New Study Finds Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players

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New Study Finds Violent Games Do Not Desensitize Players

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A new study conducted by Ryerson University in Toronto has found that long-term exposure to violent videogames may not desensitize people to violence and negative situations after all.

Conventional wisdom has long held that exposure to violent media will eventually desensitize the consumer, rendering him or her numb to the incidence and consequences of real-life violence. My parents used to worry, back in the day, that when I got older I'd cut my hair into a Mohawk, buy a big black van and find myself utterly unable to kill a person no matter how many bullets I fired at him. It didn't work out that way, however, (although I did end up with a deathly fear of flying) and there may be a good reason for that.

A study conducted by PhD candidate Holly Bowen at Ryerson University recently found that among young adults, "violent videogame exposure was not associated with differences in players' emotional memory or their responses to negative stimuli."

"Emotional long-term memory helps us avoid negative situations," Bowen explained. "This has significant implications for public health. For example, if you remember the negative experience of being involved in a bar fight, you will avoid future situations that may lead to an altercation."

The study looked at 122 male and female undergrads, 45 of whom had "some videogame experience" within the previous six months and 77 of whom did not. The most popular games among both males and females included Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy and the NHL franchise (this was a Canadian study, remember); male gamers also reported Call of Duty and Tekken among their top five favorites, while females leaned more toward Mario Kart and Guitar Hero/Rock Band.

Participants were shown a series of 150 negative, positive and neutral images, and then an hour later were shown them again, in random order, along with "distractor" images, and asked to say whether or not they'd seen them previously. At the end of the experiment, they completed a "self-assessment test regarding their state of emotional arousal."

The end result ran contrary to what the researchers were expecting: gamers and non-gamers displayed no difference in terms of memory or emotional arousal. "The findings indicate that long-term emotional memory is not affected by chronic exposure violent video games," Bowen said.

Further study is needed to determine whether the same results will apply across all age groups, the researchers said. "While we are working with young adults, there may still be differences among kids who play violent videogames," added psychology professor Julia Spaniol, the study's co-author. The team has launched a new study looking at the brain activity of violent videogame players as they are exposed to emotional stimuli, and also plans to investigate the impact of "chronic exposure" to game violence in a non-lab setting.

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I'd like to see some more in-depth studies like this come out of the scientific field . . . it would help to comabt the scapegoatism and witchhunting going on within our media and political realms.

At least this is a start.

Can I just point out that games don't render people unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality? It's too small a correlation to call it anything right now, if they had a 10-15 year study starting with 4-5 year olds and ending in the 19-20 range about how games and other media sources impact the mind then we can take a result for granted.

imperialreign:
I'd like to see some more in-depth studies like this come out of the scientific field . . . it would help to comabt the scapegoatism and witchhunting going on within our media and political realms.

Well he problem is that a scapegoat just has to exist in the field of view regardless of the evidence that proves it isn't the cause of problem X. Witch hunts didn't take place because they were founded on sensible principles.

Astonishing, the ability to distinguish reality from non reality does not turn you into a psychopath!

<edit> can you read minds manythings or do you live 1 minute in the future?

Funny, becaused someone on the forums posted this study as response to the "Games cause rape" Article(s).

Common sense, really. I've been killing pixelated abominations in all sorts of ways for many years, and I'm still quite sensitive to violence, e.g. when I see a character commit suicide by applying a needle to his eyeball.

Needs a way larger sample size b4 we can jump to any real conclusions here. As much as i like to shove something like this in all the anti-gaming politians faces, the study itself is woefully inadequate to be qualified definitive.

Yeah thats bullplop, video games desensitized the shit out of me.

Ironically, if I showed a survey like this to my anti-videogame mom, she'd be the one getting violent.

Somewhat more on topic, I'm really not surprised. People being hurt in a game is fine, but it really bothers me in real life. *gasp* Playing games hasn't turned me into a psychopath!!!

Being desensitised is a good thing as you'll react less emotionally to real life situations and it might make you more calmer and able to handle it.

