Study proves conclusively that violent video game play makes more aggressive kids

Mar 01, 2010

Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson has made much of his life's work studying how violent video game play affects youth behavior. And he says a new study he led, analyzing 130 research reports on more than 130,000 subjects worldwide, proves conclusively that exposure to violent video games makes more aggressive, less caring kids -- regardless of their age, sex or culture.

The study was published today in the March 2010 issue of the , an American Psychological Association journal. It reports that exposure to is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive thoughts and behavior, and decreased empathy and prosocial behavior in youths.

"We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method -- that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal -- and regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects," said Anderson, who is also director of Iowa State's Center for the Study of Violence. "And the effects are 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."

The study was conducted by a team of eight researchers, including ISU psychology graduate students Edward Swing and Muniba Saleem; and Brad Bushman, a former Iowa State psychology professor who now is on the faculty at the University of Michigan. Also on the team were the top video game researchers from Japan - Akiko Shibuya from Keio University and Nobuko Ihori from Ochanomizu University - and Hannah Rothstein, a noted scholar on meta-analytic review from the City University of New York.

The team used meta-analytic procedures -- the statistical methods used to analyze and combine results from previous, related literature -- to test the effects of violent video game play on the behaviors, thoughts and feelings of the individuals, ranging from elementary school-aged children to college undergraduates.

The research also included new longitudinal data which provided further confirmation that playing violent video games is a causal risk factor for long-term harmful outcomes.

"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.

The researchers conclude that the study has important implications for public policy debates, including development and testing of potential intervention strategies designed to reduce the harmful effects of playing violent video games.

"From a public policy standpoint, it's time to get off the question of, 'Are there real and serious effects?' That's been answered and answered repeatedly," Anderson said. "It's now time to move on to a more constructive question like, 'How do we make it easier for parents -- within the limits of culture, society and law -- to provide a healthier childhood for their kids?'"

But Anderson knows it will take time for the creation and implementation of effective new policies. And until then, there is plenty parents can do to protect their kids at home.

"Just like your child's diet and the foods you have available for them to eat in the house, you should be able to control the content of the video games they have available to play in your home," he said. "And you should be able to explain to them why certain kinds of games are not allowed in the house -- conveying your own values. You should convey the message that one should always be looking for more constructive solutions to disagreements and conflict."

Anderson says the new study may be his last meta-analysis on violent video games because of its definitive findings. Largely because of his extensive work on game effects, Anderson was chosen as one of the three 2010 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientist Lecturers. He will give a lecture at October's New England Psychological Association (NEPA) meeting in Colchester, Vt.

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User comments : 36

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Sean_W
3.4 / 5 (18) Mar 01, 2010
Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson has made much of his life's work studying how violent video game play affects youth behavior.


Researchers with a life long calling to prove a hypothesis?
Check.
Meta-analysis?
Check.
A product of the social sciences?
Check.

All signs point to horse-sh1te.
vantomic
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 01, 2010
I second that sean! The human brain is one of the great mysteries we have yet to understand. You can't possibly pretend to understand the emergent effects of something as ill defined as "violent video games" on the brain when one does not understand how the brain really works. I call bad science.
mjc
Mar 01, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jonnyboy
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2010
Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson has made much of his life's work studying how violent video game play affects youth behavior.


Researchers with a life long calling to prove a hypothesis?
Check.
Meta-analysis?
Check.
A product of the social sciences?
Check.

All signs point to horse-sh1te.


check !!
Skeptic_Heretic
3.8 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2010
I love these articles.

So tell me Dr. Anderson, who's more likely to be prone to violence?

1) A middle class kid who plays video games 4 hours a day from the US.
2) An upper class kid who plays 8 hours a day from Europe.
3)An impoverished child that plays no video games and hails from Rwanda.

According to your research the upper class kid from Europe will be a psycho killer, while the child from Rwanda will be a well adjusted socially outstanding individual.

Scientific method anyone? Remove the variables before you make an asinine statement.
teledyn
3.8 / 5 (11) Mar 01, 2010
funny, isn't it, how people will readily accept the prowess of scientific method when it supports their lifestyle, that red wine is good, that the climate is changing, that smoking is bad, that car exhaust is bad, that nutrition and exercise are good, but if it causes them to question themselves, suddenly it is horse-shite?
teledyn
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2010
and SkepticHeretic, didn't the article say, and I quote ...

"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."
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2010
teledyn,

If the effect is so small as to not be distinguishable from noise then there is no measurement and the good doctor made up his results.

You can't pick a cause from thin air and build the proof for it through subjective-heuristic data manipulation.

