The "video games desensitise children to violence" argument is a popular weapon in the arsenal of the anti-violent video game crowd. A new study finds violent games to have no effect on long-term emotional memory at all.
Researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto led by Holly Bowen, a PhD candidate in psychology, gathered a group of 122 male and female undergraduate students in both gaming and non-gaming flavours to act as test monkeys in an experiment that would determine the effect of violent gaming on long-term emotional memory. Among the 45 students that had reported video game exposure in the six months prior to the study, games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty titles ranked high on their list of favourite games.
The students were all shown a series of 150 images depicting negative, positive and neutral scenes. An hour later they were shown the same scenes with a series of 150 distractor images randomly mixed in. During the second set of images, students were asked to identify whether they had seen each card before.
Researchers believed that the students that regularly played video games would be less sensitive to violent imagery, and would therefore not remember the negative pictures as readily as students that did not play games.
This was not the case. Gamers and non-gamers showed no significant differences in their recollections. On top of that, a questionnaire regarding students' emotion arousal following the experiment showed no differences as well.
"The findings indicate that long-term emotional memory is not affected by chronic exposure violent video games," said Bowen.
Bowen and colleagues caution that the results are those from adolescents and not children, and that children could still prove more impressionable.
It's a little flimsy, but then so is any experiment people arguing these issues like to toss around. Use it in good health.
Gamers May Not be Desensitized by Violent Video Games [Ryerson University]