Many people believe that playing violent video games is a bad idea because they fear it will lead to an increase in aggressive behaviour. As these games become increasingly popular, some academics have expressed their concerns. However, according to a new study, concerns about the psychological effects of violent video games may be unfounded. Participants’ hostility and prosocial behaviour were largely unaffected by playing a violent video game every day for two months, according to the longitudinal study — a type of research that involves making repeated observations of the same variables across time.
Most studies conducted to understand the impact of violent video games on players have remained inconclusive so far. Some have said violent video games promote aggression, while others have failed to find any such effects.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry by Nature Publishing Group, says previous research focused on the short-term consequences of violent gaming play, but these effects were “primarily the product of priming”. An increase in hostility after an hour of playing violent video games is an example of such an effect. This means the violent game made aggressive thoughts more accessible.
For the study, flyers and internet advertisements were used to recruit 90 healthy individuals. The participants included both college students and members of the general public. The advertisement stated that the participants were being recruited for a video game longitudinal study and a written agreement was obtained after a thorough explanation of the study. The participants, who were between the ages of 18 and 45, spent two months playing the ‘violent video game’ Grand Theft Auto V, non-violent video game The Sims 3, or no game at all. Before and after two months of games, their social behaviour was assessed using questionnaires, behavioural measures of aggression, sexist views, empathy and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs, mental health, and executive control functions.
“No significant changes were observed, neither when comparing the group playing a violent video game to a group playing a non-violent game, nor to a passive control group,” the authors concluded in the study.