Do Violent Games Make Violent People? - Not Just a Reaction to Images
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Subjects were then told they were playing a game against an opponent that tested how quickly they could push a button in response to a tone. The competitor who pushed the button more slowly would be punished by receiving a blast of noise through their headphones of varying loudness and duration. The length and intensity of the noise was determined by the winner of the previous round. In fact, there was no opponent. Researchers found that those with the greatest reduction in their p300 response meted out the worst punishments, even when they controlled for their subjects’ natural hostility.
This study by itself, even when the second part is factored in, has failed to convince some people. According to Jonathan Freedman, a psychologist from the University of Toronto, Canada, “We habituate to any kind of stimulus. All we are really getting is desensitization to images. There’s no way to show that this relates to real-life aggression.”
On the other hand, the study results become more suggestive when combined with another study whose results were published in June 2005. Klaus Matthiak at the University of Aachen in German recruited 13 gamers, aged 18 to 26, who played video games on average for two hours every day. He had them play a violent video game in which they were proficient while having their brains scanned by magnetic resonance imaging. Matthiak was able to check the gamers’ reactions scene by scene, and therefore could see the differences in brain reactions to more and less violent scenes.
The results are interesting enough to quote from the New Scientist article in which it was published. “He found that as violence became imminent, the cognitive parts of the brain became more active. And during a fight, emotional parts of the brain…were shut down. This pattern is the same as that seen in subjects who have had brain scans during other simulated violent situations such as imagining an aggressive encounter. It is impossible to scan people’s brains during acts of real aggression so Matthiak argues that this is as close as you can get to the real thing. It suggests that video games are a ‘training for the brain to react with this pattern,’ he says.”
In other words, when you play a violent video game, your brain is reacting as if the violence is real. Also, playing violent video games seems to desensitize people to violence. This doesn’t mean that playing violent video games actually encourages people to commit violence. But it is very suggestive, especially when you factor in the roleplaying element to some degree (and take a look at the research that has been conducted which relates to that topic).
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