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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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