Is there any link between violent video games and behaviour?

New York, Jan 23: Does the video games make players more violent?  According to the study of researchers at the University of York have found that there is no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

In a series of experiments, with more than 3,000 participants, the team demonstrated that video game concepts do not ‘prime’ players to behave in certain ways and that increasing the realism of violent video games does not necessarily increase aggression in-game players.

The dominant model of learning in games is built on the idea that exposing players to concepts, such as violence in a game, makes those concepts easier to use in ‘real life’. This is known as ‘priming’, and is thought to lead to changes in behavior.  Previous experiments on this effect, however, have so far provided mixed conclusions.

Researchers at the University of York expanded the number of participants in experiments, compared to studies that had gone before it, and compared different types of gaming realism to explore whether more conclusive evidence could be found.

In one study, participants played a game where they had to either be a car avoiding collisions with trucks or a mouse avoiding being caught by a cat. Following the game, the players were shown various images, such as a bus or a dog, and asked to label them as either a vehicle or an animal.

Dr. David Zendle, from the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: “If players are ‘primed’ through immersing themselves in the concepts of the game, they should be able to categorize the objects associated with this game more quickly in the real world once the game had concluded.

“Across the two games, we didn’t find this to be the case.  Participants who played a car-themed game were no quicker at categorizing vehicle images, and indeed in some cases, their reaction time was significantly slower.”

 Dr Zendle said: “We found that the priming of violent concepts, as measured by how many violent concepts appeared in the word fragment completion task, was not detectable.  There was no difference in priming between the game that employed ‘ragdoll physics’ and the game that didn’t, as well as no significant difference between the games that used ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ solider tactics.

“The findings suggest that there is no link between these kinds of realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on their players.

“Further study is now needed into other aspects of realism to see if this has the same result. What happens when we consider the realism of by-standing characters in the game, for example, and the inclusion of extreme content, such as torture?

“We also only tested these theories on adults, so more work is needed to understand whether a different effect is evident in children players.” says Dr. Zendle.

The research paper, ‘No Priming in Video Games’, is published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, and the research paper, ‘Behavioural Realism and the Activation of Aggressive Concepts in Violent Video Games’, is published in the journal

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