After many years of back and forth debate over whether violent video games cause long-term aggressive behaviour and lower sensitivity, a major break thru has been made by a group of German experts in the various fields of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and Neurology.
The study consisted of 15 control male subjects. According to the study,”aggressive behaviour is more prevalent in men, thus only male participants were recruited”.
To be fair, all participants were tested and were free of any previous psychiatric and neurological disorders by a clinical authority ahead of time in order to rule out such factors.
Each started playing video games as early as 13 years of age and played around 4 hours per day on average. These were compared to another group of similar aged young men who admitted that they neither played violent video games or even played that regularly.
What did they come up with and how did they find their results?
During the course of the experiment, the subjects from both groups were exposed to normally viewed as violent and disturbing images involving a man being tortured and a woman on fire.
Immediately after the subjects were asked to place themselves in the victim’s place, thus activating or not activating their sense of empathy, and the results were quite surprising.
Using an fMRI, neural networks were then scanned on the brains of the volunteers.and researchers concluded that neither group showed any differences in brain responses.
This gives the research team confidence to conclude that there is now evidence against the desensitisation hypothesis and suggests that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather “acute and short-lived”.
When being interviewed, it appeared that the group of video game players less social but were no more aggressive or less empathetic than the other non-gamer group.
Dr Gregor Szycik, the studies lead author said, “The brains of violent video game users and normal control subjects seem to process the material in the same way”.
The researchers did admit to the possibilities of certain limitations of the study including the fact that the non-violent video game playing group may have been desensitised by other violent or aggressive form of media like watching a fight on PPV. Read the full report.
Dr Claire McCarthy is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School has also expressed concern over the long-term effects of exposure to video games with violence.
Cautioning parents still do the best to limit overexposure and encourage their kids to take needed mental breaks.
According to McCarthy, new research seems to indicate “that our brains seem to treat fictional media and real-life events quite differently. We really need to retool our theories of media consumption to take account for the increasing evidence that our brains employ ‘fiction detectors’ that cause us to respond very differently to fictional media than real-life events.”
Also supporting the notion that violent video games have no long term harmful effects, Dr Christopher Ferguson, is a leading critic of research linking video games to aggression at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He has stated that”over the last 10 years we’ve really seen a wave of behavioural studies indicating that violent video games are not associated with behavioural problems in players”
Interestingly enough, a 2002 study conducted by Sparks and Sparks, 2002; Anderson et al., 2003; Huesmann et al., 2003, concluded that “Long-term exposure to VVG on aggressive behavior according to the GAM leads to an increase in aggressive personality traits by learning, rehearsal and reinforcement of aggression-related knowledge structures. Also, a desensitisation against violent content and a decrease of empathy and prosocial behaviour have been postulated”.
As we have learned, new evidence shows otherwise. So will we still be sure in 10 years from now? All we know is that currently is that youth violence is on the decrease, according to the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.
As the old saying goes, “everything is best in moderation”, so applies to video games. Let’s face it, they may not turn you into a cold hearted bank robber, but be aware of the amount of real stress that comes with heart pounding, adrenaline pumping gaming.