Misterpinky:
People being hurt in a game is fine, but it really bothers me in a game *gasp* Playing games hasn't turned me into a psychopath!!!

They do seem to have affected your brain in some way though. Or was your post meant to not make sense at all?

"While we are working with young adults, there may still be differences among kids who play violent videogames,"

I know it's just anecdotal evidence, but I played plenty of "violent" videogames as a kid. When my 12-year-old self witnessed one of my friends get hit in the head with a metal baseball bat I freaked out. It's wasn't like, "Cool! Extra points!"

I used that same story in a paper I wrote for a psychology class about whether or not violent videogames influence violent behavior. I got a 98/100 :-D

So hang on a sec....you're saying that there's a slim possibility that playing games WON'T cause me to eventually turn into a psychopath?

The fuck have I been playing them all these years for then?

OT: Seriously though this doesn't surprise me at all. In fact isn't what we've all been saying for years? I mean I just finished an hour of Dead Space 2 and as much as I hate little kids, the game doesn't compel me in the least to take a circular saw to the little fuckers in real life.

No...that's a privilage saved for when I'm a parent ^_^

Hubilub:

Misterpinky:
People being hurt in a game is fine, but it really bothers me in real life *gasp* Playing games hasn't turned me into a psychopath!!!

They do seem to have affected your brain in some way though. Or was your post meant to not make sense at all?

I have fixed it now. Oops. For the record, this had more to do with being distracted while writing. Video games have nothing to do with me being stupid.

Keyword here being "some" gaming experience.

The alarmists will claim that desensitization occurs among those who play games very frequently, putting a good 10+ hours every week.

See? People can figure out the differnce between realife and video games. And now we have scientific proof.

lostzombies.com:
Yeah thats bullplop, video games desensitized the shit out of me.

Okay, now try watching someone get seriously injured or worse, see how you feel about it.

I play violent video games all the time, and I still can't watch someone get injured

I'm still just as squeamish with violence in real life as I was all those years ago before I started playing games. I can't stand those horror movies where people lose arms and stuff. Hell, it still freaks me out in Fallout.

I think I'm becoming desensitized to studies telling me the obvious.

It's like a couple years ago my parents were worried that when I was starting to drive I would be trying to preform Burnout style takedowns on the highway. Thanks for the concern mom, dad, but there is a difference between a video game and reality.

..what a strange general statement. Obviously some situations and some experiences will desensitize you to violence to some degree.

Frankly, reality dulls you eventually. .. could easily be that some people find fiction in general is a way to poke those feelings they think they still should have, for example. Horror is a way to experience fear in a controlled and safe way - but it's also a way to remind yourself that you know what it's like to really be scared.

But hey, I don't know..

DTWolfwood:
Needs a way larger sample size b4 we can jump to any real conclusions here. As much as i like to shove something like this in all the anti-gaming politians faces, the study itself is woefully inadequate to be qualified definitive.

My thoughts aswell, as even though this is a nice finding, it needs a much larger sample size before it can be accepted as a valid peice of evidence in any argument.

imperialreign:
I'd like to see some more in-depth studies like this come out of the scientific field . . . it would help to comabt the scapegoatism and witchhunting going on within our media and political realms.

At least this is a start.

There are plenty of studies like this, if people don't like games, they just ignore them.

The UK government commissioned an independent study a year or two ago that came out and said there was no relation, and yet members of the press, and a few in government, still blame them for everything from the theft of some penny sweets, to the summoning of Cthulu.

Maybe it's somewhat coincidental that studies like this always seem to post their methods.

Don't think I've ever seen anyone from Fox post the methods of their studies *shifty eyes* >.>

Dexiro:
Maybe it's somewhat coincidental that studies like this always seem to post their methods.

