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Violent video games may prompt aggressiveness in males long after a game ends

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Monday, November 1, 2010; 4:12 PM

Video games' punch can last for a day

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Action-packed, violent video games - those rated M for mature - may make people feel aggressive, but how long does this feeling last after players put down the controls?

For young men asked to think about their performance after playing a violent game, belligerent feelings lasted as long as 24 hours after the game ended, according to a study published online by the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

"These effects persist much longer than a few minutes," said Brad Bushman, an Ohio State University psychology professor and the report's lead author.

About 120 college students participated in the study for extra credit. By a coin flip, researchers had each student play either a violent game such as "Resident Evil 5" or a nonviolent game such as "Guitar Hero" for 20 minutes.

When the session ended, researchers asked half the players within each group to reflect on ways they could improve their scores; others weren't asked to do anything.

Researchers measured participants' aggressiveness the next day when the students competed in 25 computer contests, the winners of which were allowed to punish their opponents by blasting them with loud sound through headphones.

The students thought they were competing remotely against a player of the same sex, but they were actually playing against a computer. Winners could choose both the duration and intensity of the losers' punishment. The options ranged from something as painful as a fire alarm (105 decibels) to as painless as silence.

As Bushman expected, young men who played the violent games and thought about their gameplay were the most aggressive; they opted to punish opponents with long, blaring sounds. Women, nonviolent gamers and men who played violent games but were not asked to ruminate were not significantly aggressive.

"Parents should be thinking that violent video games can cause an increase in aggressive behavior," Bushman added, "long after the game has been turned off - if the players think about the violent content."

- Leslie Tamura


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