August 16, 2006

More Science News: Violent video games generate physiological apathy to real violence

Scroll down to the last item on this Australian article, "Violent video games might not be real, but they can render a person less sensitive to real-life violence, claim the authors of a new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology".

247 American university students, almost evenly split by gender, were given a free random gaming session by the testers. The games could be either violent or non-violent. After a 20 minute stint gaming, the participants were shown 10 minutes of actual violence, while they were tested for stress responses (heart rate and galvanic skin response). Students who had previously played the violent game had lower (less stressed) responses to the TV violence than those who hadn't. Suggesting that playing violent video games can reduce one's reaction to "real" (well, televised) violence, apathy.

It's really interesting. It is a short term affect study though. How long does this apathy-increasing affect last? I didn't find information in the article or abstract (damn, pay-per-view science) about the length of "downtime" between gaming and watching. What is the affect on real (as opposed to televised violence)? What was the heart rate and GSR measurements during gaming - perhaps heart rate doesn't fluctate as much because it was already still fluctuating from violence, not from any real apathy generation. It is hard to tell.

The study may also have some benefits beyond just giving more weapons for the anti-violence censors amongst us. The military (particularly the US DOD) has been previously shown in favour of recruiting gamers - perhaps this is a valid criteria to go by - aren't desensitized people less likely to develop certain conditions such as post-traumatic stress; or it could be seen as an increasingly bad criteria, as desensitized people might be more prone to commiting certain ear-necklace gathering atrocities...

The games (thanks to Laura, who also mentions previous studies on real non-televised violence and video games):

Violent: Carmageddon, Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat or Future Cop.
I'm curious if she means the latest versions of these games, the original Duke Nukem is only slightly more violent than Super Mario Bros. (Duke has a laser-gun, he doesn't just squash, kick and throw fireballs; also was it zombie/robot or human version of Carmageddon).

Non-violent: Glider Pro, 3D Pinball, 3D Munch Man and Tetra Madness.

Munch Man and Tetra Madness have simulated violence - chompie chomps up ghosts, and tetra madness' tetris clone seems to crush goblins with anchors and anvils *gasp*. Also these all appear to be Mac Games... could Macs have an affect sensitizing people to violence!?

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At Fri. Aug. 25, 01:59:00 pm AEST, Anonymous Laura said...

I don't know which versions of the games that Carnagy et al. used, but I'll try and find out for you.

I've not seen Duke--I'm strictly a Zelda person. Link rules.


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