Research: Relaxing Games Increase Prosocial Behavior

We've got another Brad Bushman special for you today, kids!

Now, admittedly, this study was published back in 2011 but I don't believe we covered it so it's all good.

Citing research from Craig Anderson and Douglas Gentile, the study starts from the premise that "violent games increase aggressive behaviors and decrease prosocial behaviors" while "prosocial games increase prosocial behavior."  In the study, ''Remain Calm. Be Kind.'' Effects of Relaxing Video Games on Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior, Brad Bushman and Jodi Whitaker conducted two experiments to "examine the effects of relaxing video games on prosocial and aggressive behavior."

In the first experiment, 150 college students were randomly assigned to play a relaxing game (Endless Ocean or the fishing mini-game in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess), a neutral game (Super Mario Galaxy or Wii Sports Resort) or a violent game (Resident Evil 4 or No More Heroes).  After 20 minutes of play, the participants' aggression was measured with the old noise blast test.

What's that?  Well, you sit in a chair with a pair of headphones on and are told there is someone in the other room (there isn't) who is competing with you to press a button the fastest.  If you win, your opponent has to hear a loud noise and you get to pick how loud (but nothing harmful) and how long (0 to 5 seconds).  The longer and louder you select your opponent's punishment, the more aggressive you are.

But there was an added wrinkle.  You could also pick how many nickels you could reward your opponent with (0 to 50 cents) if you lost.  The larger the reward, the more prosocial you are.

As you probably guessed, participants who played violent games were more aggressive than those who did not and those who played relaxing games were more prosocial than those who did not.

The second experiment asked participants to stay and help sharpen pencils.  The more pencils participants sharpened, the more prosocial they were.  Those who played a relaxing game were more likely to help out.

Also, habitual exposure to violent games was measured by having participants list their three favorite games and counting how many of them were M-rated.

Bushman and Whitaker sum up the study thusly: "The results indicate that playing relaxing video games can help one feel better and also behave in a more prosoial manner, or in the words of Colin Powell, relaxing video games can help players 'remain calm and be kind.'"

You can read the study right here.

Source: The Week

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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