Running head: VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION

1

The Influence of Video Game Violence on Anger and Aggression Matthew D. Machnik University of Wisconsin-Green Bay May 2, 2011

2007). While the average video game player age is 34. The researchers note that this effect occurred after short-term exposure to violence (Barlett et al. Researchers examined a group of 96 students who were asked to spend 5 minutes playing a game in one of four conditions. When comparing periodic measures of state aggression with a previously established baseline. both in units sold and dollar sales. both young and old. but remains above baseline (Barlett et al. 2007). the video game 2 industry has been reporting substantial growth.. 2010). the ESA (2010) reported a sales figure of $10. since 1996. Harris. measured levels of aggression across time in 99 undergraduate students who played a violent video game. a study conducted by Barlett. Friedrich. and Baldassaro (2007). or abstract game. These included playing a violent.. 25% of video game players are under the age of 18 (ESA. 2010). This concern is what has inspired many researchers to examine whether or not video and computer games are capable of evoking increased violent and aggressive behavior from players. In addition to other measures.. or reading an article instead of playing a game (Bluemke et al. the researchers found that players exhibited an acute increase in aggression following violent video exposure that levels off.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION The Influence of Video Game Violence on Anger and Aggression According to the Entertainment Software Association [ESA] (2010). many researchers have become concerned about the effects that violent video game exposure may have on players. the researchers . and Zumbach (2010). which represents the combined total of all video and computer games purchased in the United States. In its most recent reporting. With this growth. For example. A number of studies concerning video games and aggression have noted increased aggressive behavior in individuals playing violent video games.5 billion. passive. Increases in aggression after short-term exposure to violent video games were also found in a study conducted by Bluemke.

the researchers found that games rewarding violent acts led to increased aggressive behavior. Thus. it was found that both male and female participants’ self- 3 concepts were significantly more aggressive in the violent video game condition (Bluemke et al. Interestingly. Carnagey and Anderson (2005) found increased levels of aggressive affect in participants playing a violent video game. 2010). further studies need to be conducted to explain the gender differences in the peaceful game condition (Bluemke et al. Games that punished violent behavior also led to increased aggression. Upon comparing the preand post-experiment measures. 2005). 2005).. The researchers expanded upon their finding by examining the effects of rewarding and punishing violent behavior within the game (Carnagey & Anderson. it would seem that aggression increases when playing violent video games regardless of reward or punishment of violent behavior. The researchers note that while the finding of increased aggression is consistent with previous research. 2005). 2005). Consistent with previous findings. cognition.. although these levels were less than those found in the reward condition (Carnagey & Angerson. the self-concepts of females became slightly more aggressive in the peaceful game condition. 2010). and affect (Carngey & Anderson. When compared to a non-blood . Other research has focused on manipulating aspects of the in-game experience to determine their effects on aggression. Researchers have found that individuals playing games showcasing blood and gore indicated greater intentions of physical aggression following game play than those in a non-blood condition (Farrar et al. 2010). 2010).. but the increases are more so when violent behavior is rewarded (Carnagey & Anderson.. Through a series of manipulations.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION asked participants to complete an implicit measure designed to measure participants’ selfconcept on a peaceful-aggressive continuum (Bluemke et al. while males’ self-concepts became significantly more peaceful (Bluemke et al. 2006)..

