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Health & Parenting

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Violent Video Games Linked to Aggressive Behavior

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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.

"We now know for a fact that playing a violent video game for even a short period of time increases aggressive behavior in the short term," says Anderson, who recently testified before the U.S. Senate on the impact of "interactive" violence on children.

Leaving aside extreme examples like the Littleton shooting, Anderson says that the way people learn to react to conflict can show up in day-to-day life. "I think the message I'd like to give the average parent is that when kids -- adults as well -- play violent video games, it makes them at least temporarily think about the world in more aggressive terms," Anderson tells WebMD.

Anderson's colleague, Dill, tells WebMD that video games can affect behavior because they require participation. "Video games offer direct rewards for acts of violence," Dill says. "Thus the player learns that violence is the desired response to conflict situations."

Anderson and Dill "have executed the best study of video game violence to date," says David A. Walsh, PhD, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family. At the same time, he says, more studies need to be done before we can claim there is a cause-and-effect relationship between video game violence and real-life aggression.

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