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New study suggests violent video games improve moral behavior
New study suggests violent video games improve moral behavior
July 2, 2014 | By Mike Rose

July 2, 2014 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

While it has long been suggested by some that violent video games may cause negative real-life behavior, a new study now claims that violent video games may actually make players more sensitive to violence in real life.

Led by Matthew Grizzard, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, and co-authored by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Texas, this new study suggests that being bad in video games can lead players to think more about their real-life actions.

"Rather than leading players to become less moral, this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity," says Grizzard. "This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others."

The study, titled "Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive," says that being immoral in a video game can cause feelings of guilt, which can lead to pro-social behavior.

"We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity," notes Grizzard.

He adds, "Our findings suggest that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations upon which human beings make moral judgments. "This is particularly relevant for video-game play, where habitual engagement with that media is the norm for a small, but considerably important group of users."

The study surveyed 185 participants, who were randomly assigned to play a shooter game as a terrorist, or as a UN soldier. You can read more about the study on the University of Buffalo website.

For more coverage of whether violent video games cause real-life violence, check out our extensive feature on video games and gun violence.

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Matt Robb
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Greater exposure to moral dilemmas increases moral sensitivity.


Tyler King
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"We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt..."

This line makes me want to actually read a bit more of the study, mainly because its at odds with what I've witnessed myself. I'm not someone who thinks that playing violent video games makes you more violent, but I also don't believe that it leads to being more compassionate. I've watched many, many, many people play violent video games who showed no remorse or sense of guilt after performing violent acts in a game. Again I don't think it made them be more violent, but I also never personally witnessed a real sense of guilt.

I think if guilt does exist it would exist in only a certain type of personality. The type of people who project themselves into the characters they are playing. This would cause them to feel more like they are the ones actually committing the crime. But if they are playing the game the same as if they are watching a movie, where the character they are playing is a character in story that they themselves are not apart of, they would not tend to feel the same kind of guilt regardless of what crime was committed.

Dusten Sobotta
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I'm guessing the study mostly concentrates on testing subjects who don't normally play violent games.

Ty Underwood
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So we all agree that violent video games don't make people more violent, but there are obvious problems with violent video games being the most played and most visible games of our medium. I hope studies like this aren't used as an excuse to increase that trend.

Masaru Wada
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"There are obvious problems with violent video games being the most played and most visible games of our medium."

It's not so obvious to me. Please elaborate.

Gil Salvado
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Violent video games are surely the most visible to the mainstream, but I doubt they're the most played.

I sometimes enjoy violent videos games. I can do something I'm not able/allowed to do in real life. And I don't need to do it in my real life either. Only because I do something in a video game doesn't mean I want to do in real life as well.

I can kill people and commit genocide in my mind and no one would know about it. Does that make me a mad man?