While the finding does seem significant. participants playing games 4 utilizing a third-person point-of-view reported increased physical aggression and hostility (Farrar et al. In response to these findings of increased aggression. and neutral (Bösche. It was found that. 2006). 2006). Increases in verbal aggression were also found in individuals using third-person view compared to first-person view (Krcmar & Farrar. et al.. Krcmar & Farrar. the participants were asked to complete a lexical decision task which recorded response times to different words representing different concepts (Bösche. aggressive negative. In either case.. These patterns of activation are seen as helping the game player achieve success in the game by allowing positive emotions to be suppressed (Weber. nonaggressive negative. 2006. They found patterns of brain activity similar to those involved with behavior and cognition during aggression (Weber.. The categories of concepts included positive. Specifically. Ritterfeld. 2009). Weber. after . et al. individuals viewing blood during game play also showed increased verbal aggression (Krcmar & Farrar. After 20 minutes of play. the researchers imaged the brains of 13 male participants while they played a violent video game. The study involved a group of male adults who asked to play either a violent or nonviolent video game. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging. the finding may present an initial understanding of the brain’s response to violent video games. In addition. A study conducted by Bösche (2010) also yielded results showing that exposure to violent video games primes aggression. 2006). 2009). differences have been noted regarding player point-ofview (Farra et al. 2009). et al. 2006). 2010).VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION condition.. and Mathiak (2006) attempted to locate the physiological mechanism through which increases in aggression may take place. 2010). the researchers caution that the pattern of brain activity may also be indicative of fear of perceived threats in the virtual environment (Weber..

. The researchers recruited a sample of 126 twelve. 77 (71. While some participants did experience an increase in anger. as well as other measures. 2010). While it is an important addition to the literature. and Ward (2007). positive concepts were identified most quickly of all (Bösche. . Although the author does note a number of limitations to the study. the finding may be limited by the short amount of time the participants spent playing the game (Unsworth et al. the finding presents an interesting new perspective through which to look at behavior following violent video game exposure. 2007). According to the author. both before and after playing a violent video game for 20 minutes (Unsworth et al. which is contradicted by the study (Bösche. 2007).. while 8 (7. 2010). these theories hypothesize that increased aggressive behavior results from negative cognitions during play. who were asked to complete the STAXI. the author attempts to explain this result by suggesting that an increased ability to identify positive concepts may result from the enjoyment derived through playing the game (Bösche. a number of studies have found contradictory results. While this finding lends support to those of previous studies.to eighteen-year-old participants. it also yielded an unexpected result. Although identification of aggressive concepts was faster than neutral ones. 2010). this finding challenges theories associating aggressive behavior with violent video game play (Bösche.96 %) participants experienced no change. One such study was conducted by Unsworth. Specifically.. 2007). 5 While only speculation. 2010). While much research has supported the view that violent video games cause increases in aggression.48%) of the participants experienced a decrease in anger (Unsworth et al. participants identified aggressive concepts more quickly than neutral concepts (Bösche. Devilly. 2010).VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION playing the violent video game.

2005). the researchers attempted to increase the generalizability of their results by having participants carry out the experiment in a non-laboratory setting of their choice. Examination of long-term effects produced a surprising result. and on their own time (Williams & Skoric. or no game play. participants were assigned to different conditions. 2010). a nonviolent video game. and behavioral items related to aggressive behavior (Williams & Skoric. as well as a task measuring frustration (Ferguson & Rueda. long-term exposure to the violent video game. as the real world setting and longitudinal nature of the study may more accurately mimic the conditions of many violent video game players (Williams & Skoric. did not produce increased aggressive beliefs or behavior (Williams & Skoric. Before the experiment began. 2005). a study conducted by Williams and Skoric (2005) examined the effects of long-term exposure to violent video games. they were then asked to complete a task designed to measure aggressive behavior. participants were asked to complete a form designed to examine their video game playing .VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION Expanding on the results of Unsworth et al. 2005). 2010). In other words. At the end of the 1 month study. 2005). In the study. The researchers found that no significant short-term differences in the aggressive behavior task scores were found between participants in the violent game condition when compared to the nonviolent and no game play conditions (Ferguson & Rueda. Participants completed a questionnaire containing items intended to measure both aggression-related beliefs. 2005). The authors believe that this finding is an important contribution to scientific literature.and long-term effects was conducted by Ferguson and Rueda (2010). After 45 minutes of game play. the results indicated that there was no correlation between the amount of time spent playing the game and aggression measures (Williams & Skoric. In addition. (2007). including playing 6 a violent video game. A study looking at both short. when compared to controls.

