Do violent movies, games make teens aggressive?
October 18th, 2010
07:15 PM ET

Do violent movies, games make teens aggressive?

Watching violence portrayed in movies and other media may make teens more accepting of violence, researchers report in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Previous research has shown a connection between violent media and aggression, as well as violence and desensitization. But this study looks at how teenagers' brains specifically respond to violent media, said Jordan Grafman, senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Participants in the study were 22 boys ages 14 to 17. For that reason, researchers cannot determine whether the brain patterns they observed would also apply to girls. This is also a small sample size, meaning more research should be done to confirm the results.

Each participant watched clips of violent scenes from 60 different videos, which included movies such as "World's Wildest Street Fights Vol. 1 and 2," Grafman said, and rated the aggression of the scenes. Researchers could observe their brain function because each boy watched these scenes while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

These brain images showed that more aggressive violence was associated with desensitization in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, which scientists believe has to do with emotions and emotional responses to events. They measured this by looking at the deoxygenation of blood in this area of the brain and how it changes over time.

Participants also wore electrodes on the fingers of one hand to measure the electrical conductance of the skin, which indicates emotion. This was used to look at how desensitized the boys were to different videos, depending on the level of violence. This electrical conductance test showed that the boys appeared to be more desensitized by the mildly and moderately violent videos than the ones with a low-level of violence.

Boys who had the greatest level of exposure to violent media routinely showed the greatest desensitization in this study.

If you already have a predisposition toward violence, based on your home  life and genetics, and are exposing yourself to violent media, "the risk would go up for being, first, accepting of violent or aggressive behavior around you, which be often as devastating as actually committing the act, or potentially being more easily provoked," Grafman said.

That assessment does not apply to these individual children in the study, but it's the study's broader message, he said.

"Sometimes people just call these 'games,' but imagine if you're doing this three hours a day, four hours a day; it's not just 'games,' it's your environment, he said."

Although the study did not directly address the issue of violence in video games, previous research found that "emotional desensitization had been associated with children’s exposure to violent video games and adults' self-reported reduced sympathy with victims in violent movie scenes," Grafman's study said.

But there may be a flip side to video games with some degree of violence. A September study in the journal Current Biology found that participants ages 18 to 25 could make faster decisions that were no less accurate after playing action games such as "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament," which are first-person shooter games.

The lesson from that is not to carve out as much time for video games as you can, said Alexandre Pouget of the University of Rochester,  co-author of the Current Biology paper. Rather, exploring how video games help with quick thinking can translate into educational tools and games that more effectively teach useful skills, he said.

For children over 6 years of age, pediatricians recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day, said Dr. Jennifer Shu, CNNHealth living well expert. But some studies have shown that, in practice, many kids spend about 7 hours a day in front of some kind of screen, including smart phones.

Parents should put limits on-screen time, she said. It's a cause for concern if a child becomes hyperactive, has attention problems, doesn't sleep well or get enough exercise because of things like video games and television.

soundoff (1,231 Responses)
  1. Harrison

    As a 15 year old teen boy i do agree that some video games/movies are overly violent and that can desensitize people, but that only applies to the extremely violent such as Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, etc etc but many of these games include filters which allow for the removal of any blood, gore, and or offensive language. Most M games such as the halo and the Call of Duty series are often portrayed as being the epitome of violence but they are generally less offensive then a good majority of rated R movies, although these games do have some violence and language these aspects of the game are generally used in moderation and can be chalked up to artistic license to add more "weight" to the decisions or actions that occur in the games.

    October 18, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Janet

      Thanks for your reply - it's good to hear from an actual teenager player. You are right that the violence level can vary considerably between games. I believe that the article makes a strong point that must be considered - teens who grew up in a violent, abusive environment are much more likely to be affected by the violence in movies and video games. To these teens, it's simply another example of a world they've always perceived as "normal". But regardless of someone's background, and even in many cases regardless of age, constant exposure to ANYTHING can lead to a desensitization. Our bodies are wired that way. Ask someone who works in a meat processing plant how they feel about the smell, or someone who works in a factory how they feel about the noise, and they'll likely answer "what smell?" and "what noise?" Our brains take excessive, constant input from the same "channel" and filter it, so we DON'T end up overwhelmed by one thing. Unfortunately, the end result can also be what this study talks about - a desensitization to things we should NOT be desensitized about.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Ernest Molina

