New Study Finds Violent Videogames Affect Teenagers Brains

New Study Finds Violent Videogames Affect Teenagers Brains

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A new study by the Indiana School of Medicine has found that teenagers who play violent videogames show increased activity in the areas of the brain involved in emotional arousal.

The study, which compared brain scans of teenagers who played violent and non-violent games, reached conclusions similar to those found research done at Iowa State University, which determined that teenagers who played violent videogames demonstrated lower heart rates and lower galvanic skin responses when exposed to videos of real violence.

"Exposure to violent videogames, even E-rated videogames, increased aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal," said Omaha Children's Hospital psychologist Dr. Greg Snyder, who added that violent videogames can also desensitize kids to real violence and "normalize" killing. "The more normal it is, the more likely it is they're going to activate or engage in those behaviors when provoked or even unprovoked," he said.

Game industry representatives, however, noted that exposure to violence in movies and television provoked similar responses. Ryan Miller, general manager of Gamers in Omaha, said, "Just like any new media, it gets attacked. When any new genre of music comes out, it gets attacked. TV will, of course, get attacked. I'm sure, way back when, books got attacked." Other research has also purported to show that the isolation that comes with playing endless hours of videogames, rather than the videogames themselves, are responsible for anti-social behavior.

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Correlation does not imply causation.

Books still get attacked (just not as often).

And too much exposure to violence for young children probably isn't beneficial (but also isn't something the government should try to regulate).

I'm sorry, but are there some actual numbers associated with this? It's fine and dandy to say *increased activity* and *more likely*, but this can constitute a 1% increase or a 50% increase. Also, what were the study's parameters? What was the control group like? What variables were present and accounted for? This is just words, nothing more. I want to see some quantifiable data.

Frankly, I'm getting tired of the media posting headlines of "study shows XX YY" without posting actual numbers or citing anything of real value from the study.

EDIT: This is in regards to the original article - the posting of the results of this "study" by Indiana Medical U. I tried clicking the links, and was sent to each university's homepage. I'd really like to read what this study was actually about.

"Exposure to violent videogames, even E-rated videogames, increased aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal,"

Of coarse, they were thinking about violence and aggressiveness because they were seeing violence and aggressiveness. The same probably happens when watching a violent movie, tv show, or even reading a violent passage in a book. Are they saying that even thinking about violence or agressive behavior will cause someone to then act it out, even unprovoked?

Malygris:

A new study by the Indiana School of Medicine has found that teenagers who play violent videogames show increased activity in the areas of the brain involved in emotional arousal.

Thats called enjoyment you pr**ks, and if you get it from ruining other peoples fun to justify your expensive education then teenage gamers aren't the ones that need locking up.

Studies like this one are conducted with the all too common notion "violence begets violence" in mind. Researchers first consider that there is some sort of correlation between real and virtual violence and conduct their research around this idea. As stated in the article, the research shows increasing levels of arousal in teens who play violent video games. The article also states the same for "even E-rated video games". Because this piece of information is so incredibly vague (i.e. the term "arousal" can pertain to just about anything) psychologists can interpret them how they see fit. As Limasol stated, these increased levels of arousal could be interpreted as enjoyment. Because Dr. Greg Snyder cited "E" rated games as an example, most of which contain VERY tame amounts of violence (if any at all), it is just as reasonable, perhaps even more so, to suggest that these increased levels of arousal could simply be signs of enjoyment.

I'm no psychologist. This is all common sense.

EDIT: Another point I would like to bring up is that they are making no distinction between different types of violence. The depiction of violence in an "E" (if there even is any) rated game is minuscule when compared to that of a "T" or "M" rated game. Whats astounding is that they got similar results in either case. A psychologist would say "Oh well this means that video games in general elicit aggressive tendencies in teens" while any sensible person would say "no he/she's just having fun."

And we are, god dammit.

maybe I'm just retarded today, but is there a link to the original story or study? All links in the original post lead back to the escapist. I have thoughts on this, but I'd like to read the study first.

Uh, I just found the article at Indiana University's site, it's dated November 28th, 2006.

http://www.medicine.indiana.edu/news_releases/viewRelease.php4?art=593&print=true

Isn't it exactly the same with paintball? Or bb clubs?
You are confronted with a problem that can only be resolved through violence. So for the period of time that you are over coming this obstacle you will be getting more violent. But this violence is justified, you need it in order for your progression, without it you would refuse to shoot anyone and fail.

