Video games are something I have become very accustomed to. I am constantly running to the store to purchase whichever is the current hottest video game out for my husband and children. I do not purchase anything that I would classify as a violent video game. However, I do purchase wrestling and fighting games; which to some, those games may actually be qualified as violent. Many times children will play video games and then act out what they have done in a video game. These thing could range anywhere from pretending they are a super hero to picking up a younger sibling and throwing them across the room like they saw in a particular video game. They tend to want to be and do things that the video games do. It is exciting to them. What we need to find out is if certain video games; in particular violent video games are having an effect on not just children but people in general. After someone sits at home all day playing a shooting game, are they more likely to be aggressive towards someone in any given situation. Many may argue no.
They may say that it depends on the person and their upbringing and so forth. While I do agree with that to some extent, I have personally seen firsthand that a lot of the times after playing these violent video games, people do tend to be more aggressive. It may not be something that is being done purposely. Many may not even notice that they are behaving differently after playing these games. I think that the person’s mental state and current situation may also play a role and how they may react to the video games. I have found many sources that have completed studies on this very issue. There are some that are sure that violent video games do in fact cause aggression; while there are others that state something completely different. This is exactly why I chose this topic. This purpose of this paper is to focus on how violent video games can lead to aggressive behavior.
What is Aggression?
Aggression can be classified as many things. Particularly, in psychology and other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior that is intended to cause harm or pain. Aggression can be either physical or verbal, and behavior is classified as aggression even if it does not actually succeed in causing harm or pain (Science Daily, 2012). Many times aggressive behavior is only looked at in the physical form. However, in the case of violent video games and whether or not they cause aggression, we need to look into both physical and verbal aggression. Theoretical Perspectives
There are many theoretical perspectives that offer explanations for why violent video game play may be associated with an increase of aggressive behavior. From a social learning perspective, adolescents who play violent video games may imitate the aggression that they observe in the games (Willoughby, 2012). As previously mentioned, many times people tend to want to act out what they have seen in games, especially children and adolescents. I recall growing up, my brother and I used to act out different wrestling moves that we had seen on video games. Although, we were not doing these things to hurt one another, sometimes one of us did get hurt. We just thought it was something fun to do. We never thought that one of us could get hurt while enacting what we saw on the video game. According to the study in the journal Pediatrics, children and teens who reported playing violent video games had more aggressive behavior months later than their peers who did not play the games (Harding, 2008).
In one theory, by the name of the excitation theory; they mentioned that the transfer of physiological arousal may be a mechanism through which observing violence may lead to aggressive behavior and specifically, physiological arousal from a stimulus (e.g., violent video games) can linger after that stimulus is gone and can transfer to a future encounter (even without awareness), increasing the chance of aggressive behavior (Willoughby, 2012). For example, a child may not have played their video game in a week, however they are pushing on their little brother or sister or even yelling at them for what is deemed as no apparent reason. When in fact, the child is displaying aggressive behaviors that they picked up from a video game over a week ago. Even though the game has not physically been played, it has been played over and over again in their minds. In Berkowitz’s cognitive neoassocation model, playing violent video games can create or activate networks of aggressive thoughts, emotions, and memories through aggressive cues, such as feelings of frustration or violent imagery (Willoughby, 2012). We may not always be able to physically see the aggression taking place.
In this case it can be thoughts or images that one is seeing. A report that was done for the International Society for Research on Aggression (IRSA) concluded that that evidence shows that the consumption of video game violence can act as a trigger for aggressive thoughts or feelings already stored (Wrenn, 2012). If all someone has been seeing all day is someone being picked up and slammed down, they may eventually pick someone up and slam them down as well. Thus, violent video game play may influence aggressive behavior through spreading activation of aggressive networks (Willoughby, 2012). One of the most comprehensive theories of the association between violent video games and aggression is Anderson and Bushman’s general aggression model, which was adapted from past theories of aggression and according to Anderson and Carnagey, in the long term, repeated exposure to violent video games may influence aggressive behavior by promoting aggressive beliefs/attitudes, such as creating normative beliefs about aggression (Willoughby, 2012).
It has also been mentioned that in addition to that, long-term violent video game play could also create aggressive behavior and expectations. For example, violent video game play may encourage a hostile attributional bias, such as when a person consistently interprets ambiguous situations as hostile (Willoughby, 2012). This could be said in the case of someone accidentally bumping into someone else, because that person has been playing violent video games, they may turn this accident into something violent. They may push them back or start a fight because they were not thinking clearly. One group of theorists even believed that each violent video game episode may reinforce the notion that aggression is an effective and appropriate way to deal with conflict and anger (Willoughby, 2012). Research Methods
In this particular study, they chose student from eight different high schools surrounding a school district in Ontario, Canada. These students started the study in 2004. They were in the 9th grade upon starting the study. However, they completed the survey in grades 9, 10, 11 and 12. Not all students participated due to reasons such as being absent, parent refusal, student refusal, free period or being involved in another school activity. This made the overall participation rate to range from 83% to 86% across the four grades.
