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Videogame Violence Causes Subdued Reactions
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posted by: Chris Martin
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date posted: 04:07 PM Mon Aug 21st, 2006
last revision: 02:27 PM Tue Aug 22nd, 2006


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Click to read.IOWA - Findings at Iowa State University show that prolonged exposure to violence in video games can make one desensitised to other forms of violence, UK paper Daily Mail reports. (Here's the hard-link)

The study took 257 college students, both male and female, and separated them into two groups. One group was sent to play 'violent' video games - including "Carmageddon," "Mortal Kombat," "Future Cop," and "Duke Nukem" - for 20 minutes while the other was sent to play 'passive' video games - including "3D Pinball," "Glider Pro," "3D Munch Man" and "Tetra Madness" - for 20 minutes.

After, scientists showed each test group a ten minute video of violent scenes including stabbings, prison fights, courtroom outbursts, and confrontations with police, measuring their response by heartrate and amount of sweat.

Professor Nicholas Carnagey, leader of the study, said he was 'surprised' at how quickly the games dulled the players' response to real-life violence.

Those who engaged in 'violent' video games showed 'lowered physiological responses' to the 10 minute video. Their heart rates and sweat levels were not as affected as those playing the 'passive' games. Those who engaged in 'passive' video games showed increased heart rates and perspiration, dramatic reactions to the images on screen.

The two results show that the college students who played 'violent' video games were 'desensitised' to violent imagery - in only 20 minutes.

Carnagey said: "Students who played violent games for twenty minutes had lower responses when they watched the videos of real-life violence.

"A lot of other studies on exposure to violent video games indicated that we would find this desensitisation but it surprised us that only 20 minutes of exposure was enough to show this effect.

"It appears that individuals who play violent video games get used to it. They eventually become physiologically numb to it."

Daily Mail reports that other studies have been conducted on the matter: Professor Mark Griffiths, from the psychology division at Nottingham Trent University, warned that children were more at risk of being affected by violent video games than adults as their brains were not yet fully formed.

He said: "Society as a whole has become more desensitised to violence because of the increase in violent images in films, on television and in computer games."


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Our Commentary:

This gamer was surprised at how quickly one's reaction can be dulled by video games. Still, no connection between violence in videogames and violent acts has been made. These studies show a diminishing return on violent images, something most of us had already figured happened. Though I would have guess somewhere around an hour of playtime would cause the desensitisation.

While it's interesting, the study doesn't really show how long it took the subjects to 'cool down' from the violence high, which seems to matter as much, if not more, than the original study. The findings really leave me with a neutral taste in my mouth, not a good taste, not a bad taste - just neutral. Is it just me or do the findings by Prof Carnagey (cool: carnage is in his name!) feel oddly unsatisfying; maybe because of all the findings today targetting video games aren't working me up into a sweat as they once used to.

What really did surprise this gamer is that the study just stopped with what is mainly common sense - the tidbits of info aren't brought into into anything new and tangible, but just float around in the electromagnetic typhoon of "neat, so what?"

-CM

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