and the frustration task were all compared (Ferguson & Rueda. researchers have attempted to identify differences that exist between groups. Orobio de Castro. a non-violent video game. et al. the findings of both Ferguson and Rueda (2010). 2008). The participants’ data recorded on the hostility measure. 2010). This study yielded significant differences in aggressive behavior between boys and girls (Polman. Even with this uncertainty. participants filled out the State Hostility Scale.. the children were then directed to play freely (Polman. On the other hand. 2010). One particular area of interest involves differences between male and female video game players. The researchers hypothesized that this result may stem from individuals using video games as a means of stress reduction. conducted by Polman. et al. Between the three conditions. no differences in aggressive behavior during play were found in girls (Polman et al. and Bösche (2010) provide support for the notion that video game exposure may have aggression reducing benefits for the player.. 2008). as well as the Beck Depression Inventory-II (Ferguson &Rueda. and van Aken (2008). 2010). 2008). depression measure. although a causal relationship 7 could not be truly formed (Ferguson & Rueda. it was found that boys carried out significantly more aggressive behavior after playing the violent video game than in .VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION habits outside of the experimental setting (Ferguson & Rueda. 2010).. In addition. The researchers found that individuals reporting long-term increased violent video game play reported both reduced depression and hostility upon completing the frustration task (Ferguson &Rueda. game play habits questionnaire. After each group was exposed to their respective conditions for 15 minutes. or watched others play a violent video game (Polman et al. One such study.. exposed groups of children to a number of separate conditions in which they played either a violent video game. While debate continues on the general topic of video game violence and aggressive behavior. 2010). 2008).

In other words.. Citing a lack of research done on female participants in regards to violent media. and that the increased exposure to violence in boys may have accounted for their behavior (Polman et al. 2008). et al. The researchers found that participants in both of the violent game conditions engaged in increased aggressive behavior according to the aforementioned operationalization procedure (Arriaga. with one-half of each group playing their respective game either in a virtual-reality. Measurements of aggressive behavior were carried out after each participant engaged in playing their respective game for two sessions.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION 8 the non-violent or watching others condition (Polman et al. 2008). et al. results of a study conducted by Arriaga. 2008). Carneiro. the researchers recruited 91 female participants.. et al. and another playing a violent video game.. Further gender related research on the effects of violent video games has focused on all female populations. with one playing a non-violent video game. Esteves. a study conducted by Anderson and Murphy (2003) examined the effects of violent video games on behavior in women.. The researchers speculated on the cause of the difference by noting that the boys reported playing violent video games more frequently than girls. However.. 2008). et al. To do so. the male and female participants of the study experienced similar increases in aggressive behavior following exposure to violent video games (Arriaga. Aggressive behavior was operationalized by the researchers through a competitive task in which participants were given the option to punish a defeated opponent with loud noises (Arriaga. 2008).. On the contrary. or non-virtual-reality environment (Arriaga. no differences in aggressive behavior were found between genders (Arriaga. 2008). and .. The groups were further divided. 2008). and Monteiro (2008) found no differences in aggressive behavior between males and females. et al. Researchers divided participants into groups.

Norris (2004) examined levels of aggression in women who play computer games. The violent video game group was also divided.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION 9 divided the group into three conditions (Anderson & Murphy. Data was collected using a self-report survey measure. violent video game players using a female character engaged in slightly more aggressive behavior compared to those who used a male character (Anderson & Murphy. with one group playing as a male character. and another playing as a female character (Anderson & Murphy. First. Aggressive behavior was measured using a method similar to the one employed by Arriaga. 2003). (2008). Anderson and Murphy (2003) lend support to the finding of Arriaga et al. computer usage characteristics. This method yielded a number of interesting results. and completed a questionnaire designed to assess different levels of aggressive behavior (Norris. Thus. 2004). As part of a series of experiments. 2003). Second. In addition to using violent and nonviolent video game variables. participants in the violent video game condition engaged in more aggressive behavior when compared to nonviolent game players (Anderson & Murphy. the researchers examined the role of the in-game characters gender (Anderson & Murphy. it was found that higher aggression scores were attained by female game players when compared to women who did not participate in computer based gaming (Norris. Overall. Although not statistically significant. by showing this effect on a female population. 2003). 2004). Additional investigation within the female population was conducted by Norris (2004). 2003). 2003). in which participants reported demographic data. (2008). et al. a slight positive correlation was found between the number of hours per week spent playing computer games and aggression . in which gender did not account for differences in increased aggressive behavior.

