A study performed by the University of Missouri has found that playing violent video games doesn't only reduce brain response to violent images, but also increases aggressive behaviour in players.
"Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally," said Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science.
The study saw 70 young adults randomly play a nonviolent or violent game for 25 minutes. Researchers then had them take a look at neutral and violent images, measuring their brain responses before having them compete against an opponent where they were tasked to blast them with a loud noise. The level of aggression was measured against the volume of noise blasted.
The study found that participants who played violent games like Call of Duty, Hitman, Killzone and GTA had set louder noise blasts against their opponents when compared to participants who played nonviolent games.
Violent Video Games Reduce Brain Response to Violence and Increase Aggressive Behavior, University of Missouri Study Finds from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.
Researchers also noted that participants who had not played a lot of violent games prior to completing the test displayed a reduced brain response to photos of violence. Said response was used to measure aggression levels: a smaller response predicted a higher level of aggression. Participants who had played violent games prior to taking test showed smaller responses regardless of playing a violent or nonviolent game during the test.
"The fact that video game exposure did not affect the brain activity of participants who already had been highly exposed to violent games is interesting and suggests a number of possibilities," Bartholow said.
"It could be that those individuals are already so desensitized to violence from habitually playing violent video games that an additional exposure in the lab has very little effect on their brain responses. There also could be an unmeasured factor that causes both a preference for violent video games and a smaller brain response to violence. In either case, there are additional measures to consider."
Bartholow added that it should be a point that habitual exposure to violent media be moderated, especially among younger children, citing a survey that claims the average elementary school student spends more than 40 hours a week playing video games.
"More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence," noted Bartholow. "From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."
Source: MU News Bureau