken away from them. For others, the second envelope contained another exam with a 100% score and they were still able to cheat. A third group was never given an opportunity to cheat, receiving only the blank test.

After finishing the exam, researchers asked the students if they would like to complete another study about video games while the tests were being graded. They read about four violent and four non-violent games and rated how much they wanted to play each game. Students that were given the completed exam got more of the difficult questions right, suggesting that the temptation to cheat was real.

Students who had their opportunity to cheat taken away were more likely to choose violent video games compared to the other groups, according to researchers. A second experiment using quarters and the opportunity to steal them also had similar results, according to researchers, with those students who had their chance to steal quarters denied being more attracted to violent video games, which Bushman and his colleagues attributed to an increase in frustration.

Researchers claim that these studies provide evidence of a frustration-aggression connection, because frustration is generated when a desirable goal is blocked and when people are prevented from engaging in undesirable activity. Researchers also claim that frustration didn't affect the attraction to non-violent games.

According to Bushman, these findings are especially important in light of evidence that playing violent video games can lead to increased angry feelings and aggressive behaviors. He concludes that, while people may turn to violent video games as a way to manage their feelings of frustration, these same video games may actually "enhance negative emotions."

Image via SPN.

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