      What about the rebuttal to this "study" from Texas A&M Psychologist Chris Ferguson? He stated it would be "deeply irresponsible" to apply this study's findings to other media or real life violence. He also went on to say that the study did not measure the reactions to real life violence or how viewing these clips affected their behavior. to further quote..." At first they got excited and then over time they grew bored, thats all this study really says"

      Im appalled honestly not only as a member of the ECA but as a parent who takes responisbility for my children, not like most parents who love these studies when all they do is buy their kid any game they ask for without paying attention to the rating which is their for a reason, and then expects the game to parent their children. Wrong answer. Parent your own children, i cant tell you how many times as a former GameStop manager how many times parents blew off my warnings regarding the rating of a game just because "it will keep them out of my hair" These studies are garbage and a vain attempt to blame violent acts on video games. I have played violent games such as Mortal Kombat and numerous war simulators such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor from a very young age, and I have never had violent tendancies because my parents raised me right and taught me the difference between right and wrong, fiction and reality. Even now as I serve America as an Army Soldier who still plays these games, violence on TV or violent acts I witness in any given day affects me...disgusts me. Stop making excuses, stop blaming video games and raise your kids.......plain and simple

      October 19, 2010 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
    • Thozzomantis

      There should be more focus and effort taken in fighting real crime and less focus on fantasy crimes.
      Even the ancient game of Chess pits one army against another in a battle of strategy and annihilation, and violence has been portrayed in film since Edisons Biograph release of the "Great train robbery" and onstage since the days of ancient Rome and before.
      I stand against any form of censorship and place the responsibility on the parents inability to distinguish art from reality.

      November 5, 2010 at 04:30 | Report abuse |
  2. Diamond Dharma

    “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha

    October 18, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      Umm – i dont get it

      October 19, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    You do what you think! If your thoughts are flooded with violence and aggression, your actions will reflect it..The same logic that one use to keep children away from "Adult Entertainment should apply for violence..

    October 19, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      Yes – it will prevent them from becoming adult entertainers

      October 19, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
  4. wasds

    For how lond does the insensitivity last I would ask, an hour, days?

    October 19, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      If that – the study is clearly immaterial

      October 19, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
  5. Noa

    This whole argument is ridiculous. My husband and I both have played "violent" video games since we were teenagers. We grew up with it. We both watched movies considered violent. And neither of us has run through the streets shooting people in the face. There are many more significant factors in why young people become violent that has NOTHING to do with the video games they play. It all comes down to genetic predisposition to violence and parents who just don't care. We always want to find an external source for why some kids are violent because we don't want to face the fact that sometimes adults fail kids.

    October 19, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NY Boy

      A, nut Noa, Jason Cho did and murdered 31 people at Va Tech. The teens of Columbine, Paducha, Northwestern Ill Univ.,
      and hundreds of other cases have occurred in the past 10 years...recent history coinciding with the pervasive access to
      highly violent games + media...and the increase in incidents of 'mass violence' committed in 'similar manners to violent
      gaming' is incredibly similar. If you deny it, you live in a delusional state. Kids should be kids – not blood thirsty killers.

      October 19, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • Hello?

      They didn't say it was definite that you would become a crazed brain-smashing hooligan.
      "If you already have a predisposition toward violence, based on your home life and genetics, and are exposing yourself to violent media, "the risk would go up for being, first, accepting of violent or aggressive behavior around you, which be often as devastating as actually committing the act, or potentially being more easily provoked," Grafman said."

      Please read these article before commenting. They didn't say *everybody* so yes, you and your husband playing violent videogames, watching horror movies, reading Clive Barker and Stephen King novels and not murdering neighborhood families isn't contradictory to this article.

      I love video games and hate censorship but if you ignore the science of this, you're failing to at least have an open dialog about the subject. Sure, the lack of parental supervision and involvement might very well be the missing aspect that separates the violence-prone from the violent-acting. However, without this piece of the puzzle, we might never, as a society, be forced to evaluate causal and correlational aspects.

      Reading is fundamental

      October 19, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • lufe

      I think telling someone they're a nut and delusional because they don't agree with you fails open dialouge...warring key-board mongers

      October 19, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • Lilly

      I think you misunderstood the results of the research or have chosen to ignore them. I think you are taking a very simplistic view of what they are saying. Basically moderate to strong violence in video games has a tendency to lower the sensitivity to violence in most of the teenagers in the sample group. Nobody said that playing violent video games will make you go out in the street and start killing people and I find it ridiculous that you'd think that. Also, violence is not always a result of poor parenting as there plenty of cases of children born in to stable families and showing extreme violence due to genetics. There is no doubt whatsoever, that current generations of teenages are more violent and show less compassion than previous generations. There are probably many reaons why, including being raised by single parents and/or in daycare, but exposure to the violence of video games and othe rmedia are certainly part of it.

