The psychological impact of video games depends largely on who is playing them, according to the Review of General Psychology. The journal devoted its June issue to comprehensive explorations of the various ways in which people, especially children and adolescents, are psychologically influenced by video games. This included the well-known correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior, but also explored more positive connections, including social skills and psychotherapy.
In the area of video games and aggression, which is one of the most common associations between gaming and mental health, researchers found that there is, indeed, a correlation between violent games and aggression. However, the link is not necessarily a causal one. Adolescents and children with certain pre-existing behavioral and mental traits were more likely to be susceptible to influence from violent video games. These traits include higher tendencies toward neuroticism, lower levels of agreeableness, and lower levels of conscientiousness as compared to their peers. These children, after playing violent games, were documented as being more hostile and aggressive. But children who were less neurotic, more agreeable, and more conscientious were influenced very little, if at all, by the violent games.
The journal also explored potential positive connections between playing video games and cognitive behavior. Specific to the field of psychotherapy, the study found that video games can serve several helpful roles: they can function as a means to evaluate cognitive skills in younger patients, can help younger patients feel more comfortable and cooperative within a psychotherapy setting, and can provide a means to clarify conflicts that arise during therapy. Other potential ‘upsides’ of video games include findings that they can be learning tools to teach kids how to manage specific health conditions, to facilitate dialogue between parents and kids, and to give parents and children common ground for spending time together.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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