The more you play, the more aggressive you become (Hasan et al., 2013)

I am still trying to return to my regular rhythm after the fallout with my laptop, but it is difficult when you are behind on nearly everything, except for coursework. But I do remember what study to review.

My advisor’s, Dr. Brad Bushman (OSU), French colleagues, Youssef Hasan (Qatar University) and Laurent Bègue (Université Mendès-France), have published an article on a  three-day long experiment with violent videogames. I am wondering what kind of research French videogames scholars are doing…

Abstract

It is well established that violent video games increase aggression. There is a stronger evidence of short-term violent video game effects than of long-term effects. The present experiment tests the cumulative long-term effects of violent video games on hostile expectations and aggressive behavior over three consecutive days. Participants (N = 70) played violent or nonviolent video games 20 min a day for three consecutive days. After gameplay, participants could blast a confederate with loud unpleasant noise through headphones (the aggression measure). As a potential causal mechanism, we measured hostile expectations. Participants read ambiguous story stems about potential interpersonal conflicts, and listed what they thought the main characters would do or say, think, and feel as the story continued. As expected, aggressive behavior and hostile expectations increased over days for violent game players, but not for nonviolent video game players, and the increase in aggressive behavior was partially due to hostile expectations.

I am trying all kinds of strategies of productivity, but nothing seems to stick as I lose motivation.

The authors noted that many experiments involve the immediate and short-term effects of playing violent videogames. To explore the long term effects, longitudinal studies involve collecting data over several time points in a time span of months and years, and the disadvantages are the huge costs and retention of participants. Therefore, the authors sought to examine the cumulative effects of playing violent videogames over a three-day period, a nice compromise between the two methods. A useful analogy is smoking, playing once does not make one aggressive, but repeating it over time can increase the risk.

Their theoretical basis is the cognitive neoassociative theory where knowledge is represented as a network where concepts, such as gun, puppy, etc., acts like a node and are linked based on many factors. In terms of the concept of aggression, any concepts related to aggression are linked and activating one concept would in turn activate related others, although it is dependent on the strength of these links. For example, the link between ice cream and summer are very strong because they frequently occur together. But, ice cream and steak are not strongly linked as they don’t occur frequently. The same principles apply with violent videogames, they just happen to link with aggression and violence. The more they co-occur, the stronger the linkages. On a side note, anyone who plays videogames long enough would also form linkages to tropes and would process videogames in some nuanced manner, but this research question is best suited for someone else to tackle.

The authors noted that hostile expectation bias, where people tend to expect others to react to potential conflicts with aggression, is likely to mediate the relationship between playing violent videogames and aggressive behaviours. The greater one plays violent videogames, the greater their expectations of others’ reaction to be hostile and the more likely they would behave aggressively. The reasoning is that a heavy dose of violent media or should I point out a heavy ratio of violence would bias people’s perception of the world to be more hostile. Think about it, why do we perceive youtube comments and online gaming as hostile is because we frequently are exposed to them and therefore expect them to be hostile, easy to think it that way and be less surprised by it.

Method

Participants: 70 French university students, average age is 24.4 (SD=13.4), half are women. The participants were paid 10€ each day for three consecutive days.

Measures

Story stems: participants read a story that depicts an ambiguous situation, such as car accident, and were asked to list 20 things to what the main character would do. They completed a different story each day for a total of three stories. This would assess the participants’ hostile expectations.

Aggressive behaviours: The competitive noise reaction time task. Participants were told that they would be competing in how fast they can react to timed-cue with another same-sex partner. They were told that they can set the noise intensity (from 0db to 105 db) and how long (from 0 to 5 seconds). Whoever is slowest will get the noise blast. The participants do not know is that their partner is actually the computer who set random settings and won half the time. The participants performed this task each day for three consecutive days.

Videogame ratings: Participants rated the videogames on how absorbing, action-packed, arousing, boring, difficult, enjoyable, violent, etc. on a 7-point rating scale. They also rated how bright the screen was.

Videogame experience: participants listed their three favourite videogames and their level of violence is counted by how many were rated 18 and over according to the PEGI (I assume) rating system.

Videogames used: three violent videogames were used: Condemned 2, Call of Duty 4, and The Club. Three non-violent videogames were used: S3K Superbike, Dirt 2, and Pure. Playtime is 20 minutes each day for a total of 60 minutes. Participants play either violent or non-violent videogames. They play one of these games in random order, but they do not play the same game in their three-day participation.

Procedure

Participants were led to believe that the study is about a 3-day study on the effects of brightness of videogames on visual perception. Participants were randomly assigned to play the violent or non-violent videogames. They play the videogame for 20 minutes. Afterwards, they complete the story stem, then the noise blast task, then they rated the videogame they played.

Results and discussion

The data was analyzed through latent growth curve. The results revealed that participants who played violent videogames showed that they behave more aggressively and had greater hostile expectations on day 1. Their aggressive behaviours and hostile expectations continue to increase each day. Participants who played the non-violent videogames showed no changes in their aggressive behaviours nor their hostile expectations. They conducted a cross-sectional model which found that hostile expectations mediated the effect between violent videogame play and aggressive behaviours.

The take home message is that playing violent videogames consecutively over the days has a cumulative effect in increasing aggressive behaviours and biasing our perceptions of others with greater hostility. What would be interesting is to examine if this cumulative effect can be interrupted or reversed by having participants play a non-violent videogame, or taking a break from playing.

The authors noted some limitations in that they only examined one mediator, hostile expectations, and other possible mediators, such as anger, physiological arousal, would have the same cumulative effect. Another limitation is that the experiment is three days long and it is unknown whether prolonged videogame play would have continued cumulative effects or reach a ceiling effect. This could be somewhat rectified if participants grant access to their play data as many consoles have monitoring tools and  internet access and we simply quantify the amount of time over a week period and assess their aggression. I must point out that the participants played videogames given by the researchers and played it for 20 minutes. Greater variances would show in what kinds of videogames a person typically plays over a week and for how long per sitting (I usually play Company of Heroes for 45 minutes, longer than that and I get tired).

Hasan, Y., Bègue, L., Scharkow, M., & Bushman, B. J. (2013). The more you play, the more aggressive you become: A long-term experimental study of cumulative violent video game effects on hostile expectations and aggressive behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (2), 224-227. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.10.016

4 thoughts on “The more you play, the more aggressive you become (Hasan et al., 2013)

  1. Did the article mention whether or not the participants had played these games before? 20 minutes is not a lot of time to play a game and definitely not representative of the amount that gamers play, even in a day. It takes time to learn the controller scheme and level design of a game. Shooters, like the ones they used, are the most complicated and can certainly be frustrating to learn, especially to non- or low-use gamers.

    Also, I’d probably get progressively more aggressive if I kept getting noise-blasted over three days!

  2. Pingback: The more you play, the more aggressive you become (Hasan et al., 2013) | Society for Media Psychology and Technology (APA Division 46)

  3. The article did not mentioned it. To my knowledge, none of the studies have found prior experience with the used videogames to have any significant role.

    20 minutes is typical of an experiment, that and we really can’t ask participants much longer.

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