What are the effects of violent video games?



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Playing video games have become a hobby among people especially children and teenagers. Some video games are violent at the same time addictive and when they are played, there is an impact on the person playing the game. This has led some people to state that children become more aggressive after playing such games (Koop, 1982; Zimbardo, 1982). Parents nowadays have to sacrifice their time to monitor their children and to control the amount of time their children spend playing these video games. There are many types of new video games being introduced because of the popularity of these games and the number of players playing these games. Many researches have been conducted over the centuries about violent media and violent video games and the empirical evidence regarding the negative effects of violent video games and media is overwhelming. Violence has been a big issue in societies around the world for centuries and violence on the media causes violent behaviour among people. Findings suggest that one way in which the violent media may influence behaviour is through the changes in a persons’ automatic self-concept. There were no researches on this done before. Therefore this research was carried out to find out the possibility.


This journal is about the effects of exposure to violent video games on automatic aggressiveness. A sample of 121 students were used in this research. Playing the violent video game Doom lead participants to associate themselves with aggressive traits and actions on the Implicit Association Test. In addition, self-reported prior exposure to violent video games predicted automatic aggressive self-concept, above and beyond self-reported aggression.

Many researches have been conducted in the past regarding the effects of exposure to violent video games as well as violent television shows on aggressiveness and results show a positive correlation between the variables. According to a research, trait aggression as well as self-reported, peer reported and teacher reported aggressive behaviour correlates with exposure to violent television shows and video games (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Singer & Singer, 1983, 1986; Singer, Singer, & Rapaczynski, 1984). Experimental studies as well as longitudinal studies have been carried out in the past. Experimental studies have shown that watching violent movie scenes on television and playing with violent video games increases aggressive behaviours such as delivering electric shocks and blasts of noise to another person (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Anderson, &Murphy; Bartholow &Anderson,2002; Bushman, 1998; Bushman & Huesmann, 2001; Wood, Wong, & Chachere, 1991), increases agressive expectations for others ( Bushman & Anderson, 2002 ) and reduces prosocial behaviour ( Anderson & Bushman, 2001 ).

Longitudinal studies on the other hand have shown that watching violent television is one of the best predictors of future violent behaviours for example, criminal behaviour. (Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitzb, & Walder, 1973; Johnson, Cohen, Smailes, Kasen, & Brook, 2002). What is not so clear and well understood is the mechanisms by which exposure to violent media increases aggressive behaviour. In addition to other influences, such as learning of aggressive values (Bandura, 1978; Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963), current models (Huesmann, 1986; Berkowitz, 1990; Bushman, 1998; Anderson & Bushman, 2002) assume that the mechanisms underlying the effects of violent media are often automatic in nature. According to Berkowitz (1990), violent media automatically causes aggressive thoughts and feelings. Anderson & Dill (2002) pointed out that playing violent video games increases the automatic accessibility of aggressive traits and actions in one’s memory.

When one is repeatedly being exposed to violent media, one’s aggressive thoughts and actions are easily accessible causing an increase in the likelihood that the person will behave aggressively especially when the person is being provoked or in a frustrated state. (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Berkowitz, 1990; Bushman, 1998; Todorov & Bargh, 2002).

Besides, according to researches there will also be an influence on automatic relations with the self when one is exposed to violent media (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998; Todorov & Bargh, 2002). Research involving the area of automatic social cognition on the other hand suggests that people’s cognitive associations with the self and other attitudes objects would mediate the relationship between their environment and their behaviours. (Bargh& Chartrand, 1999; Greenwald & Banaji, 1995; Todorov & Bargh, 2002). Measures of these associations (Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, & Williams,1995; Greenwald et al., 1998) are strong predictors of relevant judgments and behaviours, including the actions that discriminate members of social outgroups (Bessenoff & Sherman, 2000; Dovidio, Kawakami, Johnson, Johnson, & Howard, 1997; Fazio et al., 1995; Gawronski, Ehrenberg, Banse, Zukova, & Klaur, 2003; McConnell & Leibold, 2001; Rudman & Glick, 2001) and psychological abuse of one’s spouse (Zayas & Shoda, 1999).

According to this journal, exposure to violent media may exert an influence on one’s behaviour through changes in a person’s automatic self-concept. For example, the extent to which one associates the self with aggressive traits and actions. It is time this research is carried out because till date, there are no researches that have explored this possibility.

