The debate over how video games affect players, particularly in terms of violence, has been ongoing for some time, with some studies suggesting violent games are linked to a rise in aggression.
Now, a team from the Hannover Medical School in Germany has once again investigated links between video gaming and antisocial behavior, such as increased aggression and decreased empathy.
But this study, led by Dr Gregor Szycik and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found video games have no long-term effects on empathy or aggression.
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Whereas previous studies have looked at the short term effects of gaming, suggesting a link between video games and a lack of empathy, this new study focused on longer-term effects.
As the researchers say in the study: “Recent research has focused primarily on acute, short term impact of violent media use but only little is known about long term effects.”
The result of this latest experiment? Well, as the team writes: “The impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”
The researchers say the study shows violent games do not desensitise players to violence, adding: “We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis.”
To get to this conclusion, the team studied 15 people, all male, who had played violent video games at least two hours daily for the previous four years, (the average participant played for an average of four hours daily), and 15 control subjects that did not play violent video games.
Games used in the study included titles from the Call of Duty series and Counter-Strike.
Counter Strike was used in the study
The 30 participants were asked to answer psychological questionnaires and undergo MRI scans while being shown images designed to provoke emotion and empathy.
The gamers in the study did not play any games for a minimum of three hours before this experiment started, so as to avoid the researchers picking up on short term effects.
Researchers were able to take MRI scanning results from the two groups to measure the activation of specific brain regions and compare the responses of the gamers with the non-gamers.
According to the team,
“The responses of both groups were very similar and no group differences were observed even at relaxed statistical thresholds,” writes the team.
The MRI data backed up these findings, suggesting negative effects of violent video games on behavior could only affect gamers in the short term.
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Despite the findings, the team say further research is needed: “We hope that the study will encourage other research groups to focus their attention on the possible long-term effects of video games on human behavior.
“This study used emotionally-provocative images. The next step for us will be to analyze data collected under more valid stimulation, such as using videos to provoke an emotional response.”
Let us know what you make of the study in the comments.