Very interesting article over at ArsTechnica sums up a new study on the effect of video game violence on kids. The study says what I’ve been saying all along: If you’re unstable to begin with then you will be affected more than someone who is stable:
They designed a study in which measures of anger levels acted as a proxy for violent behavior. They recruited 135 children, but were forced to kick some out of the study due to bad behavior, leaving them with about 110 boys and 15 girls with a mean age of 14.6 years, all of them familiar with the game of choice, Quake II. The children were given personality profile tests and measured for anger levels, at which point they were set loose for 20 minutes of gaming. Anger levels were measured again following the gaming session.
Crunching the numbers indicated that there were three clear groups. The anger levels of 77 of the subjects remained unchanged after the gaming session. In 22 of the subjects, anger levels nearly doubled from a starting point similar to that of the unaffected children. But 8 of the test subjects started out at this high anger level; for them, 20 minutes of gaming dropped them down to levels similar to those seen in the unaffected group.
The research team then correlated these groups with the personality profiles, and an clear pattern emerged. Those with personalities that were scored as stable largely wound up in the unaffected group, while the remaining two groups were populated by personalities that were considered less stable.
The authors propose that gamers fall into two groups: stable personalities, and those with emotional states that are susceptible to being influenced by game play. Within the latter group, the response to violent games largely depends on the emotional states of the gamers when they begin play. Angry gamers will cool off, calm gamers will get agitated. They also note that only two of the cases of rising anger reached levels that would be considered cause for concern, suggesting that dangerous levels of anger were rarely triggered by gaming.
Imagine that. If you’re unstable then being exposed to simulated violence might make you even more unstable.
The authors of the study say say they’d like to see additional studies done along similar lines with different test groups and games to see if it holds up and they also note that the connection between anger and aggression isn’t particularly clear just yet. Still this should help explain why it seems like every other week we get one study saying that violent video games are turning people into psychos and then the alternate week getting a study that says that’s not happening at all or that gaming actually helps prevent psychos.