Violent Video Games Linked to Aggressive Behavior
WebMD News Archive
April 24, 2000 -- The one-year anniversary of the Columbine High School
shooting has come and gone, reopening old wounds and revisiting unanswered
questions. The unthinkable remains unexplainable: What could have caused two
seemingly average kids to go on such a rampage?
Some of the blame has fallen on violent video games, which the two Columbine
shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, played religiously. But are these
games actually part of the problem, or just an easy target?
Two new studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
add some scientific weight to the claim that violent video games can increase
"These two studies, plus other research on video game violence ? all
point in the same direction," researcher Craig A. Anderson, PhD, from Iowa
State University, tells WebMD. "It's a direction that's not unexpected,
because the effects of playing violent video games look to be very similar to
the effects of lots of exposure to violent TV. Basically, kids who play a lot
of violent video games are at risk for becoming more violent people."
Still, other researchers say much more study is needed before one can say
definitively that violent video games can lead to aggression. And
representatives of the video-game industry say findings of these studies don't
always correlate to real life.
Anderson collaborated with Karen E. Dill, PhD, from Lenoir-Rhyne College in
Hickory, N.C., on the two recent studies. He was with the University of
Missouri-Columbia at the time.
The first study surveyed more than 200 college students about their traits
of aggressiveness and any delinquent behavior in the near past, in relation to
the kinds of video games they played and how often they played them.
Ultimately, those who had played more violent video games as teenagers
reported engaging in more aggressive behavior. Men exhibited more aggression,
and men who are more prone to exhibit aggressive behavior may be even more
vulnerable to violent video games, the study found.
The researchers also found that the more time a student had spent playing
video games in the past, the lower his or her college grades were likely to
The second study was designed to show a more short-term relationship between
aggression and video violence. More than 200 college students played either a
violent or nonviolent video game (Wolfenstein 3D or Myst, respectively). The
games have similar difficulty levels, so frustration could be ruled out as one
cause of aggression. The students played the games three times, in two separate
sessions, about a week apart.
After the students played the video games for a third time, they played
another game in which they had to set up a blast of noise that their opponents
would hear if they lost. Those who had played the violent video game set the
noise blast to last longer than the others, which the researchers interpreted
as being more aggressive. Women displayed higher levels of hostility and
aggression than did the men.