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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”.

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2005/04/the_influence_of_media_violenc.php

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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How Violent TV Increases Aggression

 

ThinkQuest has an excellent overview of how violent TV increases aggression. Including:

47% of violent television programs show the victim going unharmed, especially in cartoons.
The person in the cartoon or television show gets bowled over by another character and they get back up without being harmed. Children begin to believe that violence doesn’t really hurt others.

73% of individuals who commit crimes in cartoons and children’s shows go unpunished in violent scenes
Television shows that allow the character who commits the crime to receive no punishment, teaches children that it is alright to commit a crime because nothing will be done. Criminals and violent acts do not get punished.

Violence is a good way to solve problems
Television is a powerful teacher and if children are always viewing their favorite characters using violence or aggression to get what they want, children will do the same.

Television creates heroes out of the people who commit the crimes
Kids feel that if they copy the criminal they will be a hero, too. The hero that commits the crime is glamorized. There is nothing heroic about violence and it is wrong to show kids that it is. Children begin to think of criminals as powerful role models.

Television reduces the value of life
If Wiley Coyote gets killed, the other cartoon characters don’t care, and they may even laugh. TV makes violence and even death seem funny and unreal.

In addition, I would add: Desensitization Through Violent TV

And

Children Imitate What They See



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Desensitization Through Violent TV

For years now, psychologists have been very effectively using desensitization therapy to treat patients who have phobias.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desensitization_%28psychology%29

Hardly anyone likes cockroaches, but there are some people who suffer from an irrational fear of these insects. Now researchers have developed software that simulates repeated exposure to virtual cockroaches.

“The results were a stunning: Study subjects went from a phobia so profound that it interfered with their lives to passing a “test” that involved walking into a room containing a cockroach in a tupperware container, removing its lid and placing their hand in it for at least a few seconds.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25411/

People with normal levels of empathy are distressed when exposed to violence and suffering. The question is, does repeated exposure to violence and/or suffering reduce this distress reaction. In other words, does repeated exposure to violence and suffering make people more callous and less empathetic. According to the science, the answer is an emphatic yes:

“To understand the effects of repeated exposure to violence, researchers have suggested that viewers become comfortable with violence that is initially anxiety provoking, much as they would if they were undergoing exposure therapy.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desensitization_%28psychology%29

“After college freshmen watched three violent films over a five-day period, their sympathy for domestic violence victims plummeted. But five days later, their attitudes had pretty much returned to normal levels. Even so, there could be a cumulative effect to a steady diet of violent videos, researchers warn. Like a tennis ball that loses a bit of its bounce with every match, viewer attitudes might rebound less by the time they reach Friday the 13th, Part 23.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199603/slasher-basher

“Cross-lagged panel analyses showed significant pathways from T1 media violence usage to higher physical aggression and lower empathy at T2.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0193397310000833

“Violent video games and movies make people numb to the pain and suffering of others, according to a research report published in the March 2009 issue of Psychological Science.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219202831.htm

Considering the huge amount of violent TV/movies that people are exposed to during the course of their childhood, it is no wonder that:

“Today’s college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and ’90s, a University of Michigan study shows.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100528081434.htm

Note: “An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18”

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm#violence

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Note: an excellent overview is: Desensitization and Media Effects


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