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Study Suggests No Long-Term Desensitizing Effect From Violent Games
Study Suggests No Long-Term Desensitizing Effect From Violent Games
February 23, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

February 23, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

A new study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests players of violent video games are not more desensitized to violent images than those that don't play such games.

University of Toronto researchers Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol studied the desensitization effect -- suggested by many opponents of childhood access to violent games -- by studying the "emotional memory" of 122 undergraduate students, 45 of whom have played video games in the past six months.

The researchers showed participants a set of 150 images, including some disturbing and violent scenes, then asked them to identify the same images from among a a larger set an hour later.

If violent-game-players had been desensitized to violence, the researchers theorized they would be worse at recalling the violent images than the non-gamers in the group. Yet the experiment showed no significant difference in recall between the groups, nor in the groups' self-reported arousal levels and feelings towards the images.

Though the results are encouraging for those that believe violent video games don't cause any long-term psychological harm, Bowen noted that the small study is far from definitive, and is merely "another piece of the puzzle [suggesting] video games aren't having long-term effects on cognition and memory."

The researchers also noted that the participants' self-reporting of arousal levels may not be as accurate as physiological measurements.

"While this is an important study, what they're asking people to remember isn't necessarily linked to video game memories, so I think it's important to draw only moderate conclusions," said Hunter College associate professor of psychology Tracy Dennis in an interview with HealthDay.

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Joe McGinn
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You won't see this in the mainstream press. "Games not as bad as we thought, sorry 'bout that" is not the kind of headline they like to run with. :-)

Michiel Hendriks
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I don't know about others, but I can still distinguish reality from virtual reality.

Bojan Urosevic
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"If violent-game-players had been desensitized to violence, the researchers theorized they would be worse at recalling the violent images than the non-gamers in the group."

Poor study. IMO they are trying to prove a hypothesis (of being desensitized or not) with a theory (of recalling violent images according to the level of desensitization) which probably needs to be proved itself. :-/

Kyle Orland
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Actually, there has been quite a bit of research into this kind of "emotional memory formation." See here, for instance:

Whether it's fully applicable to the desensitization debate is an open question, but it's not like the researchers were pulling this idea out of thin air.

Justin LeGrande
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This research attempt is far, FAR too shallow to offer ANYTHING useful.

Follow the example of published studies such as Grand Theft Childhood by Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D and Cheryl K. Olsen, Sc.D. I read that entire book through, and their project absolutely CRUSHES the validity of half-baked studies such as this one from University of Toronto. Too many of these video game behavioral study sessions are just lame quickies. They need to be multi-year projects involving thousands, not hundreds, of individuals.

Jed Hubic
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Good article. Makes me want to kill the author for some reason...

Alan Rimkeit
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Then I guess they should NOT play this game! :D

Dead Island:

Also, I will say it again, correlation does not imply causation.....