Case Closed: Violent Video Games Don’t Cause Violent Behavior

Play On: Violent Video Games Don’t Make You Violent

Hey, remember when GTA or any of its sequels came out, and like clockwork a parade of angry moms flooded the TV and news with the argument that playing violent video games causes violent behavior from children? Time to throw a stick into their spokes once and for all (sorry mom) with a new research report.

A group of German researchers conducted an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) study on a group of fifteen male violent video game (VVG) users, requiring participants having played first-person shooter titles like Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and Battlefield for at least four years and for at least two hours per day on average.

violent video games

From the report:

“Long term effects were the focus of the present study, which assessed neural responses to stimuli designed to elicit empathic reactions. To rule out short term effects of VVG, users had ben abstinent for at least 3 hours prior to the measurements. Contrary to our initial hypothesis of a reduced activity in empathy related brain regions in VVG users, the fMRI data did not provide evidence for a neural desensitization in the processing emotionally salient stimuli. In fact, the responses of both groups were very similar and no group differences were observed even at relaxed statistical thresholds. This lack of a group main effect and of interaction effects involving the group factor is not due to a general lack of emotional reactivity in our participants. Indeed, we found robust activations for the factor emotional content in our data set similar to those found previously in studies using the same materials.

Thus, the lack of group differences in our fMRI data does not suggest, that excessive VVG use leads to long term emotional desensitization and a blunting of neural responses related to empathy. This is corroborated by the questionnaire data which did not reveal differences between VVG users and controls for empathy and aggression measures, even though some differences emerged for measures assessing novelty seeking and antisocial personality.”

Researchers hypothesized playing violent video games might be a symptom rather than the cause for antisocial personality.

“VVG users of our study also showed high values on the antisocial scale of the clinical personality inventory. This again may be the basis for specific problematic behavior often suggested for this population. In this sense, VVG use might be a yet another symptom not the cause of problems in this group.”

Their conclusion was that there’s no evidence of long-term desensitization due to playing violent video games.

“We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”

Shut it, moms. The German scientists have spoken.