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Normalising/desensitising violence in games. An (initial) study

kat · 2 · 9806

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Offline kat

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The general idea press and media throw around without consequence is that whilst games might not necessarily, kinda, sorta, not-really-but-perhaps-they-do-if-only-we-can-just-fabricate-find-the-right-evidence, is that violent video games make people violent, else the violence is normalised, else the violence desensitises the individual. In other words, if this postulation were correct there would be a measurable difference between gamers exposed to violent imagery and those who are not.

A new study, "Excessive users of violent video games do not show emotional desensitization: an fMRI study" [snapshot], investigated this connection to see if it existed and to what extent that might be by scanning brain activity of the studies participants (scans record involuntary activity). Although a small sample size (c. 30 individuals), they discovered no discernible difference between the way the groups responded to violent images "using standardized emotional pictures of positive, negative and neutral valence". In other words, each participant is shown an image, perhaps a bunny, or broccoli, and the corresponding brain activity is recorded and cross-referenced with other individuals shown the same material. Deviance would indicate (without necessarily confirming) a potential correlation/causation link/association one way or the other.

It's important to point out here that although this debunks the myth (so to speak) media and activists flippantly thrown around, that violent video games normalise or desensitise individuals to real-world violence, it is not to say that violent media has no effect; on the contrary research indicates it does, although it's an entirely short-term and temporal modification, i.e. the state of mind players are in immediately after playing fades as they essentially come down from an emotional high and go back to their normal daily activities. Those that don't have underlying issues and predispositions not influenced by violent media.

Additional Reading
- Long-term Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior
- How social context influences violence-aggression relationship
- Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it
- **** games=**** gamers? A longitudinal study...
- Does media violence predict societal violence? (study)
- Aggression from video games 'linked to incompetence'
- The Benefits of Playing Video Games
- Guns, games and real world aggression & violence