As soon as you have won (or lost) there is no more need for the violent behaviour and it will therefore leave, most likely within a few minutes after the game. Even so, only a few people are affected by computer game violence anyway, so it's nothing big. Just the media fucking with our minds by over emphasizing 'factual' information that most of us know anyway.

Slimey:
Uh, I just found the article at Indiana University's site, it's dated November 28th, 2006.

http://www.medicine.indiana.edu/news_releases/viewRelease.php4?art=593&print=true

We're talking about it now? Did something new come out? Or just a slow news day?

And on a vaguely related note, how do the people quoted from Omaha have any connection with the Indiana study? Or are these just reaction quotes?

I'm so confused...

Mastrodonas:
The article also states the same for "even E-rated video games". Because this piece of information is so incredibly vague (i.e. the term "arousal" can pertain to just about anything) psychologists can interpret them how they see fit.

Not true. There's several lines of psychological research that try to decompose arousal into a phenomenon that can be meaningfully measured. Generally, you don't measure arousal without also measuring affect, as both tend to covary. As you point out, arousal alone doesn't mean much.

Mastrodonas:
As Limasol stated, these increased levels of arousal could be interpreted as enjoyment. Because Dr. Greg Snyder cited "E" rated games as an example, most of which contain VERY tame amounts of violence (if any at all), it is just as reasonable, perhaps even more so, to suggest that these increased levels of arousal could simply be signs of enjoyment. I'm no psychologist. This is all common sense.

I think this may be a misunderstanding due to how the original post is organized.

Assuming the study posted by Slimey is correct, then Dr. Snyder doesn't appear to be directly connected with the research (at least, he's not one of the authors) - it's not clear that his comments are even in relation to this research project, or the generalized effect of video game exposure.

Mastrodonas:
EDIT: Another point I would like to bring up is that they are making no distinction between different types of violence. The depiction of violence in an "E" (if there even is any) rated game is minuscule when compared to that of a "T" or "M" rated game. Whats astounding is that they got similar results in either case. A psychologist would say "Oh well this means that video games in general elicit aggressive tendencies in teens" while any sensible person would say "no he/she's just having fun."

And we are, god dammit.

I'm not following how you came to this conclusion. The study compared between two game types - violent and non-violent. There was no comparison between "E" and "T or M". So the comment of "Whats astounding is that they got similar results in either case." (at least to me) doesn't make a lot of sense. Could you clarify?

The original source story, from KETV in Omaha:

http://www.ketv.com/family/15249738/detail.html

Thanks!

After reading into this expanded source story and it's sources, I have to ask what the reporter was trying to prove.

The study from the school of medicine indicates that violent video games stimulate portions of the brain "involved in emotional arousal", whileas non-violent games stimulated portions of the brain involved in inhibition and self control in the short term. Measurements were taken immediately following play time, and the researchers don't even pretend to extrapolate long term effects from the study.

Now, you have this guy Snyder, stating that games desensitize the brain to violence and increases the likeliness that students will react violently to situations. Does he have any research backing up what he's saying? I don't see any. I admittedly am not looking for it, but the research posted in the source story seem to indicate short term mental effects from playing video games. Snyder is talking about what seems to be a long term effect - that of reacting violently to situations in reality. Now, if he was saying a teen would be more likely to beat up someone right after playing a violent video game than someone playing something non-voiolent, that would be a viable conclusion. The study referenced certainly presents evidence that it could happen.

In short - these two professional sources and opinions don't quite agree with each other, but it sounds like it does. Seems to me the media, once again, is slapping together whatever sounds similiar to prove their point. At least it goes on to state that parental control is important (which it is), vs. calling for government interference.

Malygris:

"Exposure to violent videogames, even E-rated videogames, increased aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal,..."

It increases aggressive thoughts and pro-social behavior? So, people who play think bad things but do good deeds...Not really seeing a huge problem there, unless they start acting on their aggressive impulses.

F**cking bulls**t! I play violent games all the time, and I'm the least violent person on the planet! I'M GONNA KILL THEM! I'M GONNA KILL THEM ALL!! rip and tear, maim and kill...

