New study finds no link between violent games and anti-social behaviour

Violent games have no impact on pro-social behaviour, according to a recent study by an Australian university.

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A newly-released study examining the relationship between video games and behaviour has found no link between violent content and anti-social actions.

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The report, conducted at the University of Queensland, found that administering a pro-social test after allowing subjects to play either a violent or non-violent video game yielded no decrease in desire to help unprompted in a social test.

The study comprised three separate experiments, and asked a total of 160 undergraduate students--55 percent of whom were male--aged between 17 and 43 to play a randomly selected anti-social (Grand Theft Auto IV), violent (Call of Duty: Black Ops’ Zombie mode), non-violent (Portal 2), or pro-social (World of Zoo) game for 20 minutes. In a later phase of the experiment, this was further reduced to two games, either Portal 2, or Grand Theft Auto IV, and saw identical results.

A third experiment used a smaller sample size, less contemporary games--Lemmings and its more violent clone, Lamers--and required only eight minutes of play, but returned similar outcomes.

While participants believed answering a series of questions about their level of interest, frustration and arousal with the game consumed constituted their involvement in the test, it was actually their willingness to help pick up the examiner's "accidentally" dropped pens that determined whether their social behaviour had been altered as a result of the time spent playing.

The experiment mirrored a study conducted in 2010 by Greitemeyer and Osswald that was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

This latest report concluded that, “Three experiments failed to find a detrimental effect of violent video games on pro-social behaviour, despite using contemporary and classic games, delayed and immediate test-phases, and short and long exposures." The report concedes that "While this study is not definitive evidence that violent video games have no detrimental effect on pro-social behaviour, it might be that previously raised concerns regarding the impact of violent games on pro-social behaviour may be mismatched or disproportionate,” supporting industry claims of a lack of connection between mature-themed games and real-world violence.

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