According to researchers at the University of Missouri, scientists have been convinced for years that violent video games caused increase levels of aggression, but this had never been conclusively tested through experiments. A recent study found that players of violent games became desensitized to violent images, and that this in turn led to an increase in aggression.
The study had 70 young adult participants and consisted of three main parts. Initially, the subjects played either a violent or a non-violent video game for 25 minutes. The "violent" games included Call of Duty, Hitman, Killzone and Grand Theft Auto. Following this, the subjects were shown a series of both neutral and violent photos, and their brain responses to the images were measured. Finally, participants were paired up and given the opportunity to give their opponent an adjustable blast of loud noise. The level of noise the participant chose to use was taken as the "measurement" of aggression.
The researchers found several things. Firstly, the participants who played the violent games in the lab consistently set a louder noise blast for their opponent, being read as increased aggression. Secondly, those who had not played violent video games before the study but played one in the lab showed a reduced brain response to the violent photos when shown them — an indicator that the game had desensitized them to the violence somewhat. Thirdly, participants who regularly played violent games showed reduced brain responses to the violent images, regardless of what game they played in the lab.
"More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence," said associate professor Bruce Bartholow, one of the authors of the study. "From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Study: Games Increase Aggression