      October 19, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Yup – sing that praise. If this were the case – it wouldnt be the exception of kids that commit violence – it would be the rule .

      October 19, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
    • Thozzomantis

      Completely agree.

      November 5, 2010 at 04:44 | Report abuse |
  6. Ben

    What an incredibly misleading article. The article clearly says that the study showed subjects videos of violent media, and even specifically says, "the study did not directly address the issue of violence in video games." This study didn't examine or find any link between violent video games and violent behavior in real life. It wasn't even a part of the study. This article is simply drawing a conclusion based on an unrelated study, which had a small sample size (which the article even reluctantly, and only in passing, admits.)

    I play way more videogames than the average gamer in my estimation, including "violent" games. And what these articles fail to take into account is that playing video games is like playing competitive sports. You aren't in a violent mindset when playing a videogame. You're concentrating, and being competitive against the game, the way you would against other people in real life. You aren't actually shooting anyone and feeling triumph at "killing" or "hurting" anyone or anything. You're feeling triumph over defeating an obstacle or successfully accomplishing a difficult task. The same way you would in a sport.

    I can draw the conclusion that if violent video games cause violence in real life, then so do competitive sports, and it would be every bit as scientifically valid as this article. (Read: Not at all.)

    October 19, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • frw

      While I like the relationship you draw between video games and sports, I think it's important to note that the study showed that the people who internalize the violence and 'act out' are more genetically/environmentally disposed to violence. While you (and most gamers/athletes) are NOT disposed to violence and will see only obstacles vs the computer/another athlete, the small percentage who ARE disposed to violence WILL triumph in killing that video game character or in 'putting a beat down' on that other athlete, etc. You are the exception; not the rule.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Point – counter point

      October 19, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff

    The thing that always irritates me about this study is that it doesn't address the fact that our physiology and responses to situations are founded in a way of life that is thousands of years old. Mankind has spent far more time fighting to survive than we have as a technologically advanced society. I would like to know if this desensitization is a new phenomenon (doubtful) or if it is an evolutionary response that allows humans to disconnect so that they have reduced anxiety, fear, and hesitation allowing them to engage whatever threat is trying to kill them. All I am saying is that humans are not built to sit behind a desk for 8 hours a day and it is unlikely that our physiological responses are too.

    October 19, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      I agree – cubicle work is the killer

      October 19, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    Not the most well-researched or unbiased article. You vaguely mention several studies that prove there is a link between violent video games and violent behavior, which does not allow for checking references or methodology. Many of these 'violent video game' studies have been thrown out already for botching things like using the air horn test as a form of testing aggression which has been proven not to be an accurate measurement of violent tendencies. In addition, there are an equal number of studies that 'prove' there is little if any connection between playing violent games and performing violent actions.

    It shouldn't come as any great surprise that while playing or watching something violent people's thoughts become more violent making them less sensitive to new outside violence. This should be common sense. The important debated is whether or not this exposure to violence has a lasting impact on the individual. The study measures desensitization in young boys (why not girls too?) over the very short term. It does nothing to prove that the desensitization is anything but temporary. At best it shows why movies must get progressively more violent over their duration in order to keep viewers entertained. In the end it's another sensationalized throw-away study that doesn't prove anything meaningful.

    For now the very best on both sides of the argument are headed to the Supreme Court. While the issue being debated there is slightly different from the one provided in this article, the best evidence on either side will be shown. So if you want to know which studies hold up under scrutiny, keep an eye on Schwarzenegger v. EMA.

    October 19, 2010 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Soul

    30 minutes of sponge bob, chowder, or power rangers or most other cartoons are worse than most video games.


    October 19, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • iambored

      Very true. Add in about 10 minutes of Flapjack and the kid is on a road straight to being a homicidal killer.

      October 19, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      I'll rip your spine out for blaming Chowder!!!! (sorry, I couldn't resist the sarcasm and irony)

      October 19, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      The sponge – is EVIL

      October 19, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
  10. Cieje Valentine

    This is another "proof of correlation" that the GOVERNATOR and LELAND YEE will use to try to destroy the 1st amendment in their hearing against the games industry on Nov.2! Visit videogamevoters.org for more details...

