Playing violent video games can lead to an increase in aggressive behaviour and decrease in prosocial behaviour and empathy, according to a new report.
Researchers said that violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players but insufficient evidence exists about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency.
“The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression,” according to a new American Psychological Association (APA) task force report.
The task force’s review is the first in this field to examine the breadth of studies included and to undertake multiple approaches to reviewing the literature.
“Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades but to date, there is very limited research addressing whether violent video games cause people to commit acts of criminal violence,” said Mark Appelbaum, task force chair.
“However, the link between violence in video games and increased aggression in players is one of the most studied and best established in the field,” said Appelbaum.
“No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently,” the report said.
“Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behaviour. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent video game use is one such risk factor,” the report said.
In light of the task force’s conclusions, APA has called on the industry to design video games that include increased parental control over the violence the games contain.
The task force conducted a comprehensive review of the research literature published between 2005 and 2013 focused on violent video game use.
This included four meta-analyses that reviewed more than 150 research reports published before 2009.
Task force members then conducted both a systematic evidence review and a quantitative review of the literature published between 2009 and 2013.
This resulted in 170 articles, 31 of which met all of the most stringent screening criteria.
“While there is some variation among the individual studies, a strong and consistent general pattern has emerged from many years of research that provides confidence in our general conclusions,” Appelbaum said.