Grand Theft Auto III screen

A new study has found that teenagers who play violent videogames are more likely to cheat, behave poorly toward others and eat lots of chocolate.

A team of researchers from the U.S., Italy and the Netherlands recently put 172 Italian high school students aged 13 to 19 through a series of experiments designed to determine how violent games affect their personalities. The experiments began, as they so often do, by having the teens play either a violent game (Grand Theft Auto III or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) or a non-violent game (Pinball 3D or Minigolf 3D), but this time the researchers also gave each player a bowl of 100g of chocolate. They were told that they could eat as much as they wanted while they played, but were also warned that it’s unhealthy to eat so much chocolate in such a short time span. (For comparison purposes, the average-sized chocolate bar is around 45-50g.) Those who were playing violent games ate more than three times as much chocolate as those who played the non-violent games.

After playing, the teens were given a ten question logic test, with a raffle ticket that could be exchanged for prizes awarded for each correct answer. Once the questions were answered, participants were given an envelope full of tickets and told to take the correct amount; however, those who played the violent games took more than their allotted number of tickets more than eight times as often as those who played the non-violent games. A third test involved playing the games against an unseen (and, in fact, non-existent) “partner,” who could be subjected to loud blasts of noise through headphones whenever the participant beat them in the game. Those who played violent games subjected their partners to longer and louder bursts of noise than those who played the non-violent games.

Participants were also given a number of questions that ranked them on a “Moral Disengagement Scale,” which found that “of the participants who played the violent videogames, those who scored higher on the Moral Disengagement Scale were more likely to act aggressively, cheat and eat more chocolate.”

“We have consistently found in a number of studies that those who play violent games act more aggressively, and this is just more evidence,” said Dr. Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University and one of a relatively few number of researchers willing to commit conclusively that games have a deleterious effect on players. “Very few teens are unaffected by violent videogames, but this study helps us address the question of who is most likely to be affected. Those who are most morally disengaged are likely to be the ones who show less self-restraint after gaming.”

The correlation of bad behavior with those who play violent videogames and score highly on the Moral Disengagement Scale is interesting, but it also leads to obvious questions about what the real causative factor is here, and unfortunately nothing is said about the behavior of those who scored highly on the scale but played non-violent games. Bushman did state that both males and females were negatively affected by violent gaming, but noted that girls “didn’t reach the level of the boys in the study.”

Source: Medical News Today

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