    October 19, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ken

    These studies are all rubbish, proving absolutely nothing other than we learn to accept what we see, and adapt accordingly. science will never be able to truly link violent video games and media with actual violence. I've played violent video games since i was 7 starting with Wolfenstien 3d and to this very day i fill countless hours of my life with violent video games and media. i find it entertaining and fulfilling on the deepest of levels, but i am a productive member of society driving for a large corporation, and i have no violent tendencies spawned from video games and movies. My violent tendencies come from my instincts because we are a praetorial species.... or did we forget that somewhere in time?

    October 19, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      I like the word rubbish – very proper

      October 19, 2010 at 21:37 | Report abuse |
  12. Ryan

    I'm sorry but as a 30 year old child of the Nintendo Generation I really disagree with the author, and research done here. I've never been in any trouble outside of a speeding ticket (I really had to go to the bathroom). I'm a decorated member of the US Army, (Intelligence, not infantry, but God bless my 11B Brothers). I've worked for every dime I've ever made, and on top of all of this I've played some of the worst of the worst Video games from every generation of counsole and PC. I've enjoyed GTA, Fallout, Halo, Doom, Duke Nukem, Warcraft and many many others. I've turned out to be a very productive member of society, and video games had nothing to do with that development, other then honing my hand to eye corrdination. What shaped and molded the person I've become is one thing and one thing only. My parents. They raised me to be the man I've become, and it's parents that don't get involved with their children, and don't sit down and play these games with their children that are to blame for studies like this. If you think a game may be bad sit down and watch it, and if it is, take the dang thing from them. You are their parent. You have that right. When I worked at Gamestop in college, I applauded parents that were willing to take a stand after I explained the violence in some games for children that were obviously to young to understand the meaning behind it. More parents like those are needed that are willing to take part in their childrens interests, not use them as babysitters.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sickandtired

    In my humble opinion.. Most problems that we associate to teens or younger, stem from a lack of involvement by the parents.. Too many parents are trying to be friends instead of parents and that is letting the children run the relationship..
    How many of the parents bought those same games that they are now complaining about? Pay attention to everything your child is doing.. and they will be well adjusted to the real world..

    October 19, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Greg G.

    These studies are incorrect. All of these studies jump to the conclusion that their observances of controlled lab violence leads to real violence that harms people. They do not have any scientific evidence that video games lead to real violence. All of it is just a hypothesis. Violence is linked to genetic predisposition and situation. However genetic predisposition is not a popular thing to discuss so you won't hear it.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Steve

    I don't see anything in this write up that indicates games were involved in any way with this study. If the researchers here did indeed expose kids to filmed street fights, and then went on to make the conclusion that "playing violent games is correlated with violent behavior", as is implied by this article, then we can pretty much dismiss everything they have to say. Because that's horrible reasoning, at best.

    Otherwise, we can just call this a terrible, fear mongering article.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bob

    As a physician, I can say that video games help me when performing endoscopy. I note that of my colleagues, those who regularly play or have played video games tend to be more adept at endoscopy and laparoscopic surgery. I find this irresponsible journalism, as the study dealt with boys watching violent videos and movies. I also find this study rather unimpressive. From a small sample size, it concludes what is readily apparent: Exposure to a stimulus desensitizes you to it. Desensitization to violence does not necessarily make one more violent. As a physician, I see people critically ill and dying all the time. I'm desensitized to it. It doesn't make me want to start killing anyone.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keith R.

      Bravo for your response to the article. One of the best people I ever met online in a game was a surgeon. He would start to tell us about how he could sew a person up – things that simply imagining would start to make me sick – and then after that, come home and play his games. He would tell us because he always said one thing "I know that I'm supposed to be grossed out and disgusted by what I do. But if I was, I couldn't do it and those people would not get the treatments they deserve. Some people would call me a monster because I can do it. I thank those who recognize that I'm not. I'm trying to help." I very much respected this man. And it is exactly his desensitization that made it possible.

