Many studies have examined the effect of violent video game play on adolescents’ behavior. But few have looked at how violent video games influence aggression in these children long-term. Because almost all of American teens play some sort of video game, this trend warrants further investigation. “What is concerning, however, is that over half of the adolescents surveyed reported playing violent video games, and five of the 10 most frequently played games were assessed as violent,” said Teena Willoughby of the Department of Psychology at Brock University in Canada. “Similarly, it has been demonstrated in experimental research that playing violent video games temporarily increases aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and physiological arousal.”
To determine the long-term relationship between behavior and video game play, Willoughby and her colleagues evaluated teens’ attitudes toward violence and aggression as a result of the violence they experience during play. “For example, violent video game play may encourage a hostile attributional bias, such as when a person consistently interprets ambiguous situations as hostile,” said Willoughby. “Thus, long-term violent video game players may become more likely to react aggressively to unintentional provocations, such as when someone accidentally bumps into them.”
The researchers surveyed Canadian students in grades 9 through 12 who reported playing violent video games regularly. They found that those who played the most throughout the four years had the highest increases in aggressive and violent behavior. Additionally, they found that more violent game play in grade 11 directly forecasted increased violent and aggressive behavior in grade 12. They did not find violent behavior led to game play. “Overall, the results offer support for the suggestion that violent video game play may be linked to greater aggression over time.” Willoughby added, “The fact that many adolescents play violent video games for several hours every day underscores the need for a greater understanding of the long-term relation between violent video games and aggression, as well as the game characteristics (e.g., violent content, level of competition, pace of action) that may be responsible for that association.”
Willoughby, T., Adachi, P. J. C., & Good, M. (2011, October 31). A Longitudinal Study of the Association Between Violent Video Game Play and Aggression Among Adolescents. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026046
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