Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Researchers: violent games rub off on kids - News at GameSpot

Researchers: violent games rub off on kids - News at GameSpot: "Children who play violent games exhibit more aggressive behavior afterward, more likely to be involved in fights, don't perform as well academically."

According to a recently released study covering the last 20 years of psychological research on the subject, exposure to violent games can increase aggressive behavior in children and adolescents in the short-term and long-term. The findings were presented to the American Psychological Association on Friday, the final day of its convention in Washington, DC, by Jessica Nicoll, BA, and Kevin M. Kieffer, PhD, of Saint Leo University.

Nicoll and Kieffer cited a study where youth who played violent games for a short time span behaved more aggressively immediately afterward, and another where eighth and ninth graders who played violent games more frequently were rated by their teachers as more hostile than others, were more likely to be involved in fights, and didn't perform as well on academic tasks.

Kieffer also noted that children who played violent games tended to imitate the actions of their onscreen counterpart.

"In those studies that are true experiments, we are more likely to say this [violent] game was the cause of this subsequent behavior," Kieffer told GameSpot. "But the question is always going to be how enduring is that behavioral change? Does it last today, this week, next year?"

In assessing the existing body of research on the subject, Nicoll and Kieffer sought to reconcile the various conclusions of their colleagues' past studies, but performed no new studies of their own. The task was complicated by the differing definitions each study had used for what constitutes a violent game, or what qualifies as aggressive behavior.

"We didn't really come up with 'This is the one definite conclusion,'" Kieffer said. "It's just 'The preponderance of the evidence suggests…'"

As for what's next in the field, Kieffer said researchers need to go beyond simply establishing the link between violent games and violent behavior, and search for the root cause of violent outbursts like the case of Devin Moore, who killed three police officers in Alabama and then pled not guilty by reason of mental defect, claiming that exposure to games like Grand Theft Auto and abuse as a child resulted in the shooting.

"We need to look at the personality correlates of the people who play these violent games, who are most attracted to them, or who don't just play them for pleasure," Kieffer said. "Is there something about these people who play these games that's suggestive of future consequences or events that's a cause for concern?"

Kieffer acknowledged that the research he's done has greater social implications beyond his field, but says he isn't so much concerned about how it affects legislative issues.

"I really have personally no investment one way or the other in any of this," Kieffer said. "I certainly understand the gaming industry's perspective. They're out to make money. That's the business. Psychology's position is just that we want to make sure the consumer is not hurt in any kind of way."

In other APA-related gaming news, the Association's Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media last week adopted a resolution calling for a reduction in violence in all interactive media used by children and adolescents, and encouraged "parents, educators and health care providers to help youth make more informed choices about which games to play."

The APA called for children to be taught media literacy so they have the ability to critically evaluate the games they play. It encouraged game makers to link violent behavior in their games with negative social consequences, and asked developers of violent games to address the notion that their titles negatively affect children and adolescents in ways greater than exposure to violent TV and movies due to the interactive nature of games. Perhaps most interestingly, the APA called for the development and dissemination of a content-based ratings system that accurately reflects the content of games and interactive media, the implication being that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's existing system is inadequate.

By Brendan Sinclair -- GameSpot
POSTED: 08/22/05 03:37 PM PST

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