These kinds of things make me angry. I'mma go Max Payne all up on them foo's.

I think you're right. There are a few things i overlooked in my argument:

xMacx:
Not true. There's several lines of psychological research that try to decompose arousal into a phenomenon that can be meaningfully measured. Generally, you don't measure arousal without also measuring affect, as both tend to covary. As you point out, arousal alone doesn't mean much.

1: i read an faq about violent media by Craig A. Anderson (Ph.D. Psychology department of Iowa State University). According to the faq, arousal is one factor that contributes to aggressive thought and behavior. Anderson defines arousal as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

xMacx:
I think this may be a misunderstanding due to how the original post is organized.

Assuming the study posted by Slimey is correct, then Dr. Snyder doesn't appear to be directly connected with the research (at least, he's not one of the authors) - it's not clear that his comments are even in relation to this research project, or the generalized effect of video game exposure.

2. Dr. Snyder just seems to be reciting someone else's work (Dr. Anderson's most likely).

xMacx:
I'm not following how you came to this conclusion. The study compared between two game types - violent and non-violent. There was no comparison between "E" and "T or M". So the comment of "Whats astounding is that they got similar results in either case." (at least to me) doesn't make a lot of sense. Could you clarify?

3. This was in response to what was quoted by Dr. Snyder. My point was that no distinction is made between different types of violence. I understand that there was no comparison between games with different ratings in the article. I was comparing violence between games with different ratings. According to DR. Snyder (since he is a psychologist he has some credibility in this area, whether or not he was involved in the research, i am sure he is at least familiar with it) "Exposure to violent video games, even E-rated video games, increased aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal." I want to know if the violence depicted in Windwaker or Jack and Daxter really has the same effect as violence in Mortal Kombat or Doom.

Mastrodonas:
I think you're right. There are a few things i overlooked in my argument:

xMacx:
Not true. There's several lines of psychological research that try to decompose arousal into a phenomenon that can be meaningfully measured. Generally, you don't measure arousal without also measuring affect, as both tend to covary. As you point out, arousal alone doesn't mean much.

1: i read an faq about violent media by Craig A. Anderson (Ph.D. Psychology department of Iowa State University). According to the faq, arousal is one factor that contributes to aggressive thought and behavior. Anderson defines arousal as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

It looks like Dr. Anderson simplified things a little bit for the FAQ. HR, BP, and a host of other physiological measures are used as measurements or indices of arousal. However, arousal as a construct is generally thought to be both physiological and psychological. The relationship between physiological arousal and aggression certainly exists (See Zillman's work on Excitation Transfer Theory), but it tends to be a moderator, or a contributing factor to an individual's decision to express aggression, rather than a singular driving force. I have generally thought of Dr. Anderson's claim of causality as stated a bit too strongly.

My beef with this research has always been that it extrapolates a causal relationship from short-term, between-subject effects (that one would expect to be high, given the intensity of most violent games compared to neutral games), without providing any evidence of how the effects reported function in a participant's natural environment. If you think about Brunswick's Lens Model for decision making, three things affect a decision: the effect of the cue, the relative weight given the cue by the participant, and the environment the cue is situated in all assist in dictating a decision. To look only at the main effect of a specific cue and ignore the very real interactions of cue x cue weight x environment is ignoring the real truths in that line of research.

Of course, you're likely to get more media attention and funding from reporting the main effect (games=aggression! OMG!), so that social scientists haven't taken the more difficult route and have focused on the main effect isn't that surprising.

Hmm... I like violent games... :)

Malygris:

The study ... which determined that teenagers who played violent videogames demonstrated lower heart rates and lower galvanic skin responses when exposed to videos of real violence.

I feel inclined to question the validity of an experiment that measures responses to emotive stimuli within a controlled environment. I can't help but think that, were the subjects exposed to an actual bar brawl or an actual mugging, they'd respond as anybody else would.

By the way, sorry for the late response to this.

Um... this is news?

"The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
-Gin Rummy from The Boondocks

"Videogames don't make people violent and I'll kill anyone who says otherwise."
-Tycho from Penny Arcade

It's possible it does change how your brain works but not so dramatic that you want to shoot up a school and kill scores of innocents.

