I’ve noticed something about my latest posts in that they are mainly about the relationship between violent video games and aggression. Well I guess this is partly my fault since reading such articles seemed more attractive. On the other hand, the e-mail alerts I’ve set up with several academic databases mostly churned out this kind of study. In regards to the previous post, maybe researchers who are studying video games other than finding a relationship with aggression might call video games under different terms, such as virtual world.
This study is done by Dr. Karen Dill of Lenoir-Rhyne College and company who are looking at the exposure of video games’ depiction of sexual stereotypes of men and women and its relation to attitudes towards violence towards women. According to the authors, this study is the first of its kind.
The violent video game literature has previously not extended to the domain of violence against women. The current investigation tested the effects of exposure to sex-typed video game characters versus images of professional men and women on judgments and attitudes supporting aggression against women. Results showed experimental effects of short-term exposure to stereotypical media content on sexual harassment judgments but not on rape myth acceptance. A significant interaction indicated that men exposed to stereotypical content made judgments that were more tolerant of a real-life instance of sexual harassment compared to controls. Long-term exposure to video game violence was correlated with greater tolerance of sexual harassment and greater rape myth acceptance. This data contributes to our understanding of mass media’s role in socialization that supports violence against women.
Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of experiment one or I would believe it to be (i.e. playing a video game that has sexist portrayal of male and female characters)
In one of the paragraphs, the authors referred to David Walsh’s (of the NIMF) paper of which showcased examples of violence towards women in gaming, mainly from the Grand Theft Auto series. Somehow reading that paragraph made me a bit a cynical, like what about fighting games series, such as Dead or Alive series, they have sexist portrayals of women and violence. Well, I guess they like to use the worst case of a video game to illustrate how deprave a game can go.
If you think that video games don’t portray sexist characters. Well take another look at your local video game store or read Dill & Thill (2007) on how teenagers describe a typical male or female video game character. Or if you think that media in general doesn’t influence people to be more sexist or more aggressive towards women, then try to counter-argue all the previous research and visit your local university library that has books on the topic.
Participants: 181 undergrad students (120 female, 61 male) The gender imbalance is because that’s a characteristic of the psychology majors population. There are more women than men in psychology, yes I have first-hand experience in that since I was a psychology major.
Sexual harassment judgments: participants read a real-life story of sexual harassment done by a male professor against a female student. They chose a story that is very subject to interpretation in order to have a high sensitivity on the participants’ judgment on sexual harassment. That’s a smart move. Anyways, the participants answered to seven judgement questions on a point-scale. (they varied the scale). I’m not very knowledgeable in that area, but it seemed very promising in measuring sexual harassment judgments.
Rape-Supportive attitudes: ah, yes. In one of the psychology class lessons, we were taught how studies after studies used a questionnaire on people’s attitude about rape and how much it relates to sexual aggression towards women. They’re using a 20-questions questionnaire from the Sexual Beliefs Scale.
Video game questionnaire-checklist version: questions about participants video gaming experiences, like how many hours of play per week and such.
Video games used: They’re not really using video games actually. They’re actually showing screenshots of video games known to have sexist portrayals of female and male characters. They have included GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2, BMX XXX, Saint’s Row, Resident Evil (seriously?) and Gears of War. 32 screenshots (16 male and 16 female) were used.
Other: Opposite to the sexist photos from video games are the photo portraits of American politicians. Of course IMO, they are boring to look at. 32 photos (16 male and 16 female) were used. But it makes one wonder if they should’ve used video game characters from non-sexist video games, say Alyx Vance or a generic video game character. I’m thinking Red Faction 2. The authors found that they had trouble finding screenshots of video game characters that are equivalent to the pictures of American politicians. Their main argument is based on findings from previous research, I’m not going into details, but I’m convinced of their decision.
Participants are randomly assigned to either watch the video game screenshots (experimental condition) or the American politicians (control condition). They’ve done by having the participants watch them through a PowerPoint presentation. Each photo is viewed for ten seconds and the photos were looped for a total duration of ten minutes. Ten minutes seems good, given that they found significant results. Afterwards, they are given either the sexual harassment judgment questionnaire or the rape-supportive attitudes measure, just to balance out carryover effects.
Okay there’s a significant difference on sexual harassment judgements in that men who viewed the video game screenshots were more tolerant of a sexual harassment situation. But looking at the raw scores of which the score ranged from 0 to 61 where a lower score means a higher tolerance. So men who saw the video game images had an average score of 41, followed by a 47.64 average score for men in control group, then a 48.47 average score for women in control, finally a 49.80 average score for women in video game condition. So a 6-point decrease for men, huh. I wonder if it corresponds well to the attitudes and behaviours you’d see and hear in Xbox Live or such. Hmm… this is good food for thought.
There is only one significant difference in rape-supportive attitudes in that men are more supportive of rape, so I guess video games may not have an influence, but we don’t know that for sure.
If you look back at the abstract, they were referring to long-term exposure to video game violence as was correlated to greater tolerance of sexual harassment and greater rape support attitudes. The data they used to arrive at that conclusion was the video game questionnaire checklist-version. So I find it a bit of stretch to make such statements since what they did was correlations.
Another note of interest is that they found higher correlations when the analyses “using exposure only to first person shooter games.” I’m a bit confused here, are they saying they made the analyses with just people who only played FPS, or they take everyone data’s and made the analyses with those who play FPS and may have also play other genres.
A future study in this venue would be an actual playthrough of games that has sexual stereotypes portrayals of male and female characters. Dead or Alive immediately comes to mind. I think the effects might be higher since the physics effects of gender stereotypes may be a factor (I’m thinking huge breasts physics, exaggerated physical features and gender stereotyped personalities) The authors had also suggested such a study.
Another suggestion by the authors is to explore how exposure to sexual stereotypes in video games might affect relations between men and women. I’m sure this is already known in the gaming community like in MMOs.
I find this study loosely connected to video games in part because the methodology is rooted from previous studies. The main reason is that participants were only shown photos of sexual stereotypes from video games; the same effect can be achieved in other media. This study adds some amounts of what is already known in sexual attitudes research. What remains to be seen are the long-term effects, how often teenagers are exposed to sexual portrayals in video game (I think that’s covered, but might as well say it) and/or how much male teenagers’ desires to see such sexual portrayals (yes, yes, maybe for fapping purposes).
Dill, K. E., Brown, B. P., & Collins, M. A. (2008). Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped video game characters on tolerance of sexual harassment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(5), 1402-1408.