Violent video games drive aggressive behaviour
The negative effects of playing violent video games can accumulate over time, according to a new study.
Researchers found that people who played a violent video game for three consecutive days showed increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations each day they played.
Meanwhile, those who played nonviolent games showed no meaningful changes in aggression or hostile expectations over that period.
Although other experimental studies have shown that a single session of playing a violent video game increased short-term aggression, this is the first to show longer-term effects, said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
"It's important to know the long-term causal effects of violent video games, because so many young people regularly play these games," Bushman said.
"Playing video games could be compared to smoking cigarettes. A single cigarette won't cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression," he noted.
Bushman conducted the study with Youssef Hasan and Laurent Begue of the University Pierre Mendes-France, in Grenoble, France, and Michael Scharkow of the University of Hohenheim in Germany.
The study involved 70 French university students who were told they would be participating in a three-day study of the effects of brightness of video games on visual perception.
They were then assigned to play a violent or nonviolent video game for 20 minutes on each of three consecutive days.
After playing the game each day, participants took part in an exercise that measured their hostile expectations.
The results showed that, after each day, those who played the violent games had an increase in their hostile expectations.
"People who have a steady diet of playing these violent games may come to see the world as a hostile and violent place. These results suggest there could be a cumulative effect," Bushman said.
This may help explain why players of the violent games also grew more aggressive day by day, agreeing to give their opponents longer and louder noise blasts through the headphones.
"Hostile expectations are probably not the only reason that players of violent games are more aggressive, but our study suggests it is certainly one important factor," Bushman said.
"After playing a violent video game, we found that people expect others to behave aggressively. That expectation may make them more defensive and more likely to respond with aggression themselves, as we saw in this study and in other studies we have conducted," he said.
Students who played the nonviolent games showed no changes in either their hostile expectations or their aggression, Bushman noted.
Their results are published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and will appear in a future print edition.