Scientists have warned for years that playing violent video games causes players to become more aggressive.
The researchers found that participants who played “Call of Duty,” “Hitman,” “Killzone” and “Grand Theft Auto,” were more aggressive – than participants who played a nonviolent game. In addition, for participants that had not played many violent video games before completing the study, playing a violent game in the lab caused a reduced brain response to photos of violence – an indicator of desensitization. Moreover, this reduced brain response predicted participants’ aggression levels: the smaller the brain response to violent photos, the more aggressive participants were. Participants who spent a lot of time playing violent video games before the study showed small brain response to violent photos, regardless of which type of game they played in the lab.
These findings in a newly released University of Missouri study provides one explanation for why this occurs:
According to researchers, the brains of violent video game players become less responsive to violence, and this diminished brain response predicts an increase in aggression.
During the study, 70 young adults were randomly assigned to play either a nonviolent, or a violent video game for about one half hour. Afterward, the researchers measured brain responses as participants viewed a series of neutral photos, such as a man on a bike, as well as violent photos, such as a man holding a gun in another man’s mouth. Finally, participants competed against an opponent in a task that allowed them to give their opponent a controllable blast of loud noise. The level of noise blast the participants set for their opponent was the measure of aggression.