Consistent with the broader Canadian population, 92.4% of the participants were born in Canada; the most common ethnic backgrounds reported other than Canadian were Italian (31%), French (18%), British (15%), and German (12%) and data on socioeconomic status indicated that mean levels of education for mothers and fathers fell between “some college, university or apprenticeship program” and “completed a college/apprenticeship/technical diploma (Willoughby, 2012).” Furthermore, 70% of the respondents reported living with both birth parents, 12% with one birth parent and a stepparent, 15% with one birth parent, and the remainder with other guardians (Willoughby, 2012). There were a total of 1,492 participants and of that 50.8% of them were female. Strengths and Limitations of Research Design
There were many different variables at play during this study. It was not just about the child but they wanted to know about their living situation and their parents. For example, they wanted to factor in if they lived in a single parent home or with both parents. They asked questions about their parent’s education as well as how many computers were in the home. They asked if they played violent video games and if so how often. They even gave a scale of 1 to 4 for any type of aggressive behaviors. It seemed they wanted to get every possible bit of information that would help them be able to determine if in fact these adolescents were playing violent video games that were causing aggressive behavior. I enjoyed the fact that they asked for more information, rather than just asking them if they played violent video games. They wanted to determine if there were any other possible factors that would in fact cause or attribute to any aggressive behavior.
This study only focuses on high school students. I would have been curious to see some middle school as well as elementary students as well. I believe that limiting the study to just high school students does not tell us the entire story. Indeed, the long-term relation between violent video game play and aggression may be different for adolescents (e.g., 12 to 19 years) and adults (e.g., 25 years and older), due to changes in the brain during adolescence and young adulthood (Willoughby, 2012). Actually, according to one professor, puberty-related maturation of brain regions linked to emotion and arousal may lead adolescents to seek out arousing stimulation, such as risk-taking behavior (Steinberg, 2007).
Because of this, adolescents may be more attracted to violent video games than adults because violent games tend to be fast-paced, exciting, and arousing and may be more likely to behave aggressively after playing a violent video game than adults, due in part to adolescents’ greater difficulty in regulating their arousal in comparison to adults (Willoughby, 2012). Finally, although the participants in the present study included a large sample of enrolled students from a school distinct, findings may not generalize to other geographic regions, including those with differing ethnic and/or demographic populations (Willoughby, 2012). Implications
During this study, it was implied that as participants who played violent video games throughout high school also reported steeper increases in aggressive behavior over time than participants with lower sustained playing of violent video games scores (Willoughby, 2012). Similarly, violent video game play predicted higher levels of aggressive behavior over time. The more someone plays a violent video game, the more likely they are to become aggressive. Overall, the results offer support for the suggestion that violent video game play may be linked to greater aggression over time and the fact that many adolescents play violent video games for several hours every day underscores the need for a greater understanding of the long-term relation between violent video games and aggression, as well as the game characteristics (e.g., violent content, level of competition, pace of action) that may be responsible for that association (Willoughby, 2012). Conclusion
Many people play video games. These people range anywhere from children, to adolescents and even adults. It is important to know about the type of video game you are playing. A person needs to know if their behavior is changing because of a particular video game. If they are finding that they are more aggressive or on edge after playing it. If they have noticed that they child or teen has random bouts of aggression and are unsure of the root or cause of the issue. It is okay to play a violent video game as long as the person will not become aggressive after playing it. However, research has shown that after long periods of continuous violent video game play, a person’s behavior may indeed change. In conclusion, violent video games can lead to aggressive behavior.
Harding, A. (2008). Violent Video Games Linked to Aggression in Children, Teens. In Health. Retrieved Novermber 19, 2012, from http://news.health.com/2008/11/03/violent-video-games-linked-to-aggression-in-children-teens/. Science Daily. (2012). Aggression. In Science Reference. Retrieved Novermber 19, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/a/aggression.htm Steinberg, L. (2007). Risk taking in adolescence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 55– 59. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00475.x Willoughby, T., Adachi, P. C., & Good, M. (2012). A longitudinal study of the association between violent video game play and aggression among adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 48(4), 1044-1057. doi:10.1037/a0026046 Wrenn, E. (2012). Violent images in movies, TV or computer games CAN act as triggers for aggression. In Mail Online. Retrieved Novermber 19, 2012, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2195206