      October 19, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
  17. Mike

    Yes, and if you repeatedly poke someone with a pin they will become desensitized to that as well. I also like the part "These brain images showed that more aggressive violence was associated with desensitization in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, which scientists believe has to do with emotions and emotional responses to events.". So a particular part of they brain which they're not even positive as to what it controls has a change in it. That sure is some concrete science right there.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Mike S

    What these researchers and technicians and politicians will never understand is that the people who play video games don't look at them as real things. We look at them as games, as they are. Kids have been playing violent games for years, whether it's physical violence, football, wrestling or the like, or pretend violence, cops and robbers and other games. These games are what video games truly resemble. Most of the people who look at video games look at them and can't see them for what they are, fantasy. They claim that the players can't distinguish between the real world and the games, but it's really them. It disgusts me how these people can make these claims without so much as ever even looking at a video game. The Mass Effect media debacle, for instance, was blown way out of proportion by the media, who had only heard about the game, and passing their skewed version of it along, resulting in a grapevine effect. Bringing my tirade back to the point of the article, I will concede that some games are truly too violent, but those are the types of games that a child could not get a hold of by themselves. If a child gets a hold of a violent video game, and the parent doesn't like it, the blame lies solely on the parent. The video game industry polices itself, and does a damn good job of it. My home state, Minnesota, won't even allow you to buy an M rated game unless you have a valid driver's license showing you're 17 years or older. If a parent doesn't want their child to gain perceived aggression from video games, maybe they should be paying more attention to what they give their child.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Your brain does not know the difference even if your conscious mind does. You obviously do not know the first thing about neuroscience, yet you pontificate about it.

      October 19, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  19. Chris

    Your title is nothing but propaganda against video games seeing as A) the study didn't use video games at all, B) doesn't talk about aggression whatsoever (it talks about desensitization) and C) this article is strategically timed just weeks before a big supreme court case involving violent video games.

    At least try and do a better job covering up your bias and political agenda CNN.

    From my own observations and talking with my friends, I find a distinct difference in how I feel after I watch violent movies vs. when I play violent games. After watching violent movies I feel more aggressive and more likely to have aggressive, violent thoughts. However after playing violent games I am much more relaxed and calm and usually go about the rest of my day feeling much less aggression. Someone should do a study that compares the two as I believe violent games actually let out aggression that has been building from ordinary stresses.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Guy

    Whatever. Violence among adolescents has gone down dramatically since video games became popular, so suck on that, naysayers. Also, people said the same thing about books and then comic books and then movies, and now video games. It's just old people being flustered by "kids these days".

    October 19, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NY Boy

      Your assertion is just not true. There have been more incidents of mass violence committed by 'young adults' under the
      age of 22 than in any other time in our history. If you aren't aware of it, perhaps you should turn off your video game and
      look at the real world that surrounds you.

      October 19, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • Harrison

      NY Boy you have to take into account that there are MORE people in the world then there used to be, and that many of these teens have been beaten, abused, and made fun of in addition to possible pre-existing mental illness. Also in the past 10-15 years video games have repeatedly been used as an excuse by murderers and the mentally unstable to keep them out of jail, the most commonly used example being that teen boy who after killing his mother said "halo made me do it" which makes no sense considering halo's content a game in which you do not fight people but aliens.

      While teen violence has been on the rise lately so have many other unpleasant things such as neo-nazism but those sorts of things are almost never mentioned when talking about violence because of the political backlash and possible physical threats to the author of such and article. I believe that video games could contribute to violence in the mentally unstable and abused who are already searching for excuses to be violent but so can books such as Catcher in The Rye and R movies.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Oh, my gawd. This is without a doubt the stupidest comment on here. I can hardly type I am laughing so hard at your blatant ignorance of the real world. Study some history. Never have children and teenagers been like this before. Of course, until a century or so ago, children would have been apprenticed at a very young age or gone to work in a mine or factory. If they were lucky they would be pulling the plough on the family plot that was owned by the Lord of the Manor. 7-8 years old. That would be the bulk of society. I blame the violence they are bombarded with and the death of a meaningful spiritual life, and the extended childhood. Teenagers need to burn it off doing actual work. It is actually quite ludicrous to try to compare today's kids with children in the past. There is no comparison as teenagers as a subculture did not exist. The middle class did not exist.

      October 19, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  21. C. Smith

    Here, let me design the study for you, since you apparently don't know what you're doing. Take a random selection of convicts for violent crimes, preferably ones who confessed in court in an attempt to avoid false convictions, and take a similarly random selection of people who have never even been suspects in violent crimes. Compare how many and what types of video games each group played when growing up, and plays now, and what kind of TV and movies they watch/ed. Then, you can get a look at any an actual correlation (though still only a correlation) between violence in media and violence in real life. While you're at it, also ask them about their childhood home life, their friends and associates, their siblings, etc. I'll bet money most of your violent convicts will come from broken homes and distant parents, probably with a strong preference to inner-city life with exposure to gang activity, while a proportionally fewer number of those not even suspected of violent crimes would come from the same.

