Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Violent Video Games Linked to Aggressive Behavior

By
WebMD Health News

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 aggression.

"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 be.

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.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow