Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023
No word on whether study participants were more likely to take a cool walk away from explosions without looking back.
enlarge / No word on whether study participants were more likely to take a cool walk away from explosions without looking back.

A new, long-term study of video game playing from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the German University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf, published recently in Molecular Psychiatry found that adults showed “no significant changes” on a wide range of behavioral measures after two consecutive months of daily violent play.

Most scientific studies on the effects of violence in video games measure participants right after the completion of a gameplay session, when the adrenaline generated by the on-screen action is likely still pumping. Researcher Simone Kuhn and her co-authors argue that “effects observed only a few minutes after short sessions of video games are not representative of what society at large is interested in, namely how the habit of playing violent video games influences behavior on affect a longer term.” term basis.”

To correct for the “priming” effects inherent in these other studies, researchers got 90 adult participants to play as well Grand Theft Auto V or The Sims 3 for at least 30 minutes every day for eight weeks (a control group played no games during the test period). The selected adults, ranging from 18 to 45 years old, reported having played little to no video games in the past six months and were screened for pre-existing psychological problems before the tests.

The participants were subjected to a broad set of 52 established questionnaires designed to measure “aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy and interpersonal competences, impulsivity-related constructs (such as thrill-seeking, boredom, risk-taking, discounting delay), mental health (depression, anxiety) as well as executive control functions.” The tests were administered just before and immediately after the two-month play period and also two months afterward, to measure possible lasting effects.

Over 208 separate comparisons (52 tests; violent vs. non-violent and control groups; pre- vs. post- and two-month testing), only three subjects showed a statistically significant effect of the violent gameplay with a 95 percent confidence level . Pure chance would predict that more than 10 of the 208 comparisons would be significant at that level, leading the researchers to conclude “there were no ill effects from violent video gameplay.”

As video games continue to be an easy scapegoat for many politicians and critics in the wake of the ongoing school shootings, this new comprehensive study offers “[s] strong evidence against the oft-discussed negative effects of playing violent video games,” as the authors put it.

The results aren’t all good news for gaming advocates, though; while other studies have found that gameplay had a positive effect on “executive control tasks” such as multitasking, this study found no such benefits.

While this is an encouraging new direction for gaming research, it is not the final word on the effects of violent gaming. The authors acknowledge that “future research is needed to demonstrate the absence of effects of violent video gameplay in children.” In that regard, a 2011 longitudinal survey of 11,000 British young people found that “playing electronic games was not associated with behavioral problems”, for what it’s worth.

By akfire1

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