Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Violent video games and aggression

A researcher has just published a big meta-analysis of studies of violent video games and concluded that "exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior."
"These are not huge effects -- not on the order of joining a gang vs. not joining a gang," said Anderson. "But these effects are also not trivial in size. It is one risk factor for future aggression and other sort of negative outcomes. And it's a risk factor that's easy for an individual parent to deal with -- at least, easier than changing most other known risk factors for aggression and violence, such as poverty or one's genetic structure."

The analysis found that violent video game effects are significant in both Eastern and Western cultures, in males and females, and in all age groups. Although there are good theoretical reasons to expect the long-term harmful effects to be higher in younger, pre-teen youths, there was only weak evidence of such age effects.
I have mixed feelings about this. It is clear that doing anything with the brain potentiates some synapses and inhibits others, but things like aggression also have a genetic, or at least a congenital, component. So my guess is we will find that people who are susceptible to aggression are more influenced by violent video games than people who are not. That's my tautology of the day.

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