Daily playing of video games does not make adults more aggressive: Study

By Allen Cone  |  March 14, 2018 at 1:18 PM
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March 14 (UPI) -- A daily regime of violent action adventure games over the course of several months did not make adults in a recent study more aggressive, researchers in Germany report in a new study.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany compared the influence of long-term violent video game play, life simulation game and playing a video game at all. Their research was published Tuesday in the Springer Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Following the Feb. 14 shooting of 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., President Donald Trump met with video game industry representatives at the White House to address "violent video-game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children."

While previous studies have generally not found a link between video games and real-world violence, some experts maintain that the practice can have an effect on people who play the games -- though whether later actions are tied specifically to the games remains somewhat controversial.

"This finding stands in contrast to some experimental studies, in which short-term effects of violent video game exposure have been investigated and where increases in aggressive thoughts and affect as well as decreases in helping behavior have been observed," the researchers wrote.

Previous studies have focused on short-term effects of violent video game play on aggression. For the new study, researchers analyzed the long-term effects playing violent video games using questionnaires and behavioral measures of aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs and mental health.

Seventy-seven men and women were recruited for the study and divided into three groups. One 25-person group played the violent video game Grand Theft Auto V daily for two months, a second group of 24 played the simulation game The Sims 3 every day for two months, and a third group of 28 did not play any video games for two months. All three groups of participants were assessed before and after the two month study. Those with psychological or neurological problems were excluded.

Of the 208 statistical tests performed, only three showed any significant changes that could allude to more violent behavior. The researchers said this is explained through coincidence.

Two months after the participants stopped playing daily video games, no difference in their aggression levels was noted -- nor were differences seen in empathy, interpersonal competencies, impulsivity, anxiety, mood and executive control.

Kuhn said his study is a more realistic scientific perspective on the effects of violent video gaming. He hopes similar studies will be done using children as participants.

"We did not find relevant negative effects in response to violent video game playing," Simone Kuhn, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said in a press release. "The fact that we assessed multiple domains, not finding an effect in any of them, makes the present study the most comprehensive in the field."

"The American Psychological Association recently summarized the previous findings on violent video games as indicating that they pose a risk factor for adverse outcomes, including increased aggression and decreased empathy," Kuhn added. "The present findings of this study clearly contradict this conclusion."

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