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Violent Interactive Video Games and Real Life Violence--What's The Connection?

By Elaine Cassel

Playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, or Mortal Kombat can increase a person's aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior both in laboratory settings and in actual life, according to two studies appearing in the April, 2000 (Vol. 78, No. 4) issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers also conclude that violent interactive video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive and engrossing and require the player to identify with the aggressor.

One study concluded that young men who are habitually aggressive may be especially vulnerable to the aggression-enhancing effects of repeated exposure to violent games. The other suggested that even a brief exposure to violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive behavior in all types of participants.

The first study involved 227 college students reported who were assessed for aggressive traits, past aggressive behaviors, and their video game playing habits. Students who reported playing more violent video games in junior high and high school engaged in more aggressive behaviors and got lower grades in college.

In the second study, 210 college students played either a violent (Wolfenstein 3D) or nonviolent video game (Myst). A short time later, the students who played the violent video game punished an opponent (received a noise blast with varying intensity) for a longer period of time than did students who had played the nonviolent video game.

Taken together, the studies lead to the conclusion that young people who play violent video games learn to use aggression in conflict situations. The longer they play, the more likely they may be to be "primed" for aggression when provoked.

You can read the full text of Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life, by Craig A. Anderson and Karen E. Dill, at

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