The statement you quote is effectively a "I didn't show my work" recant of his hypothesis.
Edylc
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 01, 2010
I kind of want to punch everybody involved in this. But I guess that must be because I play violent video games...
pauljpease
5 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2010
I work closely with teens and I find that they all have innate differences in personality. Some are naturally averse to violence and wouldn't enjoy playing violent video games. How do these studies include the effect of violent video games on such individuals? Have they done studies that force inherently nonviolent individual to play violent games for several hours per day and see if that makes them more violent? In other words, how do they know that their observation is not just a correlation...people who are less averse to violence might be more likely to play video games and also be more aggressive people?

At least the violence in video games provides a disconnect between the visual and motor pathways of the brain. That is, you press a button to punch someone. I'll start to get worried when you change the control system so that a real punch with your body equals a punch in the video game.
poof
3 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2010
The sooner we, as a scientific society, can address the fact that psychology is not a science, the quicker we can learn to ignore those who spout asinine hypotheses as fact and uncontrollable studies as evidence.
MorituriMax
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2010
Well, maybe we need more aggressive kids instead of couch potatoes who grow up unable to handle stress and situations where being a passive couch-potato isn't the best behavior for getting out there and aquiring a job in the nose-to-the-grindstone job market.
acarrilho
5 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2010
Played violent games all my life... enjoy mixed martial arts a great deal... I am still basically a pussy.
smoke_and_mirrors
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 01, 2010
Fallacy: life-long study is equivalent to intrinsic bias

Fallacy: "I play violent games and it hasn't affected me therefore violent games don't affect people" is a non sequitur and impossible to justify (unless you have a knowledge of how you would have been had you not played violent games)

Fallacy: psychology is not a science.

Fallacy: poverty makes people violent.

Plenty of horse sh*t around here, for sure.
rdza
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2010
This one is suspect based on the biased title alone. One study cannot prove anything "conclusively".

I sense an increased bias in the social "science" reporting around here.
vanderMerwe
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2010
Physorg has really got to get a grip on what it publishes. One study NEVER "proves" anything "conclusively". Gad! Warmists "true believer" attitudes have screwed up science far beyond their own predilections.
poof
2 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2010
Fallacy: life-long study is equivalent to intrinsic bias

Fallacy: "I play violent games and it hasn't affected me therefore violent games don't affect people" is a non sequitur and impossible to justify (unless you have a knowledge of how you would have been had you not played violent games)

Fallacy: psychology is not a science.

Fallacy: poverty makes people violent.

Plenty of horse sh*t around here, for sure.


You must be a psychologist.
Bloodoflamb
3 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2010
Since a psychological study cannot analyze an individual for violent predisposition in the case where this individual did not play video games in the past, you cannot assert casual connections. I would say it is more likely to be that individuals more prone to violence are more likely to seek out and play violent video games.
ormondotvos
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2010
A place where common sense and detailed science agree: Violence breeds violence. Learned behavior. Violently disrespected by many shamed and guilty addicts.
bluehigh
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2010
Watch the real world News on TV. Enough to make anyone psycho through exposure to war, injustice, corruption, inequality, rape, torture, dishonesty ... and we are worried about games? At least with a game we can strike back in a fantasy world or would you rather the kids go out and play with real people?

However, the article does mention that other factors often contribute much more to anti-social behaviour. Poverty. Check.
Bob_Kob
2 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2010
As much as i'd like to disagree with this as an avid 20 year old gamer, but i cant help but feel that it does increase aggression to some degree.

Just find a guy losing at modern warfare and you'll see how aggressive the game can make you. Perhaps what is different to say sports is that you can and probably will spend more time getting angry over video games than over sporting, possibly causing a gradual change in behavior.
ThomasS
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2010
I am really suprised by everyone saying this is bullshit. I mean, i've played a fair game without being overly aggresive, but it COULD just hold to some extent, now could it not?
QuantumDelta
5 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2010
As much as i'd like to disagree with this as an avid 20 year old gamer, but i cant help but feel that it does increase aggression to some degree.

Just find a guy losing at modern warfare and you'll see how aggressive the game can make you. Perhaps what is different to say sports is that you can and probably will spend more time getting angry over video games than over sporting, possibly causing a gradual change in behavior.

Actually a non-biased and non-subjective psychiatrist(those are very rare, if they even exist) would probably point out that such venting of frustration and anger is healthy for the psyche.
Anyone who has kids however would probably see it as a 'warning sign'.
Even in this conclusive proof study (...Right, conclusively proving with uncontrolled evidence in a pre-disposed study?), the researcher suggests that it's a significantly minor influence, far less than the typical motivators one way or another.
stonehat
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2010
This "scientific" study shows with the "utmost confidence" that if you want hard enough for something to be true, you will be able to find it in psychology studies.
CreepyD
5 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2010
Violence in games has always gone right over my head - I only play for the skill or fun of a game. Everything else is meaningless.
donjoe0
1.3 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2010
"it's time to get off the question of, 'Are there real and serious effects?' That's been answered and answered repeatedly, [...] It's now time to move on to a more constructive question like, 'How do we make it easier for parents -- within the limits of culture, society and law -- to provide a healthier childhood for their kids?"

