Monday, March 13, 2017

Recent Study About Psychological Effects of Violent Video Games.

Having played video games of various genres on various platforms for just over 30 years (the exact date that I was introduced to video games, I cannot specifically recall, but it was sometime around 1986 at the latest), I admittedly find myself defensive whenever I hear reports about video games causing someone to act out in a violent and aggressive manner.  I believe that there people who are prone to violent media may be more drawn to video games where committing acts of violence against something else (human, alien, etc) is the core component of that game.  I do not believe that a video game will make someone go out and commit a crime because they were able to do so as a character in a game.

I fully admit that when a report is released about how video games adversely affect society as a whole and make them more prone to committing violence or criminalized acts, I tend to be skeptical, often looking for information that could discredit the report.  I fully acknowledge that I have inherent biases in this topic.  With that in mind, I was happy to see a scientific study (conducted at the Hanover Medical School in Hanover, Germany) that showed no harmful long term psychological effect by those who play violent video games when compared to a control group.

The published article from Frontiers in Psychology on March 8th of 2017 made a fair amount of headlines, and not just in video game circles either, but standard news publications, with the article I was directed to (from either facebook or reddit) being the online version from The Daily Telegraph.  The article gave a pretty decent synopsis of what the study reported, but I wanted to read the actual study myself, if only to be able to try to fully understand the purpose and methods that the researches used to come up with their findings.  After a bit of searching and more clicking that it probably should have taken, and found the research article titled, "Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study."

The purpose of this research study was to challenge what is called the General Aggression Model which purports that "The results from both studies are consistent with the General Affective Aggression Model, which predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short term (e.g., laboratory aggression) and the long term (e.g., delinquency)."  Now, I have not paid the required $11.95 to read this research report from 2000.  What the researchers found was that ". . .the lack of group differences in our fMRI data dues [sic] not suggests, that excessive VVG [Violent Video Games] use leads to long term emotional desensitization and a blunting of neural responses related to empathy."

I also acknowledge the shortcomings of this study in particular, in that there were a limited number of participants and that all of the participants were male.  This limitation of only male participants seems to be an inherent bias regarding research studies looking at possible connections between violent video games and the brains of those playing.  It would seem that additional studies that include all genders be included would be required in order to have more comprehensive data.

I highly recommend reading the article for yourselves as I know that my brief is beyond brief when it comes to unpacking scientific research studies.  I did have to skim through a couple of the sections that I was unable to follow ("Questionnaire Data," and "fMRI"), but I felt that those were not written with the layman in mind; that is what the abstract is for.

While looking up documents and general researching for this article, I did come across some additional articles that look to be of interest on this topic, even the ones that go against what I have witnessed amongst myself and my close group of friends.  So thank you to the authors of this research study, Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. M√ľnte, and Bert T. te Wildt.


I also wanted to point out that Gregor R. Szycik published a similar research paper last April (4/16/2016) titled "Excessive users of violent video games do not show emotional desensitization: an fMRI study." 

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