Games, whether they be electronic or otherwise, have at times been held up as excellent teaching tools due to their ability to convey many beneficial skills, including critical thinking, perseverance, and problem-solving. However, a new research study conducted by Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile and his father, retired psychology professor J. Ronald Gentile, indicates that along with the beneficial aspects of life-skill development, games are also teaching people to be more aggressive.
"We know a lot about how to be an effective teacher, and we know a lot about how to use technology to teach," said Douglas, the study's primary researcher. "Video games use many of these techniques and are highly effective teachers. So we shouldn't be surprised that violent video games can teach aggression."
In the Gentiles' study, 430 students in third to fifth grade, 670 eighth to ninth graders, and 1,441 college-age students with an average age of 19 were observed over a period of six months. Participants were administered surveys on two separate occasions during the six-month period, with questions pertaining to "the subject's aggressive thoughts and self-reported fights, and their media habits--including violent video game exposure."
The study found that among the youngest group participating in the study, violent behavior increased by 73 percent over the duration of the experiment, as rated by teachers and peers, for those who played primarily violent games, when compared to those who mixed in nonviolent games. That percentage spiked to 263 percent when compared to those who played only nonviolent games. The released study findings did not indicate the behavior of the older subject groups.
The complete results of the Gentiles' study, titled "Violent Video Games as Exemplary Teachers: A Conceptual Analysis," can be found in an upcoming issue of the scientific publication Journal of Youth and Adolescence.