Norris (2004) noted slight positive correlations between both anger and physical aggression. In addition to other measures. it may be possible that individuals with low levels of normative beliefs regarding aggression may be at lower risk of experiencing increases in aggression after playing violent video games. 2005). and Norris (2004). demonstrate that female game players may just as susceptible to increases in aggressive behavior as a result of violent video game exposure. further research may want to be conducted with this demographic. as a part of the study conducted by Williams and Skoric (2005). delinquent behavior. the researchers asked participants to complete questionnaires designed to measure levels of trait aggressiveness. 2010). researchers have looked at the characteristics of individuals who play violent video games. researchers assessed participants’ preexisting beliefs on aggression. Examination into this trait was conducted by Anderson and Dill (2000). Last. On the contrary. and amount of time spent playing video games (Anderson & Dill. For example. 2004). Participants in the experimental group reported low levels of normative beliefs regarding aggression (Williams & Skoric. When considering that the researchers failed to demonstrate a link between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior (Williams & Skoric. In an attempt to explain differences in aggressive behavior following violent video game exposure. With females accounting for 40% of the gaming population (ESA. exposure to video game violence.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION 10 scores (Norris. the results of studies carried out by Anderson and Murphy (2003). and hours per week spent playing video games. the researchers came up with several results . 2005). Upon analyzing the data. Other research on game player characteristics has examined trait aggressiveness. What is intriguing about these findings is that Anderson and Murphy (2003) note that it is typically thought that females are immune to the effects of violent video games. 2010).

Although causality cannot be implied. it would appear that levels of trait aggressiveness might play a significant role in how individuals’ react to video game violence (Anderson & Dill. 11 individuals reporting higher levels of trait aggression also reported significantly higher levels of violent video game exposure (Anderson & Dill. “high on neuroticism and low on agreeableness and conscientiousness” (Markey & Markey. the authors utilized the Five Factor Model of Personality (Markey & Markey. Finally. 2010). These individuals were reported as being. 2010). 2010). a comprehensive meta-analysis of literature pertaining game player personality characteristics was conducted by Markey and Markey (2010). In other words. The researchers use these results to . after playing violent video games (Markey &Markey. these individuals will often be emotionally unstable. Last. 2010). Second. 2010). Specifically. 2010). the researchers found that higher amounts of time spent playing violent video games were correlated with increased aggressive behavior (Anderson & Dill. Upon analysis. 2010). less empathetic towards others. Using this model. 2010). the authors examined previous research related to the experience of negative behavioral effects. the influence of exposure to violence on behavior was greater in those individuals reporting higher levels of trait aggressiveness (Anderson & Dill. In order to characterize the findings of the research.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION First. the researchers came to the conclusion that a particular combination of personality traits is commonly present in individuals reporting behavioral problems after playing violent video games (Markey & Markey. 2010). 2010). such as increased aggression. and show little regard for rules (Markey & Markey. differences in aggressive behavior between participants following violent video game exposure appeared to be moderated by levels of trait aggressiveness (Anderson & Dill.

Various studies have reported differences in behavioral outcomes upon exposure to violent media. it would seem that the relationship between the two may be moderated by individual characteristics.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION infer that the aforementioned personality traits are responsible for moderating behavioral responses to violent media. Thus. . trait aggressiveness. (Markey & Markey. it would seem that the debate concerning the effects of violent video 12 games on aggressive behavior has not reached a solid conclusion. While some researchers implicate exposure to violent videos games as resulting in increased aggressive behavior. It is the suggestion of the author that future studies should closely examine the connection between individual characteristics and aggressive behavior following violent media exposure. and not necessarily the media itself. 2010). such as beliefs about aggression. whether or not an individual experiences increases in aggressive behavior may be dependent upon their characteristics. and combination of personality traits. In conclusion. rather than the media itself. as this may provide a better understanding of the effects of exposure to violence than focusing on the media itself.

