One of the most widespread ideas within psychology, in the world of educators and even among parents is: violent video games lead to aggressive behavior. However, both in psychology and in life, very few things can be identified in a linear way, so there is some research that shows different results.
Perhaps the first demonstration that violent video games do not necessarily lead to aggressiveness and irritability was the study conducted at Columbia University by Anderson and Dill in 2000.
A total of 227 students who played video games with violent and non-violent content participated in this research. Investigators later asked them to play another game, this time against what they considered to be real people in a neighboring room. However, the actual opponents did not really exist and the game was arranged so that the students won half the time.
Players wore headphones that allowed them to regulate the noise level they would supply to opponents whenever they won. The results were staggering: Students who had previously dealt with violent games provided less noise than those who dealt with non-violent games.
Thus, while some violent games can lead to aggressiveness, others seem to decrease it, at least momentarily.
Another similar experiment was developed in 2008 by Meier, who designed a very simple game to corroborate the relationships between violent content and aggressive behavior. 81 volunteers participated in the study, showing them words that appeared randomly in a corner of the screen.
They had to click on each word, causing a new word to appear in its place. They were asked to memorize the new words for a memory test that they would do later. Although the subsequent test did not really exist.
Some players were shown words like: “hate” and “killer” half the time, when they clicked on them other words like “promise” and “share” or words with neutral content appeared. The second group was shown the same words only that the violent content words were changed by random letters like “ssss” or “llll”.
Later they were asked to play against a real opponent and punish him with a certain level of noise.
Players who clicked on aggressive words but were asked to memorize helpful words selected lower levels of punishment for their opponents.
The key to the difference lies in: seeing violent content words followed by words that imply a request for help can significantly reduce aggressiveness when touching a person’s emotional cords. Even researchers suggested that such games could be used in therapies that are developed in people with anger problems and aggressive behaviors.
Anderson and Dill even claim that more harmful effects are generated from television media than from playing violent video games. However, it must be considered that exclusively violent video games, especially when the players are children, can have very negative effects on the conformation of the personality.
These investigations, as well as a study developed to analyze the possible levels of violence that reading the Bible can generate, are analyzed in a very specific situation in people who are not everyday players. A different incidence could occur in those children and adolescents whose only pattern of response to situations is the main characters of violent video games.
Meier, B.; Wilkowski, B. & Robinson, M. (2008). Bringing out the agreeableness in everyone: Using a cognitive self-regulation model to reduce aggression. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44 (5), 1383-1387.
Anderson, C. A. & Dill, K. E. (2000) Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 78(4): 772-790.