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Sunday, 23 April, 2000, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Video games 'increase aggression'
Video games
Video games may influence players
Playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Combat can increase aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, say researchers.

They warn that violent video games may be more harmful than violent television or films because they are interactive, and require the player to identify with the aggressive character.

Psychologists Dr Craig Anderson, from Iowa State University of Science and Technology, and Dr Karen Dill, from Lenoir-Rhyne College, carried out two studies.

This medium is potentially more dangerous than exposure to violent television and movies

Dr Craig Anderson, Iowa State University of Science and Technology

The first showed that young men who are habitually aggressive may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of repeated exposure to violent games.

The second showed that everybody can become temporarily more aggressive after even a brief exposure to violent games.

In the first study 227 college students were asked to rate their level of aggression.

Dr Anderson said: "We found that students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school engaged in more aggressive behaviour.

"We also found that amount of time spent playing video games in the past was associated with lower academic grades in college."

In the second study, 210 college students played either a violent (Wolfenstein 3D) or non-violent video game (Myst).

You cannot simulate in a laboratory the complex social problems that people are concerned about

Dr Guy Cumberbatch, chartered psychologist

A short time later, the students who played the violent video were found to be more aggressive than those who had played the non-violent game.

This was measured experimentally by recording the length of time the volunteers "punished" an opponent by blasting them with a loud noise.

Dr Anderson said: "Violent video games provide a forum for learning and practising aggressive solutions to conflict situations.

"In the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts.

"Longer-term effects are likely to be longer lasting as well, as the player learns and practices new aggression-related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise."

Active medium

Dr Anderson said a major concern was the fact that playing video games was more active than watching television or film.

He said: "This medium is potentially more dangerous than exposure to violent television and movies, which are known to have substantial effects on aggression and violence."

Dr Guy Cumberbatch, a chartered psychologist and expert in media violence, said it was difficult to draw firm conclusions from research.

"You cannot simulate in a laboratory the complex social problems that people are concerned about, and overall the actual evidence supporting a link between media violence and real violence is very weak."

Dr Cumberbatch said research showed that some people were stimulated simply by the fast pace of action films, rather than their violent content.

The research is published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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