Ruminating over a videogame for 24 hours and its effects on aggression (Bushman & Gibson, 2010)

My orientation with the School of Communication went pretty well. I had a very light breakfast where I met many of my cohorts. There were so many that I just don’t remember their names or faces. I got introduced to Brad Bushman, Chad Mahood and David Roskos-Ewoldsen among others. Most importantly, I met graduate students who share my interests with videogames which we are now 7 (plus Bushman) members of an informal research group.

In my first meeting with Dr. Bushman, he mentioned a study that was due for a press release. Well, Gamepolitics reported it and I noted for future references not to go shopping on a football Saturday. The study is about ruminating your videogame experience for the next 24 hours and see if you’re still aggressive. Dr. Bushman told me that conference attendees often asked him these types of questions. Well then everyone, here’s the study by Brad Bushman (Ohio State University) and Bryan Gibson (Central Michigan University).

Abstract

Experimental studies show that violent video games cause people to behave more aggressively, but how long does the effect last? In most experiments, aggression is measured immediately after gameplay. The present experiment is the first to test the long-term causal effects of violent video games on aggression. By the flip of a coin, participants played a violent or nonviolent game for 20 min. Within each group, half ruminated about the game. The next day, participants competed with an ostensible opponent on a competitive task in which the winner could punish the loser with painful noise blasts through headphones. Results showed that violent video games increased aggression 24 hr later, but only among men who ruminated about the game. Rumination keeps aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavioral tendencies active. If players ruminate about the violence in a game, the aggression-stimulating effects of the game persist long after it has been turned off.

I’m settling in Columbus, but I’m starting to miss Montreal. I’ll just go for another round of OSU!

(3 days later…)

Takeru (Minami-ke) ruminates with a teddy bear about his failed relationships

Rumination is the act of thinking over and over on something, like Takeru’s failed relationships or being pwned by a player of unequal stature (i.e. someone younger than you, a weakling, etc.). According to cognitive neoassociation theory, playing violent videogames and ruminating about the gaming experience keeps those aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavioural tendencies fresh for a much longer time than (IMO) say doing something else afterwards, like reading the first chapters of a textbook or playing OSU! for the next 4 hours or so.

Methods

Participants: 126 undergrads, average age is 19.5 (SD = 1.5), 69 are guys and 57 are girls. No videogame experience measures were mentioned. I don’t really see the need for one, perhaps a measure to see how important videogames are to participants may be of interesting use. The authors (and I, while reading the method section) reasoned that gamers are likely to ruminate about their gaming experiences (without prompting and habitually) than newbies. IMO, they may ruminate, constructively think about their gaming performances (i.e. task-oriented coping) or relate their experiences with others, IRL or online. But that means more funding required finding out which of those activities gamers are likely to do.

Measures

Videogame ratings: questions about their videogames experience, such as enjoyment, entertaining, excitement, fun, frustration, violence, etc. On a 10-point scale.

Favourite videogames: they listed their three favourite videogames. This is used to measure their habitual exposure to videogame violence. A not-so-thorough measure.

Aggressive behaviours: the competitive reaction time task. Participants are paired with an ostensible partner of the same sex and they are tasked to blast a noise at the level of their choosing from 60 to 105 decibels or 0 decibels, if they are nonaggressive. They also choose the duration of the noise blast. Gamepolitics commentators objected to its validity and cited Ferguson and Rueda from the Journal of Experimental Criminology. I haven’t read it.

Rumination manipulation: Participants are asked to write down what they thought about in the 24 hours for 3 minutes. This is to see if the rumination order was effective or not. And the results showed that it did work.

Videogames used: the violent videogames are Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Resident Evil 5. The nonviolent videogames are Guitar Hero, Gran Turismo 5 and Shaun White Snowboarding. Again, Gamepolitics commentators noted the control schema differences and gameplay mechanics as well.

Procedure

Participants are told that they will be playing with a partner of the same sex and are randomly assigned to play one of the six videogames. Playtime is 20 minutes. After that, they completed the videogame ratings scale, listed their three favourite videogames, and half of the sample were told to “think about your play of the game, and try to identify ways your game play could improve when you play again.”

The next day, participants complete the rumination manipulation and did the competitive reaction time task. After 25 trials of hurting each others’ ears, they are debriefed and given extra course credit.

The procedure looks simple and the rumination order is exactly what it should be. If I were to ask my participants to think on the positive gaming experiences (i.e. winning matches or doing an awesome headshot), then perhaps the results would have been different… or not since they get pretty much excited of repeating their aggressive successes.

Now if you’re asking why they didn’t do the competitive reaction time immediately afterwards, there are some reasons at the top of my head: 1) the procedure is based on previous studies, so we already know the immediate effects, 2) practice effect or 3) participants will being suspect the true purpose of the study.

Results

Their analyses with (or without) the videogame ratings as covariates (or controls) did not affect their results. Ditto for the favourite videogame measure. None of the videogames stood out in having a particular effect on aggression or rumination.

So, they started out a 2 (Game) X 2 (Rumination) X 2 (Gender) ANOVA which found significant interaction effects. They separated the analysis by gender, so looking into game condition and rumination condition.

What they found is a single significant interaction effect, men who played a violent videogame and ruminated for 24 hours were found to be more aggressive on the competitive reaction time task. No other significance found. The authors argued that many men (but not all) like violent content and are physiologically aroused by it; in contrast, women find violent content to be at the bottom of their media list. So, what do women ruminate over? Relationships? Rumination on MMO relationships sounds like a fun project.

Another question is about those who didn’t ruminate about violent videogame content and didn’t scored higher on the reaction time task. A related concept is threat simulation dreams, by studies carried out by Jayne Gackenbach (Grant MacEwan University), which it was found that gamers reported fewer threats in their dreams. Bobby Lull mentioned about her and I thought that it’s probably worth mentioning it despite the conceptual distance between rumination and threat simulation dreaming. I read one of Gackenbach’s studies and didn’t understand a thing.

Bushman, B. J., & Gibson, B. (2010) Violent video games cause an increase in aggression long after the game has been turned off. Social Psychological and Personality Science, Advance online publication, doi:10.1177/1948550610379506.

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7 thoughts on “Ruminating over a videogame for 24 hours and its effects on aggression (Bushman & Gibson, 2010)

  1. The authors combined the airhorn intensity and duration because of high correlation (r = .84).

    They then standardized the measure. I don’t understand what or why? But I guess it was an appropriate way to analyze a combined measure. I really don’t know the answer.

  2. Pingback: Aggression over Time after a spell of violent videogaming (Barlett et al., 2009) « VG Researcher

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