[quote=Crayton]"The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
-Gin Rummy from The Boondocks

Not sure how that fits exactly - given that this data is the presence of an effect rather than the lack of one.

Generally that's used in this context:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

RobPlumpton:
I feel inclined to question the validity of an experiment that measures responses to emotive stimuli within a controlled environment. I can't help but think that, were the subjects exposed to an actual bar brawl or an actual mugging, they'd respond as anybody else would.

By the way, sorry for the late response to this.

The problem with measuring stimuli in the context of a really high stress situation like the one you mentioned is the likely presence of a ceiling effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceiling_effect). The response would be the same from gamers and non-gamers, but not because gamers and non-gamers truly respond the same. Rather, it could be because the stimuli is so stressful that you max out the autonomic system of all participants.

Also, showing that two groups respond the same doesn't mean both groups are the same - it may mean that your experiment design lacks the ability to detect differences (See the quote from Crayton earlier).

Part of this whole line of argument hinges on interpreting what physiological measures actually mean. Take this example: I recently collected data on novices and expert gamers, where I exposed both to a cinematic sequence, then had them play the Beaches of Normandy level on Company of Heroes. I collected subjective response data intermittently, and collected heart rate data continuously.

Now the results came out like this:
-Experts who were exposed to the cinematic showed no significant differences in heart rate, but reported increased enjoyment on the subjective measure compared to experts that did not view the cinematic.
-Novices who were exposed to the cinematic showed a significant jump in heart rate, but did not report increased enjoyment of the game compared to novices who did not view the cinematic.

In this case, what does the lack of an effect on HR for experts mean? Does experience with games change how gamers respond physiologically to stimulus? Does this change in physiological response reflect any change in games temperament, or simply a physiological adjustment to the stimuli presented?

Here's the kicker - you can't really argue one way or the other just from heart rate. You have to use converging measures to discover the affective state of the user to correlate with measures of arousal.

RobPlumpton:

I feel inclined to question the validity of an experiment that measures responses to emotive stimuli within a controlled environment. I can't help but think that, were the subjects exposed to an actual bar brawl or an actual mugging, they'd respond as anybody else would.

By the way, sorry for the late response to this.

Take it to a more extreme level and have them witness someone getting shot in the head with a pump action high powered shotgun and see how they'd react. Or worse yet, have them hold a gun and shoot someone.

I'll bet my money that a lot of them would not. And those that do would likely have mental issues prior to exposure to violent video games or video clip.

I've been playing violent video games since I was 12, and not so violent (but still centered around killing/squishing creatures) since I was roughly 5 or 6. Now, I'm 22 years of age and these 10 years of exposure to extreme violence has indeed dulled the shock value of violent video games, movies, images, and even live news feeds and recordings of executions. However, I'd be horrified if I saw someone shot in front of me where I am physically there.

Take me as a subject and name any violent game and chances are I've played them. However, not once have I considered killing someone, whether it be through revenge or cold blood. I'm sure most people agree with me in that a lot of games despite their level of violence are quite calming and help the stress levels of everyday life and work.

If you ask me these researchers and so-called experts can (in the words of Yahtzee) "be thrown out of a plane and land anus first on the spire of Winchester Cathedral."

The only thing I've ever wanted to emulate from playing a video game is to be able to jump inhumanly high and have lights augmented into my eyes so I can see in the dark. (Deus Ex)

Just my thoughts on the subject.

::Edit::
xMacx: I see what you're saying with regards to the ceiling effect. But for the last little while I've been working for Customer Support for an online games company, and also taking note of the various reactions among poeple around me when it comes to violent games.

Maybe it's just the people around me, but I've not noticed any (long or short term) effects of violent games among my colleagues who are all gamers through and through. In fact, I don't know one person who has committed an act of violence because of a game. This includes shortly after, and some hours/days after playing violent games.

In fact, the only act of violence I've witnessed among colleagues (I understand this is a small number of people to subject to my reviews) is was because of external provaction. This 'violence' I refer to is a fluid concept, because no punches were thrown.

Having played games for a long while, and knowing many who play violent, placid, or otherwise mind-numbing boring games I cannot say I can link any type of violence to the games themselves.

 

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