Well, isn't that familiar? He stopped just short of using the words "settled science" and making it obvious just how similar his thesis is to that other widely believed-in religion that forms the basis of dictatorial policies attempting to control our lives a little more.
Yes
2.5 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2010
What I say is Not scientific, however, I do agree that people who play aggressive games are more aggressive.
Because
People who want to play those games are probably more aggressive upfront. (women do not play these games as much as men and women are less aggressive on average (ups what did I say, I am sorry for the stereotyping))
Playing the aggressive game is satisfying your aggressive instinct, and maybe after playing the game you have had enough. So the games could actually help in taming aggressive expression (Still feeling). Is that the reason why there are only wars left in counties that cannot afford game computers?

I do believe that internally, in the mind, the games do develop a sort of increased aggressive cognition. I hope that is what the prof proofed, or tried to proof.

I do believe however that there could be a tendency towards a very small group of people who want to live the game, buy a gun and start killing to see how that feels. If that would give a greater kick.
Adriab
5 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2010
Much like what Yes said, their results are skewed by the nature of what they are trying to test.

More violent people are drawn to more violent video games, so of course those who play them exhibit more violent tendencies.

Its almost like saying "People who drive cars are far more likely to drive a car than people who don't drive cars!"

This does point out a fundamental problem though, how do you empirically test something that is biased by the test?
kasen
3 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2010
I don't know about making me aggressive, but I'm pretty sure I've been thoroughly desensitised to most forms of violence and gore. Very few things upset me. Not sure how healthy that is.

Also, never been through it, but should I ever be held at gunpoint, become the target of a robbery, or end up in a hostage situation, stuff like that, I'd quickly forget what the police recommends and try to pull off some heroics. Of course, being more of a stealth-shooter type, I'd try to sneak attack the bad guys.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2010
Penn and Teller probably summed up the counter points to this article very well in their Videogame episode of BS!.
Jermz
not rated yet Mar 06, 2010
I concur with Skeptic_Heretic. I'm 23 years old and have played violent video games (titles including DOOM, Mortal Kombat, etc.) for many of those years. In those 23+ years I have never been in a fist fight or had any issues with anger or violent thoughts. Concerned parents simply must explain to their offspring the difference and consequences between the virtual world and reality.
slaveunit
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2010
I note that this fellow has drawn his results from other research on related material and 'regerdless' of research methods he has been able to prove his position, amazing that. If I tried to prove something in physics or chemistry or some other real science the research methods would matter a whole lot why doesnt it in this instance? maybe because it is opinion pretending to be science. I have been gaming for thirty years I have played just about anything you can name and so has most of my family and all their kids none of us are violent peeps I remember people saying the same stuff about tv and rock and roll music (yes I am that old). If parents teach their kids that violence is bad and why, kids realise a game is a game those who cant tell the difference already have problems. As to losing your temper when you lose look at footy tennis etc? nuff said These are the same people who said rock n roll and tv was bad for you and now are attempting to control you,and so history repeats
fourthrocker
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2010
I have been playing violent video games since they existed. Am I more prone to violence? I would have to say undoubtedly. To deny the premise is denying the obvious. However, this isn't the whole story. I was subjected to violent influences long before video games. 50's monster movies first, lots of westerns, war flicks & gangster movies later. This stuff is all still here with us today only more so, not like the bloodless violence of 50's. Then there is football, ultimate fighting, boxing, etc. Our society has been immersing us in violence more and more since movies invented Hollywood. Yes, violent video games make people more prone to violence, but no more than many other aspects of our modern society. Singling out and blaming violent video games for US having one of the most violent societies going while ignoring all the other violent influences on kids is stupid. Everyone is soaking in a sea of violence like never before. Either remove it all or get used to ever increasing levels.
antialias
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2010
Scientific method anyone? Remove the variables before you make an asinine statement.

That's why psychology is really only a pseudo-science.

I played violent games since personal computers came out. To date I have not been in a fight, ever. No aggressive tendencies even on the road.

There is a difference between pixels and real life - teach that to children and then there's no problem.
kirkamr
Mar 08, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2010
When there are just as many "studies" for both sides of the arguement that "prove conclusively" that a concept is true it becomes clear that no one has any "proof" whether or not the video games have an effect or not.

I'm not saying they do and I'm not saying they don't; I'm saying we have no idea.
vantomic
not rated yet Mar 16, 2010
LoL, all those people who believe psychology is a science are running around giving all our posts 1/5.

Javinator, you said it exactly right. ^^
frajo
not rated yet Mar 17, 2010
all those people who believe psychology is a science are running around giving all our posts 1/5.
If you don't believe that psychology is science what then is psychology from your point of view?
And what is statistics in your opinion?