Gaming can weaken "moral maturity" study finds

Researchers warn that adolescents can lose sense of "right and wrong" after playing violent games for extended periods of time.

Adolescents who play violent video games for extended periods of time run the risk of diminishing their "moral maturity," according to a new study from Canadian researchers.

As reported by The BBC, researchers at Brock University in Ontario studied the behavior of around 100 13- and 14-year olds from seven local schools and concluded that those who spend most of their time playing violent games could experience weakened empathy for others. These individuals could also lose their sense of "right and wrong" in some cases, the researchers found.

Overall, the study--"Violent Video Gaming and Moral Reasoning in Adolescents: Is There an Association?" from Mirjana Bajovic--attempted to get at the roots of the relationship between the types of games played, how long they are played, and how it affects attitudes.

For the purposes of this study, a "violent" video game was one in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical harm to another human character. Many of the study participants were able to play such games without any evidence of an attitudinal shift, and non-violent games like Mario or Rock Band did not have adverse effects on a person's moral alignment, the study found.

However, Bajovic's study found that teeangers who played violent video games for more than three hours a day were more likely to experience the diminishment of "moral maturity." She said parents would be wise to help their children understand others' perspectives by getting them involved with initiatives like charity work or other forms of community involvement.

Importantly, Bajovic's study is correlational, meaning it can only suggest that there is a relationship between two variables, not prove it. Other factors at play in this case that were not studied (but should be in the future, Bajovic said) included the participants' social relationships, cognitive abilities, personality, socioeconomic status, and other elements. What's more, the data for this study was collected only from seven schools in Ontario and should not be extrapolated to children in other schools from other regions, Bajovic said.

You can read the full study at the Brock University website here [PDF].

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Discussion

452 comments
Vodoo
Vodoo

She only studied 100 kids from one small area. That is not a large enough group to represent a cross section of society for her to make any claims about the effect on children in general.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I don't question her method or result, but I see it as a positive discovery. In this increasingly connected international community of ours, the important thing is not so much to empathize as to understand that people have different values. People who think their morality must represent the best of humanity is the problem, not the solution.

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

Given how many other variables the researcher herself identified my first, and only question is was it really worth it?

isshiah
isshiah

...So, it means nothing, then? I hope anti-game loons don't take this 'result' as something serious.


However, the parents are at fault for letting them watch violent media of any form. My 10 year old cousin plays CoD for crying out loud. Dat ain't right!

dreamreaver721
dreamreaver721

One could also draw the correlation between playing a real-life game of paintball and this sort of behavior. In paintball, the player gets to physically harm another, and part of the problem with the younger players of paintball - which is a growing caste in the paintball community - is a lack of empathy and respect for others. Could it be related to the playing of FPS games that award punishment and numb them to pain and death? I wonder how gaming affects their attitude in a sport like this. Interesting nonetheless and I'm sure the study is right on. I've seen similar studies and they almost always draw the same conclusion. To blame gaming exclusively isn't wise or logical; I could argue that a study that shows kids watching violent movies for 3+ hours a day could lead to the same lack of empathy.

OpalDragon
OpalDragon

I can see that.  Not having any real consequences for your actions can make younger gamers think that their real world actions can just be 'reset', or quick restore from save will fix everything.  And the younger this type of mentality is enforced (game-wise), the more entrenched this way of thinking will persist.  It has been believed that 'you' don't get a sense of action-to-consequence until you are in your early teens.  Having a negative reinforcement from gaming could potentially extend the age until late teens.

Hurvl
Hurvl

I think the risk depends on how they've been raised and other previous experiences when growing up. I played games from like 6 years old till now and I've always liked the violent games. What I think when I'm done playing a game and have killed lots of people in it, is that there are no real people that are dead. I don't need to think about witnesses or covering up my killings and no one is going to look for me, because of these murders. I think I thought so too even when I was an adolescent. 

Why hurt or kill people IRL when it's so much more fun and varied to do it in a game. In reality I might be able to punch, kick or stab someone to death, but in games I can get access to all kinds of weapons and never need to think about ammunition or finding the next victim. I also won't risk getting hurt/killed if I kill someone in a game.

