Violence in video games studied Signpost

Violent video games: the debate continues

Do violent video games help or hinder the players in real life? A new study finds out   | Photo Credit: Paul Sakuma

Contrary to the popular belief that violent video games turn people aggressive, a new study suggests playing them may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity and pro-social behaviour in real life.

New evidence suggests heinous behaviour played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity towards the moral codes they violated.

"Rather than leading players to become less moral, this research suggestss that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behaviour that benefits others," said Matthew Grizzard from the University at Buffalo, who led the study.

Grizzard points out that several recent studies, including this one, have found that committing immoral behaviours in a video game elicits feelings of guilt in players who commit them.

The current study found such guilt can lead players to be more sensitive to the moral issues they violated during game play.

"We suggest that pro-social behaviour also may result when guilt is provoked by virtual behaviour," Grizzard said.

How the study worked

Researchers induced guilt in participants by having them play a video game where they violated two of five moral domains: care/harm, fairness/reciprocity, in-group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity/sanctity.

"We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity towards the two particular domains they violated — those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity," Grizzard said.

The first includes behaviours marked by cruelty, abuse and lack of compassion, and the second, by injustice or the denial of the rights of others.

The findings

"Our findings suggest that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations upon which human beings make moral judgements," Grizzard said.

"This is particularly relevant for video-game play, where habitual engagement with that media is the norm for a small, but considerably important group of users," said Grizzard.

Grizzard explained that in life and in game, specific definitions of moral behaviour in each domain will vary from culture to culture and situation to situation.

The study involved 185 subjects who were randomly assigned to either a guilt-inducing condition – in which they played a shooter game as a terrorist or were asked to recall real-life acts that induced guilt – or a control condition - shooter game play as a UN soldier and the recollection of real-life acts that did not induce guilt.

The study found significant positive correlations between video-game guilt and the moral foundations violated during game play.

The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 8:50:37 PM |

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