Violent Video Games Increase Pain Tolerance? OK, Hit Me.

Researchers at Keele University in England decided it would be neat if they had 40 volunteers play either a violent or non-violent video game for 10 minutes and then submerge one of their hands in ice-cold water. This study into the sort of silly things researchers can make subjects do yielded fresh information on the effects of violent first-person shooters on pain tolerance.

The study found that that subjects that had played a violent video game kept their hands submerged for 65 per cent longer than those that did not, leading researchers to conclude that playing visceral, first-person shooter-type games not only enhanced feelings of aggression, but also tolerance for ice-cold water, or pain.

Now I'm no fan of having my body parts submerged in frigid liquid, but I wouldn't exactly call it pain-inducing. After the initial shock I generally find my extremities numbing quite nicely, though I suppose "violent video games increase numbing-quite-nicely tolerance" wouldn't look nearly as impressive atop a study published in the journal Psychological Reports, which publishes the sort of things you'd expect. I also suppose it's tough to get test subjects willing to get punched in the teeth.

Tough, but not impossible — they really need to apply themselves.

It bears noting that the same team, led by senior lecturer in psychology Dr Richard Stephens, is also responsible for a study that determined that swearing increases people's tolerance for pain. This is a group of people with more ice-cold water than they know what to do with.

From the good Dr. Stephens: "We assumed that swearing eases pain by sparking an emotional reaction in participants — most likely to be aggression — in turn setting off the body's fight or flight response. This latest study was a test of that assumption in which we set out to try and raise participants' aggression levels by having them play a violent video game. We then tested the effect on pain tolerance. The results confirm our predictions that playing the video game increased both feelings of aggression and pain tolerance".

So basically they have determined that aggression increases pain tolerance, and this study demonstrates another way to get aggression going. They've done swearing and now video games. Perhaps next they'll do having someone hit on your girlfriend at the pub, or having someone sit down across from you and start eating your fries without asking.

Violent video games can ease pain [Keele University]


    Did they have a control group playing non violent video games to see whether the affect was a result of having more blood running through ones fingers from having been fiddling with a controller for ten minutes?

    Of course they didn't, because that would be good science that would potentially work against their hypothesis.

      They did, mentioned both above and in more detail in the link..
      Better than a base control group, they used the same test subjects on separate occasions playing the two game types.

      In the link:
      "Participants played both the violent and non-violent game on separate occasions for 10 minutes and then placed one of their hands in ice-cold water to test their reaction to pain".

      Saying this, of you go to the study itself, the non-violent video game is a gold game, which would have less muscular movement in the hand as you suggested.

      The journal article itself:

        Sorry, I meant "Golf Game"

      "They had 40 volunteers play either a violent or non-violent video game for 10 minutes"
      Of Course they did.

      Of course you didn't read the full article. I'd be more interested in the effect of game intensity and adrenaline on blood flow, versus just violence (eg: Unreal Tournament versus intense racing game).

        Right then. No more reading articles and writing inflammatory responses at 3am.

        I'll get my coat.

          Hm, although the time stamp says 2:01 pm. Whatever. Skipped over pertinent information. Made ill considered comment. Moving on.

    Forty people..... Now that's an accurate result.

      At least 95% accurate, as is the standard set for all research papers. Small sample doesn't matter much if the effect is large and the groups are split randomly.

    "Now I’m no fan of having my body parts submerged in frigid liquid" - I assume you haven't done this. We did in a health science course, and people passed out.

    From what I'm reading, all they've shown is that violent video games, or rather, stressful situations induce the "Fight or flight" response which is then responsible for reducing the pain response. It's not the games themselves that increase the pain tolerance.

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