BY INGA KIDERRA
Research shows that shooter games increase aggression.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN
ON VIDEO GAMES
In poring over all the research on
video games and aggression, did
you find anything surprising?
The findings over many studies, ranging
from surveys to laboratory, were fairly
consistent by the standards of behavioral
research. What was surprising was the very
wide range of interpretations that were
given to these studies—some researchers
saw cause for alarm in the data, others
dismissed them as meaningless.
We found that active participation in first-person shooter games is generally followed
by an increase in aggressive behavior,
feelings and/or ideations. This pattern is
not found in every study, and the magnitude
of the effect varies from study to study, but
on average, it is there—taking the role of
the shooter increases aggressive thought,
feelings or behaviors. Yet there are many
unanswered questions about consequence
of this pattern—particularly questions
about the consequences in our daily lives,
including cumulative effects, any possible
relation to long-term behavior and if there is
a relation with criminally violent behavior.
It is also important to know that this class
of media is protected speech as determined
in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling—the
content of these types of games cannot
be controlled through legislation.
Is anything missing in the research?
What should scientists investigate now?
The effect of violent video game exposure
on children remains a concern. Very little
research has been conducted with children,
and very little research has looked at
cumulative effects of exposure over time.
Nor has the research analyzed the
effects for girls separately from
boys, so we don’t know whether girls
experience the outcomes differently.
We know a lot about risk factors for
aggression, such as antisocial personality
traits, delinquency, academic achievement
level, parental conflict, child and parent
aggression, and exposure to delinquent
peers. But these factors, for the most
part, have not yet been examined in the
research on violent video game outcomes.
MARK APPELBAUM doesn’t play video
games, but the UC San Diego professor
emeritus arguably knows more than
anyone about their effects. As chair of
the American Psychological Association’s
(APA) Task Force on Violent Media, he
spent more than two years leading
colleagues on a cross-examination of
the best research on video games and
violence. Appelbaum recently spoke
with Triton to discuss his conclusions.
*Sidebar data taken from the APA Task Force on Violent
Media Technical Report on the Review of the Violent
Video Game Literature.