I came across an interesting research paper today in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal. Brad Bushman (Ohio State University) and Bryan Gibson (Central Michigan University) suggest that the aggression associated with violent video games can persist long after the game play has finished.
Many people, notably Craig Anderson of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University, have claimed that video games encourage real life aggression, but most studies have only demonstrated short term increases. This new study proposes that the, particularly for men, ruminating on the game play can sustain those violent attitudes much longer.
Although video games are one of the media’s favourite whipping boys and a preferred scapegoat for many social ills, the same flaws occur in this piece of work as earlier studies.
The research methodology tends to ignore other possible influencers which are worth bearing in mind:
- Many activities ranging from football to television can instil short term feelings of aggression in participants and observers – it’s not unique to computer games
- All manner of activities can amplify pre-existing psychological/ psychopathic tendencies – there’s no evidence to suggest that balanced mainstream players suffer any fantasy-reality confusion
- Dwelling on any violent act, indeed any emotionally-charged experience, will result in its higher profile in our consciousness
- And finally, any obsessive activity whether online, offline or in the Lady’s Chamber will, by definition, distort a balanced and healthy view of life and social behaviour.
While I’m not suggesting there’s no merit in this latest paper, it’s always worth taking these studies with a pinch of salt.