Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Adults Who Play Violent Video Games Appear No More Aggressive Than Those Who Don’t

Frequently playing violent video games does not appear to promote aggression, reduce empathy, or alter mood and cognition in healthy adults, according to a study published Tuesday in Molecular Psychiatry.

These “results provide strong evidence against the frequently debated negative effects of playing violent video games,” wrote Simone Kühn, Ph.D., of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues. The authors noted that this debate has been largely fueled by studies showing short-term effects when tests were administered immediately after game playing.

“[I]n our view, the question that society is actually interested in is not: ‘Are people more aggressive after having played violent video games for a few minutes? And are these people more aggressive minutes after gameplay ended?’ but rather ‘What are the effects of frequent, habitual violent video game playing? And for how long do these effects persist (not in the range of minutes but rather weeks and months)?’” Kühn and colleagues wrote.

To investigate the long-term behavioral effects of playing violent video games, Kühn and colleagues randomly assigned 90 healthy adults who reported little or no video game use in the past six months to one of three groups: violent video games, nonviolent video games, or no video games. Participants assigned to the violent and nonviolent game groups were instructed to play Grand Theft Auto V and Sims 3, respectively, on a PlayStation 3.

Before the video game training period, all participants completed questionnaires and computerized tests assessing aggression, impulsivity, empathy, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and executive control. These tests were repeated after the video game training period and again two months later.

“No significant changes were observed, neither when comparing the group playing a violent video game to a group playing a nonviolent game, nor to a passive control group. Also, no effects were observed between baseline and posttest directly after the intervention, nor between baseline and a follow-up assessment two months after the intervention period had ended,” Kühn and colleagues wrote.

While the authors noted that these findings stand in contrast with the results of some short-term studies of violent video games, they wrote that more research is needed to determine whether playing violent video games during childhood leads to similar or different long-term behavioral effects.

(Image: iStock/scyther5)