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New Studies Show No Link Between Violent Games and Violent Behavior

by Kyle Hanson

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In a piece titled “Digital poison? Three studies examining the influence of violent video games on youth” Christopher J. Ferguson, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Psychology Department at Stetson University, found no evidence to suggest a link between violent games and violent behavior.

The three studies each took the idea of violent video games having an influence on children, and tackled it in different ways, with participants ranging from ages 12 to 18. “In Study 1, youth were randomized to play closely matched action games with either violent or non-violent content. Youth were given the opportunity to act aggressively using an ice water task. Study 2 was a conceptual replication of Study 1, with slower narrative games rather than action games. Study 3 examined the issue in a correlational study of youth, contrasting exposure to violent video games in youth’s personal lives to their exposure to violence in controversial books while controlling for other variables including family, peer and personality variables.”

After conducting the studies and comparing the results Ferguson came to the conclusion that “none of the studies provided evidence for concerns linking video game violence to aggressive behaviors or reduced empathy in youth.” With the full breakdown showing that “playing violent games did not increase youth aggression, youth who played violent games were also no less empathic toward others, youth with prior mental health symptoms were no more influenced by violent games, correlationally, violent games and books did not predict aggression or civic behavior,” and “parental restrictions on gaming were not associated with positive outcomes.”

Speaking with TV station WTVY Ferguson said “we need to be more careful when we draw lines between violent media and real world violence, especially following an event like the Charleston shooting. Making this unsupported connection can take away from pressing issues we need to consider while determining the root cause of societal violence such as poverty, lack of mental health treatment availability and educational disparities.”

The full findings of all three studies will be published in the September issue of Computers in Human Behavior.

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