Do video Games Desensitize Children towards “Real Life” Violence – Literature review

An aspect supporting the desensitization thesis is the diverse research linking exposure to violent games with an increase in aggressive thoughts and feelings. One such study by Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman, specifically focusing on video game violence, found out that participants who engaged in violent games depicted significantly lower sensitivity to violence when shown videos of real life violence (493). The research noted that, while watching the videos depicting real life violence, the heart rate for those exposed to violent games prior to the film on real life violence were significantly lower than the rate for the participants who had not engaged in violent games (Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman 493). Such a finding highlighted that the participants who had engaged in violent video game did not exhibit the expected physiological responses linked to an experience of disturbing imagery. Similarly, the galvanic skin response (GSR) significantly differed between the two groups while participants watched the filmed real life violence (Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman 493-494). The group that had participated in violent video game depicted lower levels of GSR, indicating a numbing of the expected psychological arousal while watching violent scenes. Such is the case since GSR response is associated with changes in aspects such as emotions (Mundy-Castle and McKiever 15-16), which would be expected to occur in individuals not desensitized to violence.

The findings in the study by Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman are reinforced by other studies and evidence presented in various books. For instance, reviewing evidence on the association of video games to aggressive behavior in children, Weber and Kostygina note of a “pattern of significant, positive, rising, and notable effect sizes from diverse best practice studies …” (357). Reporting the findings of one such study, a 2004 study by Pasold and Baumgardner, Weber and Kostygina note of the positive relationship between game and movie violence and stringer proviolence attitudes (351). Similarly, the study by Pasold and Baumgardner found out that prolonged exposure to video game violence was associated with participants showing lower empathy for the victims of violence (cited in Weber and Kostygina 351). In a CNN article reporting the findings of another study, the desensitization thesis is also reinforced. In this news article, Harding reports of the study’s findings that demonstrated that “Kids in both the U.S. and Japan who reported playing lots of violent video games had more aggressive behavior months later than their peers who did not …” (1). Such a report indicates that the effects of video game violence on children surpasses culturally held norms, since equivalent effects were noted in the US sample and the Japanese sample, two societies with diverse cultural orientations. Proceed to literature review part 2.

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