Esteves. & Monteiro. & Murphy. J. (2003). doi:10. R. Violent video games prime both aggressive and positive cognitions. W. Essential facts about the computer and video game industry [Brochure].2005. L.1002/ab. The influence of violent and nonviolent computer games on implicit measures of aggressiveness. doi:10. 22. The effects of reward and punishment in violent video games on aggressive affect.772 Anderson. 78. & Zumbach. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories. F.1002/ab. & Dill.1037/0022-3514. and behavior in the laboratory and in life.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION References Anderson. M.4.x Entertainment Software Association. Are the effects of unreal violent video games pronounced when playing with a virtual reality system?. (2005). Psychological Science. and Applications. 2010 from . P. doi:10. & Anderson. 423-429. Violent video games and aggressive behavior in young women. 29. C. Methods. Friedrich. (2000).1002/ab. Video games and aggressive thoughts. doi:10. A. (2010). 113. (2008). doi:10. Aggressive Behavior. M. Aggressive Behavior. (2010). K. (2007). C.10042 Arriaga.. doi:10. & Baldassaro.20329 Bösche. 36. (2010).. 882-889..20272 13 Barlett. doi:10. J. Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. M.1002/ab. cognition. Harris. 486-497.1027/1864-1105/a000019 Carnagey. E. P. C. C. Longer you play. Retrieved April 15.. P. 139-146. 16. R. C. 772-790... A. R. 521-538.78.. 33. feelings. 34. and behavior. A.01632..1467-9280.1111/j. N. the more hostile you feel: Examination of first person shooter video games and aggression during video game play. Carneiro..20227 Bluemke.. Aggressive Behavior.

K. J. N. (2007). doi:10.20245 doi:10. 56. Does playing violent video games induce aggression? Empirical evidence of a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.14602466.1027/1016-9040/a000010 Krcmar. G. P..00025. K.1080/10683160601060655 Weber. 383-394. & Ward. K.2004. M. S. Experimental study of the differential effects of playing versus watching violent video games on children's aggressive behavior. & van Aken. Krcmar. and aggression. Devilly. & Mathiak. 256-264. Contextual features of violent video games.. and depression. & Rueda. CyberPsychology & Behavior. B. (2006). Review of General Psychology. doi:10. and Computer Games: An Online Survey of Women. Aggressive Behavior. (2006).VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION http://www.7..1002/ab. M. European Psychologist.2006. (2010). doi:10. 14. mental models..com/facts/pdfs/ESA_Essential_Facts_2010. 99-108.1007/s11031-006-9051-8 Unsworth. 15.714 Polman. 7. J.. & Markey. The Hitman study: Violent video game exposure effects on aggressive behavior. 13.pdf 14 Farrar.1037/a0019000 Norris. doi:10. 12. K. (2008). Crime & Law. M.. M. T. (2010).theesa. Retaliatory aggression and the effects of point of view and blood in violent video games. Markey. 714-727. M. 115-138. doi:10.1111/j. 82-91. L. Gender Stereotypes. O. Ritterfeld. 387-405. H.. R. de Castro. Psychology. U..1089/cpb. & Farrar.. M.x Ferguson. (2009). Vulnerability to violent video games: A review and integration of personality research. & Nowak. doi:10. G.. G. The effect of playing violent video games on adolescents: Should parents be quaking in their boots?.. Media . K. Journal of Communication. C. hostile feelings. C. Mass Communication & Society. Aggression. 34. (2004).

Internet fantasy violence: A test of aggression in an online game.1207/S1532785XMEP0801_4 Williams. M. doi:10. 72. (2005). 217-233. 39-60.1080/03637750500111781 15 . Communication Monographs.VIDEO GAMES AND AGGRESSION Psychology. & Skoric. 8. doi:10. D..

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful