Researchers have determined that at least two violent video games, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, seem to have relatively no negative impact on prosocial behavior. Unlike Donkey Kong and Frogger, two tried-and-true nonviolent games that have raised virtually no concern with regards to violent behavior and prosocial attitudes, the onslaught of extremely violent video games that has taken over the thumbs and minds of today’s youth have been troubling parents and social critics for years.
Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty are two of the most commonly played and criticized. Critics of the games point to research that suggests these activities increase violent behavior in children and decrease social empathy and awareness. But according to a new series of studies conducted by Morgan J. Tear of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia, these games have virtually no negative effect on prosocial behavior at all.
Tear performed three separate experiments on a sample of young people to determine how the type of game and the length of playing time would affect prosocial attitudes. After several tests, the participants playing the violent games had almost identical social responses as those playing nonviolent games. When Tear compared the prosocial attitudes of participant after playing classic versus nonclassic video games, the results were the same. Finally, when duration of play was assessed, there were no social attitude differences between those participants who played for short periods of time and those who played for longer durations.
Another interesting finding was that even though the participants’ social attitudes were tested against strangers, they were still deemed prosocial. This finding contradicts existing research that suggests individuals maintain higher prosocial attitudes toward familiar individuals like family members and friends when compared to strangers. Although the findings of this research do not support the theory of antisocial attitudes resulting from violent video games, Tear does not believe public concern is completely unwarranted. “Research on the effects of video game play is of significant public interest,” said Tear. “It is therefore important that speculation be rigorously tested and findings replicated.”
Tear, M.J., Nielsen, M. (2013). Failure to demonstrate that playing violent video games diminishes prosocial behavior. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68382. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068382
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