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

It's called being a teenager. Solved it for ya, no research needed.


That being said, I did notice that I used to just say "cheerio" and be on my way after having unprotected sex with a cheap hooker, but after playing GTAV, I seem to tend to beat her with a baseball bat more than usual.

blue_shift_91
blue_shift_91

show me just one kid - ONE KID who lacks positive human interaction, and can display ANY category of maturity.

as always, the moral of the story is to not let your kid lock himself in his room and abuse his new hobby.

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

Tbh, I'd be more inclined to believe the cause/effect are the other way around - that teenagers that have less 'mature' morals are more likely to enjoy playing especially violent games for long periods of time - as an outlet of sorts as society frowns upon such things outside of games/films/etc, they're far less likely to get told off for doing such things in a game. That said, at that age they don't even meet the recommended age to play the majority of such games - so surely it at least partially falls to the parents (and other leading influence people in the child's life, such as the teachers, close friends, and other close family).


Honestly, this study proves nothing, at best the results are inconclusive of anything specific beyond the correlation of data itself in a very small group - even amongst the children that took part in the study itself there is little real evidence of any sort of specific cause/effect. 100 kids across 7 schools means it's even a small sample within each school, let alone of kids in Ontario, extrapolating it to kids in general is a laughable idea, even more so because it doesn't really prove anything particularly meaningful even across the kids in those particular schools.


Looking at it from the other side: kids that play Rock band are more likely to have music as a outlet of sorts, surely this is obvious and would mildly contribute to improving a moral compass as they feel less need to release stress and the like elsewhere. Mario is arguably a violent game too, even if not against human enemies, but Mario games these days are mostly light-hearted party games to play with family/friends, likely with people that would help to have a positive influence on the the kids moral compass from their responses while playing - pleasure and frustration without any clear physical response is something that kids tend to be able to pick up on, even if not consciously. Of course, extreme responses would likely have a negative effect - the light-heartedness that party games generally try to promote helps to minimise such cases though, ultimately it's down to who they're playing with.


This perfectly correlates (I suppose I should point out that it is entirely possible for 2 things to correlate even if they are completely unrelated..a small sample size only increases the likeliness of such a thing) with the data too - so does that mean non-violent games improve moral maturity whereas violent games simply fail to improve it? The study supports such a notion just as much as it supports lower moral maturity being the result of violent games or even a preference for violent games being the result of a poor upbringing resulting in a bad moral compass.

Which is actually the case (if any of them at all, the sample size is far too small and is restricted to a single province, notably one of the provinces that have one of the highest amount of gun licenses in Canada) is impossible to tell - the data could actually support videogames being good for kids, or violent games being bad for them, or even that kids playing such violent games for long time periods is a sign of other influences causing their moral compass to be a little off. The study's 'findings' are biased in that they're only looking at one possible meaning for the results.


Of course, looking at other studies, there is clearly conflicting data...I don't know why people even bother doing studies like this - the data is pretty much guaranteed to be inconclusive right from the start, and no real conclusion can be made in an objective manner - the only type of conclusion that really matters when it comes to things like this.


...Well, that turned out far longer than I would've liked, buying spoiler-tag like feature button?

Speranza318
Speranza318

This is a key statement in this article: "the data for this study was collected only from seven schools in Ontario and should not be extrapolated to children in other schools from other regions"


This severely weakens the power and validity of this study.  It's an intriguing concept, but no real evidence to back it up.

welterdude
welterdude

I've played plenty of violent video games my whole life, never once was I violent or cruel to other pupils at school, but I was bullied quite badly by a group of other kids who spent most of their time out playing sports. (cliche I know but it happened)

Correlation does not always equal causation, that's the first thing any competent scientific researcher will tell you.

projectpat72988
projectpat72988

This is so dumb....anytime any game gives me a choice I choose not to kill people I don't have to. I'm constantly "helping" characters who need it being a goody two shoes the entire time and actually feel guilty if I don't. Oh and I don't screw people over in real life either.