Don't think I've ever seen anyone from Fox post the methods of their studies *shifty eyes* >.>

This. So much this. Yes, the sample size is fairly small, and it may be difficult to generalise findings, but at least we know the method and sample size in order to make those criticisms. So often it's the case that only the 'results' from studies are printed in newspapers or mentioned on the news, with no way of knowing whether or not the study was inherently flawed

I'd say that therse findings are promising, and the fact that the researchers are looking into other aspects of the area and suggesting other potential studies is reassuring. Hope they find the same things then as well

so when i go into the woods and jump on all the mushrooms i cant blame mario?

Rainboq:

lostzombies.com:
Yeah thats bullplop, video games desensitized the shit out of me.

Okay, now try watching someone get seriously injured or worse, see how you feel about it.

I play violent video games all the time, and I still can't watch someone get injured

Yea. I don't think video games are realistic enough to traumatize people. I've never had the violence in a video game make me react the same way I would to a movie like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List.

I love those games where you can hack off limbs (remember Bloodrayne) but I would never be able to do those things in real life... not without vomiting profusely and probably crying a lot too.

hansari:
Keyword here being "some" gaming experience.

The alarmists will claim that desensitization occurs among those who play games very frequently, putting a good 10+ hours every week.

Uh... 10 hours is very frequently? My mom plays 10 hours total a week. My sister plays Sims 3 a LOT more than 10 hours a week. She's married and has a normal job. Not murdering people.

I guess it really depends on who the person is.

I've been desensitized quite a lot by video games and reading other people's posts they haven't. I can look at a good amount of blood and gore in movies (watching the Lawnmower Scene made me feel more like a man somehow) so that's just me.

This is pretty old news. But I guess this is relevant because of the recent "Gaimes ur baaaaad" thing fox news put out.

I'm sick of these studies. First one comes out that says "video games make people violent", then another says "no they don't", then another shoots back and says "video games linked to violent behavior", then another says "there is no link, shut up". I just don't care anymore. It's like every other week, some guy decides that he wants to run the "end all" study to determine what the truth is because he's apparently more credible than the hundreds of other people who came before him combied.

Can we all just agree that the majority of video game users don't go around beating people up and leave it at that?

This study alone should completely prove that video games don't affect the minds of young people... But I have a feeling that bigots like Jack Thompson will continue with their crazy jobs of losing court case after court case.

Now what do I blame my socipathic tendencies on?

Society? Yeah, like they're gonna shoulder the blame.

I've been playing Violent Video Games since I was a Kid and I must say Real Life Violence still effects me. I could never do any of things I've done in a game in real life.

Anyone Remember Blood Omen II when Kain punches through Sarafan Guards and drops their hearts on the floor? If I saw that in real life, I'd be puking over the floor or I'd faint. The reason I don't when playing Blood Omen II is because I know Its NOT REAL. It's just a game.

gigastrike:
I'm sick of these studies. First one comes out that says "video games make people violent", then another says "no they don't", then another shoots back and says "video games linked to violent behavior", then another says "there is no link, shut up". I just don't care anymore. It's like every other week, some guy decides that he wants to run the "end all" study to determine what the truth is because he's apparently more credible than the hundreds of other people who came before him combied.

Can we all just agree that the majority of video game users don't go around beating people up and leave it at that?

You have a Good point there My friend.

gigastrike:
I'm sick of these studies. First one comes out that says "video games make people violent", then another says "no they don't", then another shoots back and says "video games linked to violent behavior", then another says "there is no link, shut up". I just don't care anymore. It's like every other week, some guy decides that he wants to run the "end all" study to determine what the truth is because he's apparently more credible than the hundreds of other people who came before him combied.

Can we all just agree that the majority of video game users don't go around beating people up and leave it at that?

I've noticed this, too. Some studies say yes, other say no. But each time one comes out, we act like it's the first time research has been done on the subject. I think if the game makers/players and those who have something against video games would just start an open dialog between each other, they could actually make some headway to solving their differences. It's more an issue of miscommunications and misconceptions than anything else--along with the media's exploitation of all this, using stories and studies like this to keep video games nice and juicy as a topic.

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