TAMIU Professor Finds No Link Between Violent Video Games, Aggression

Study by TAMIU Professor Finds No Link
Between Violent Video Games and Aggression

Christopher FergusonThe association between violence and violent video games took another hit from research conducted by Dr. Christopher Ferguson, Texas A&M International University assistant professor of psychology.

“Overall results from the study contradicted popular beliefs that violent video game exposure is associated with aggressive and violent acts,” concluded Dr. Ferguson.

The study, “Violent Video Games and Aggression,” is based on an experimental study and a correlational study. It appears in the March 2008 Criminal Justice and Behavior, the official publication of the American Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology.

“The purpose of the current article is to examine, through two separate studies, whether violent video games directly cause subsequent player aggression or whether any relationship between video games and aggression is better explained as a byproduct of ‘third’ variables, such as exposure to family violence and innate violence motivation,” states Ferguson in the article.

Concerns that video games promote violent behavior in players started shortly after they became available in the 1970s, especially after the release of “Death Race” in 1976 because primitive graphics made it appear that innocent civilians were being massacred with a car. Renewed attention to the potential effects of violent games reappeared in the 1990s with the release of first-person shooter games.

“The first was an experimental study in which participants played either a violent or non-violent game. Some participants were randomized to game condition, whereas others were allowed to choose the game they played,” Ferguson explained.

“The results indicated no effects for violent video game exposure on subsequent aggression in the laboratory. Previous life experience with violent video games also had no effect on aggression,” he said.

While some research suggests that the participatory nature of violent video games may have greater influence on players than violent television, others suggest that any link between video games and aggression is best explained by “third” variables like family environment or innate aggression.

“Study two was a correlational study with young adults examining the relationship between sex, personality, exposure to family violence and violent video games on violent criminal act—the ‘third’ variables. The results showed that being a male, having aggressive personality traits and exposure to some forms of family violence predicted violent crimes, but that exposure to violent video games did not,” Ferguson said.

Last October, Psychiatric Quarterly published Ferguson’s article based on a meta-analytic review of 24 published studies of violent video game effects that examined either aggressive consequences or improvements in visuospatial cognition. He concluded that playing violent games has positive effects and there is little evidence that links playing violent video games with aggression.

Ferguson also found that over the past 10 years, published studies on the effects of video game violence and behavior and the effects of video games on aggressive behavior may be exaggerating the link between violence and aggression. The study appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Aggression and Violent Behavior.

For more information, please contact Ferguson at 326.2636, e-mail cferguson@tamiu.edu or visit offices in Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 302C.

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