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Practice makes perfect when it comes to aggression in video games

Children who play violent video games over and over again are learning thought patterns just as if they were practicing the piano or learning to pitch as baseball.
By Alex Cukan   |   March 25, 2014 at 7:19 AM   |   Comments

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AMES, Iowa, March 24 (UPI) -- Children who play violent video games over and over again are perfecting aggressive thought patterns just as if they were practicing the piano or learning to pitch a baseball.

Lead author Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, said repeated practice of aggressive ways of thinking appears to drive the aggressive long-term effect of violent games.

“If you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head. The fact that you haven’t played the piano in years doesn’t mean you can’t still sit down and play something,” Gentile said in a statement.

“It’s the same with violent games -- you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it’s acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence.”

The researchers tracked more than 3,000 children in third, fourth, seventh and eighth grades for three year for time spent playing video games, the violent content of the game and changes in a child’s behavior.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, finds children who repeatedly play violent video games start to think more aggressively and if provoked at home, school or other situations, the kids will react much like they do when playing a violent video game.

“Violent video games model physical aggression,” said Craig Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State. “They also reward players for being alert to hostile intentions and for using aggressive behavior to solve conflicts. Practicing such aggressive thinking in these games improves the ability of the players to think aggressively. In turn, this habitual aggressive thinking increases their aggressiveness in real life.”


[JAMA Pediatrics]
[Iowa State University]

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