This study investigated the relationship between exposure to violent media and the automatic self-concept on two levels. The first one was, can exposure to media, in this case the violent video game Doom in the laboratory temporarily change the extent to which people associate the self with aggression ? Second, does the extent to which a person plays with violent video games in their own life predict their automatic self-concept with regard to aggression, above and beyond self – reported aggressiveness? Violent video games have the tendency to influence the player more and cause the player to learn aggressive scripts compared to violent television and movies (Anderson, 2002).

In this study, 121 introductory psychology students took part in the experiment in return for course credit. 54 were males, 65 females and another 2 did not give an answer. All the participants were 18 years old and above. The materials used in this study were violent games,non-violent video game, implicit association test, feeling thermometers, semantic differentials, Buss and Perry aggression questionnaire and previous game exposure questionnaire. A popular 3d game, Doom was selected as the violent video game. The non-violent video games used was “ Mahjongg : Clicks”, a puzzle game. The Implicit- Association Test ( IAT ) was used to measure the automatic aggressive self-concept. This test was developed by Greenwald (1998). The participants completed two feeling thermometer measures whereby they rated themselves on a scale from 0( not aggressive ) to 100 ( extremely aggressive ) and on the other one they rated “other people” on the same scale. They also rated themselves and other people on three semantic differential scales and also completed the Buss and Perry (1992) Aggression Questionnaire to measure trait aggression. Besides, participants were also asked on their previous game exposure.

All the participants were asked to play Doom or Mahjong for 10 minutes. They were then assessed using the IAT, feeling thermometers, semantic differentials, Buss and Perry Questionnaire and the previous game exposure questionnaire in a fixed order. This was the procedure conducted.

Various results were found soon after that. Overall, participants associated themselves more with “Peaceful” than with “Aggressive” on the IAT. The more positive a person’s IAT score, the greater their association of Aggression with Self. A 2 (game condition : violent vs non violent ) ? 2 ( gender ) ANOVA on participant’s IAT scores. Participants in the Doom game condition were more likely to automatically associate themselves with aggression than participants in the Mahjongg game condition and there seem to be no interaction between the participants’ gender and game condition. As hypothesised, playing violent video games did increase automatic aggressiveness and it applies to both males and females. However on the feeling thermometers, semantic differential measures and Buss and Perry measure, participants reported a low level of aggressiveness. The same was done whereby a 2 (game condition : violent vs non violent ) ? 2 ( gender ) ANOVA on participants’ scores on the 3-self reported aggressiveness measures. The results gained from this was that there were no significant effects of game condition on the feeling thermometer measure, semantic differential measure and Buss and Perry scale. There were no gender effects on both feeling thermometer and differential measures but on the Buss and Perry scale, there was a significant gender difference whereby the score for aggressiveness for men were higher than for women. Overall, the results suggested that exposure to violent video games did not significantly influence the self-reported aggressiveness of both males and females.

For the prior game exposure questionnaire, the results showed that more men played video games and spent more time playing violent video games compared to women. However, both these genders did not differ in their exposure to non violent video games. Both the IAT and the Buss and Perry scale were positively correlated with self-reported prior exposure to violent video games and neither correlated with prior exposure to non violent video games. The relationship between the measures and prior exposure to violent video games remained significant after controlling for game condition. Therefore, long term exposure to violent video games makes largely independent contributions to automatic and self-reported aggressiveness.

The author came up with a good discussion about this research and several conclusions were drawn. Most people have the belief that exposure to violent media has no effect on them personally but they do believe that it has an effect on other people (Innes & Zeitz, 1988). As a conclusion, in this study participants that played the violent video game, Doom for 10 minutes associated the self more with aggressive traits on the IAT. However, they did not associate self with aggressive traits on the other self-report measures. Thus, the findings suggest that the short term effects of game exposure on the self-concept in this study were strongest at an automatic level. It is easy to imagine how playing a violent video game could temporarily increase the accessibility of aggressive concepts, feelings, and thoughts through priming or spreading activation (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Berkowitz, 1990; Bushman, 1998).

There have been many correlation, experimental as well as longitudinal studies over the decades that suggest that exposure to violent media is a cause of aggressive behaviour (Bushman & Anderson, 2001; Singer & Singer, 1983). From the results of this study, it is found that violent media may also exert their effects through changes in automatic associations with the self.

There will be several strengths as well as limitations when it comes to research. First, the critique will be on the strengths of this research. There are a few strengths that must be highlighted.