VintAge68
VintAge68

And who are the "adolecents" in the upper photo? The two with the Santa Claus Caps?

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

Was about to write reasons why I think this study is misguided and generalizes too much. But when you read some comment from this website it wakes you wonder...

ducusss
ducusss

I'm glad they went and mentioned that correlation does not imply causation. But dammit they know normal people are just going to read this as "violent games make people kill."

RockoW
RockoW

I'm sure there are a lot of angry snappers reading this. Of course they don't agree. But yes, the game ratings are there for a purpose. In your teens you are very sensitive from influence from any kind of source. 

I do however think that if a child played M rated games, and at the same time had a conversation with a mature adult of its themes, the effect would be minimized. I doubt many parents do that though.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

Yeah, I don't understand what this is. What does "moral maturity" mean? Give a specific example of how the person reacts? What are the good and/or bad decisions that the players take, specifically? I have read the study and half of it is a math mess, a quarter is suggestive questions and dumb f**king answers (well, by teenagers) about violent video games, and the last quarter is something about the educational system and schools, something that has nothing to do with video games at all. Nowhere in the study did she go to a correctional facility to ask people wheter they played violent games or not. Nowhere does she makes visits to a violent kid's home and see if the problem might actually reside in the way he was raised. I understand this is a "correlational" study, which means it's not as conclusive as it is suggestive, in more ways than one, but still a dumb frikin study that has nothing to do with reality. Do I have to mention that she subjected these children to mature games with ratings way above their ages? So it's clear that she just wants to justify a study without a purpose.


Here's my study:

Hey, parents, look at the frikin rating!

Dresden05
Dresden05

Who says Mario isn't a violent game

it's about a hero killing creatures to save a kidnapped princess and that doesn't even cover the blue shell in Mario Kart.

jecomans
jecomans

If a 13 or 14 year old is playing violent games for more than 3 hours a day, every day, their moral compass probably isn't the real problem.

gam3r80
gam3r80

define moral maturity then when can talk about it

Asseen0nTV
Asseen0nTV

Another study finds that children with a chaotic-neutral alignment play video games for longer periods of time.

ClevernameX
ClevernameX

Just like watching the news! Awesome!

wasakawaka
wasakawaka

Big surprise there, parents don't let your 14 year olds play games rated for adults, developing minds and all that.

northArrow
northArrow

If violent video games make people violent then Madden should have made me an NFL player

randomkidlol
randomkidlol

Good job, youve discovered theres a correlation. But that doesnt mean causation.


And people commenting should stop flipping shit over proving that theres a correlation, because its pretty obvious that there is a correlation.

grauberger
grauberger

Whoever said, that all that morality and being non-violent is the way people should be???? Just look at our history!

Wait....., maybe all those people throughout history just played too many video games.... lol 

Hobbes444
Hobbes444

Shouldn't this fall on the parents to make sure that their 12 year old isn't playing GTA when its Rated M!!!!?!??! People should stop trying to blame it on others when it's really their fault for not using common sense.

Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

I've been playing video games since I was 6 (27 now) and I play all types and I probably have the highest moral maturity out of all the friends I know and even more so then some people older then me. I am very sympathetic towards people and never wish harm on someone else or animals and I enjoy violent video games. GTA is one of my favorite series. Not to mention I never drank alcohol before I was 21 and I don't even like it now and also I have never done any drugs.....But I bet I'm a rare case as I don't know of anyone else like me (though I think the world could benefit from it)

wagnagdag223
wagnagdag223

Animated violence versus real-life violence - I knew the difference, growing up playing 2d and 3d voodoo graphic video games.  Still, I think there ought to be limits in the realm of  AAA video game realism.  Real acts of violence, i.e. beheading (they're all over the internet), are on a whole different level and just beyond sickening.

CruorComa
CruorComa

I wasn't even aware that there was such a thing as objective morality.

