BERLIN — Playing combat video games every day won’t turn you in a vicious zombie after all. In a groundbreaking study, German researchers found no links between daily violent video game play and increased aggression in adults.
In the past, research has suggested that playing violent video games even for a few minutes can increase individuals’ aggression levels and make them less likely to be willing to help others. But criticism of that research suggested that those results were from specific stimuli and priming that formed previous studies.
In this latest study, researchers, led by Simone Kühn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, divided 77 participants into three groups. One group of 25 played the violent video game “Grand Theft Auto V” daily for two months. The second group of 24 played the mostly non-violent game “The Sims 3” daily for two months, while the third group of 28 didn’t play any video games.
Kühn and her team measured participants’ empathy and aggression levels, as well as interpersonal competencies, impulsivity, anxiety, mood, and executive control using numerous questionnaires and computerized behavioral assessments before and after the two-month period. The researchers found no remarkable changes in any of the metrics they measured, but especially when it came to aggression. Of the 208 statistical tests conducted, only three showed indications of increased violent behavior.
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“We did not find relevant negative effects in response to violent video game playing,” Kühn says in a release. “The fact that we assessed multiple domains, not finding an effect in any of them, makes the present study the most comprehensive in the field.”
The findings are a counter-point to research suggesting violent video games can be negative influences on gamers who play them too frequently.
“The American Psychological Association recently summarized the previous findings on violent video games as indicating that they pose a risk factor for adverse outcomes, including increased aggression and decreased empathy. The present findings of this study clearly contradict this conclusion,” adds Kühn.
She hopes future studies will use similar tests on children to see if youth may be more vulnerable to the effects and content of video games.
The full study was published online March 13, 2018 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.