The hypothesis and purpose of study of this research is clear and understandable. This is one plus point of this whole research because without a clear and proper purpose of study, the readers would not understand the whole research and what it is all about. Therefore, having a proper purpose of study in all researches is important. The purpose of study for this research was to examine the relationship between exposure to violent media, in this case the violent video game and the automatic self concept on two different levels as mentioned previously. This research is different from other research because this research focuses more on the self concept.

Another strength of this research is that it provides cognitive awareness through its clear explanations in the discussion section of the research. According to social cognitive models, the self is a knowledge structure, organized as a network of associations (Greenwald et al., 2002). It provides a clear knowledge on how priming can increase the automatic accessibility of a possible self. There are other studies, Wheeler& Petty, 2001 ; Blair Ma & Lenton, 2001 that explains more on how priming increases the automatic accessibility of a possible self. Participants will gain more knowledge in the sense that they know and have an idea on what is actually going on and why they react in such ways. Therefore this research in other words will create awareness among people.

Every research will have strengths as well as several limitations. The limitations of a research need to be pointed out so that future researchers would take the weaknesses into consideration when conducting their research. The first limitation identified in this research is that the researcher did not really get the expected results from the participants. There were no significant effects of game condition on the feeling thermometer measure, semantic differential measure and Buss and Perry scale. Therefore the first limitation of the study would be the self report measures. Several other studies for example Rushbrook (1986) have measured the aggression using self reports. The problem with the research is that the correlational evidence is not so convincing and sometimes the observed positive correlations may not only be due to aggressive individuals having a greater desire for video games. It can be due to other factors such as low educational level or low socioeconomic status. Video games studies with better methods typically yield greater effects, suggesting that heightened concern about harmful effects of exposure to violent video game is warranted.

Another limitation would be health issues of the participants were not taken into consideration during the experiment. For example, when one plays violent video games, some biological processes occur inside the person’s body. This could be dangerous. A study carried out by Lynch (1994) proposed that playing video games with violent content would produce greater cardiovascular responses. Besides, exposing one to violent video game is not good even if it was for an experiment purpose. Researchers in the British Journal Nature (1998) reported that the brain releases a hormone called dopamine when one is playing video games. Dopamine is a pleasure chemical hormone. Those exposed to these video games then tend to get addicted to it. It can be addictive even if exposed once. New brain research (Bartholow, Bushman & Sestir, 2006) stated that violent video game players are showing less healthy development, brain tend to be more response to real-life violence such as gun attacks and that those with these less empathic brain responses were more likely behave aggressively in the laboratory. Future researches should take this seriously before conducting any kind of experiments. It would be better if surveys on consumption of violent video games are used rather than carrying out experiments.


Although previously there have been many researches on violent video games from many aspects, this research showed something new. According to this research, there is a relationship between exposure to violent video games and the automatic self-concept. Therefore, it is proven that exposure to violent video games increases one’s automatic aggressiveness. Video games are not always bad. It depends on what video game one is playing. There are video games that are quite beneficial that can be used as training aids in classrooms and therapeutic settings. Violent video games on the other hand definitely have negative effects and causes aggression among children and teenagers. There are many different types of violent video games that which probably have different effects. Therefore researchers should carry out more studies to find out all the different effects caused by playing violent video games. Future studies perhaps could use more surveys instead of experiments because experiments sometimes could be quite harmful if certain measures and precautions are not taken into consideration.

This journal is quite useful in the sense that it gives a lot of information to readers about this new aspect of violent video games that never have been studied before. Studies such as this would create awareness among people and hopefully would have an impact on them as well. Such researches are carried out with the aim that somehow or the other the information and results that the researchers have found could help people for example reduce the amount of consumption of violent video games in the future.


Uhlmann, E, & Swanson, J. (2003). Exposure to violent video games increases automatic

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Carnagey, N.L ., Anderson, C.A ., Bushman, B.J. ( 2007 ). The effect of video game violence on physiological desensitization to real-life violence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Retrieved from,


Griffiths, M.(1998). Violent video games and aggression : A review of the literature. Retrieved from,


Hasan, Y. , Begue, L. , Scharkow, M., Bushman, B.J. (2013) The more you play, the more aggressive you become: A long-term experimental study of cumulative violent video game effects on hostile expectations and aggressive behaviour. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.Retrieved from,


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