LiquidGold
LiquidGold

Most of those kids were probably weak minded to start with, I've played and watched violent games most my life and if and old lady falls down in the street.I'm usually the first to go over to help her. Be more worried letting your kids grow up watching crap like telly tubbies and other garbage nonsense. Half these kids can't even speak properly by the age of 3. Teach your kids manners, be polite and treat people with kindness and it won't matter what games they play as long as they respect people for who they are.

draco934
draco934

in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a distinguished psychiatrist named Dr. Fredric Wertham made a name for himself in the United States by leading a crusade against violent comic books.  Times may change but people will always find a scapegoat for bad parenting and mental illness.

noladem504
noladem504

@isshiah COD aint right? I dont think there is anything wrong with kids playing things like BF or COD being it has nothing to do with morality. Its no different than taking then to play laser tag or paintball. Its games like GTA that do not belong in kids being its entertainment value is almost solely based in being able to act outside of the moral norm.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Speranza318 "those who spend most of their time playing violent games could experience weakened empathy for others... Bajovic's study is correlational, meaning it can only suggest that there is a relationship between two variables, not prove it" Those two things completely undermine any interesting results, because it doesn't answer why it's like that. Why do people who spend time playing violent video games lose their moral compass? Is it because they were already a little violent, that they therefore prefer violent games? People have all kinds of motivations for doing stuff. 

When I was acting in an amateur theater show it was because it was the same director that had previously been involved in a high school play I was in. I was only in that high school play, because there was a shortage of boys and that I thought it would be a fun experience. It also helped to increase my average grade since I got an A for it. Other people in that amateur theater show I was in, after I'd graduated from high school, were much more invested and interested in the acting itself and had it as a hobby or potential future job. So, I acted in it but didn't care much about doing it as a profession. Likewise, people might play violent games and enjoy killing others in the game, but not want to do it as a profession.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@projectpat72988 I actually find it hard to be evil in games. It's not that I don't like being handed "bad guy" points and stuff, but the actions themselves. In Knights of the Old Republic 1 I never played as a bad person all the way through, it just didn't seem right and the other characters in my party would make me feel guilty afterwards if I did something bad. I once reloaded a save from before a critical point, a few hours before the ending, and played a bad character from there on. Just to see how different it would be. I didn't particularly like it.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

@Warlord_Irochi

What comment exactly wakes you wonder? It would be nice to know who's the impertinent jerk among us. And I would also like to know what studio are you talking about.

RockoW
RockoW

@xsonicchaosIf you don't understand what "moral maturity" means, why don't you read the report?

RockoW
RockoW

@gam3r80 You think a scientific report doesn't define its notions? Read the report...

Ruster25
Ruster25

@Lord_Sesshy  

Coming from a dude tagged Lord Sess-hy, come on you're not fooling anyone

And Video Games generally make people fat, lazy and useless unless you develop some programming skills

Deal with it

ANUBISZER0
ANUBISZER0

That my friend was written gold!

isshiah
isshiah

@noladem504 @isshiah  killing in any form is not the moral norm, in my opinion. But I know the difference between real life and shooting a bikie in GTA5.


It all depends on the child and their level of understanding, so i'm not trying to dictate to others what to do.

projectpat72988
projectpat72988

@Hurvl @projectpat72988  Thats like me in Mass Effect. I played 1 and 2 more than I would want people to know lol. Nearly 20 playthroughs between the two...ME3 twice (lost my love after those endings)....so many of the times I would be like okay I will be renegade now..but I could never do it. Being the jerk renegade guy always felt so unnecesary I could never do it...

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@xsonicchaos @Warlord_Irochi"Study" (Fixed now), as for "comments" (I though it was easy to guess that word was intended to be in plural) pretty much every hate comment you can read in multiple post in this website, just enter any console specific post and you'll see

But if you want a particular case; those smart-ass comments pointing typing mistakes and/or throwing insults but failing to make a point are a good example.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

@RockoW

Why don't you read my entire comment? And if you're so clever, why don't you enlighten me?

s-s-s
s-s-s

@Ruster25  are you being sarcastic ? because if you're not then you must have a wonderful personality to come to a GAMING SITE and write this