tvSmarter – Life in a TV Nation

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Dopamine and Addiction




via:  Gamer Therapist

Drug addiction, addiction to gambling, and food and video games and TV, all have dopamine as the common denominator:

The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.”

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Other Effects of Aggression

Other Effects of Aggression

Here is an interesting webpage asking the question “Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?”

This webpage then lists numerous arguments making the case for and against. What’s quite interesting is that the Pro side argues that violent video games increase aggression, increase desensitization and decrease empathy. While the Con side argues that violent video games do not increase violent crime.

Unfortunately the Pro side ignores the fact that violent crime rates have gone down substantially. This is, I think, a mistake. The whole issue of violent crime rates going down, while at the same time sales of violent video games have gone up, should be dealt with. It could very well be that violent video games (and violent TV/movies) do indeed contribute to violent crime, but that this effect is masked by the enormous increase in the incarceration rate. Basically, the question should be “if we had the same rate of incarceration as we did in the early 1960s, would the violent crime rate be as low as it was during the early 1960s?”. Or in other words “could we release 80% of the prison population without an increase in violent crime?” Personally, I think not.

Meanwhile the Con side focuses on the issue of violent crime, pretty much ignoring the issue of increased aggression and decreased empathy. Their attitude seems to be that as long as violent video games don’t increase violent crimes that any other effects don’t matter.

Personally, I do believe that violent media was the main cause of the doubling of the homicide rate from the early 1960s to the late 1970s and which stayed very high until it finally started to come down starting in the early 1990s. But it is impossible to prove this one way or another.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that violent media (for whatever reason) has not contributed to increased violent crime. Nevertheless increased aggression, increased desensitization and decreased empathy do lead to other bad outcomes. Note the term ‘aggression’ is used by researchers to mean “willingness to harm others”. So what are the effects on society when more and more children are being taught (by violent TV/movies and video games) to be more willing to harm others?

Could all this violent media be contributing to:

  • more physical bullying
  • more non-physical bullying, such as name-calling and spreading ugly rumors
  • more cheating, fraud and lying inside and outside of school
  • more glorification of guns
  • more glorification of violence
  • more glorification of torture
  • less civility
  • less ethical behavior
  • less kindness
  • less interest in the common good
  • a coarsening of the culture
  • a meaner society

We do live in a society that has gotten meaner and uglier. Personally, I believe that violent TV, violent movies and violent video games are a big reason why.

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Do violent video games reduce violent crime?


The evidence has been conclusive that playing violent video games increases the player’s level of aggression. The term aggression is used by scientists specifically to mean “willingness to harm others”.

So if a violent video game player’s “willingness to harm others” increases, does that mean they’ll go out and commit a violent crime? No it doesn’t. It just means that whatever level of aggression a person already has, will be increased by playing violent video games. The more they play, the more their level of aggression is increased. So, someone who starts out very non-aggressive will (after playing violent video games) become less non-aggressive. And someone who starts out very aggressive will (after playing violent video games) become even more aggressive. So if someone is already so aggressive that they are teetering on the edge of committing a violent crime, it would make sense that hours of playing violent video games would push them over that edge, to the point of committing a violent crime. The result would be that most people who play lots of violent video games would not have their aggression level increased to the point of committing a violent crime, but that a minority of players would indeed have their level of aggressiveness increased to the point of committing a violent crime.

But is this what is actually happening? Has the enormous dedications of millions of players to violent video games actually lead to an increase in violent crime?

Apparently not.

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The Truth About Grand Theft Auto

GTA may be rated Mature (17 and older), nevertheless a substantial number of grade school kids are playing it. so if your child wants a copy of GTA (probably since their friends are playing it), just be aware that the game includes murdering unarmed people purely for kicks and/or to make a few bucks.

Yes, concerned teenage boys of America, if your parents are irresponsible enough to let you get your hands on this, you can still kill and maim and plunder and screw until your heart is full. But there’s a difference this time: The violence is no longer cartoonish. Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He’ll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety.”

GTA is setup so that at any time, the player, as part of the “sandbox” experience or if he or she just needs money they can murder any unarmed bystander and get whatever money is on their person. Additionally, the player can also murder an unarmed prostitute with the added advantage of a potentially greater payoff (more money) and the added thrill of killing a scantily clad woman.

According to Wikipedia:

“Although not encouraged to do so, main character Claude may utilize the services of prostitutes, and then subsequently murder and rob them if the player wishes. This utilization has been subsequently carried on in every single game in the series and is more graphic in IV.”

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