    Or better yet, look at society in general. Violence has been mainstream in games and TV for decades, specifically the decades this generation has grown up in. If violent crime levels have skyrocketed (and with the level of saturation, you'd expect something like 50% of the population), then there's a correlation. If violent crime levels haven't changed in any massive amount, then there isn't.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      How about you actually go to school and learn how to do a study? They are looking to see what happens to normal people not to the already violent. This is a very small sample. You have to go back in time to see the long term ones with large samples. But, you don't actually want this study to be true. You want what you want and will show yourself to be uneducted and not too swift in order to keep your little toys.

      October 19, 2010 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
  22. NotTrue

    This is total spin. Lets do a study and show that the brain reacts as expected when shown a series of stimuli. Not the fact that when we experience something the brain response in the same way as if we do it. Thats how we learn from watching, which doesn't mean we do what we watch. IE. I can learn how to kill in the army but doesn't mean I kill everyone. Learned this from watching ted dot com

    October 19, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Josh

    What did the study show for the individuals that were prone to violence before being exposed? How is the baseline established? If only Hitller, Stalin, Hussain, and all the other tyrants throughout history, never played video games we would live in a peaceful Utopia. These studies are a waste of time, money and efforts.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Kyle

    I have to disagree with the author. Violent video games are not what is causeing these kids to be violent. Why blame videogames? Why not blame violent movies? Or books? Why does it seem that videogames are always the target for these people? There is no real evidence, and in fact, studies have shown that kids that play violent videogames are actually less agressive because they are taking their anger out on the things in the videogame.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Probably because they ignored the earlier studies on just movies in the '70's.
      Is this the first time you have heard of this? It took CNN to turn you into an expert on neuroscinece, psychology, sociology...? Ever see Leni Reifenstahl's "The Triumph of the Will"? It is considered the first documentary and it is brilliant. Goebbles was a genius at manipulating the masses with visual and aural displays. The strongest left wing workers in the Europe were in Germany and he turned them into supporters of fascism. Every wonder why it was National Socialists? A con to sucker them it.

      October 19, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  25. Kyle

    And thank you commenters, thank you for actually knowing what you are talking about. Thabk you because the author doesn't.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Shani

    22 is HARDLY a statistically significant number of individuals, and apparent desensitization implies NOTHING of the aggressiveness of the person. They never checked the aggressiveness levels before and after viewing the images. They also don't say if that desensitization persists time after viewing the images, say, 24 hours after, which would imply permanent damage to the thought processes, or if it's merely seen in response to viewing the images. For all we know, that's normal brain behavior in response to violent images. Do you get the same response watching violent clips from the news, for example? I hate when people don't control their experiments and make grandiose statements from them.
    The issue of whether people that play violent videogames are aggressive loners or productive members of society has been addressed since 2003 here : http://www.childsplaycharity.org/
    The loonies just make the rest of us look bad.

    October 19, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      It was addressed in the 1970's and ignored. And that was just about violent movies not games where the player is the killer.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
  27. Dawn

    I've been playing video games heavily since I was 4.
    So 22 years.
    From a young age, I was playing video games (as violent as they could get back then), and watching terrifying movies.

    I also had parents though, who liked to teach me things, like the difference between right and wrong, real or fake. That must be why I haven't snapped and killed everyone...

    October 19, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Yuppers. That is the key. With the demise of the stranglehold religion had on people nothing replaced the expectation of moral behaviour. Parents have not stepped up to take on that essential task. I salute you and your parents.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
  28. Jerv

    @Dawn Spot on baby, spot on.

    October 19, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jim

    This study shows that watching violent images makes you less impacted by additional violent images. The key here is the word images. How is this related to real violent activity? You can watch all the movies you want and play video games all day and you'd probably still have a good chance of running and hiding if you were stationed in Afghanistan.

    October 19, 2010 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Sorry. You need to read some of the old and new findings in the field of neuroscience. Your opinion is not science and it is not reasoned. The brain does not know the difference between fantasy and reality and visual versus aural. It does not know that a dream is merely a dream and that your emotional response is based on a movie or game not on the "real" world. If you really cared about this you would do the research.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  30. TECH

    video games are COP OUT for poor parenting skills. a scape goat to the modern age where everyone is consumed by simply getting by.. they forget the purpose of being a PARENT, and passing on lessons and values of life.

    October 19, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Josh

    I have played video games my whole life. When the first 3 Mortal Kombat titles came out, I was there to buy them. I played Doom and Duke Nukem 3d and many other games that are considered "violent" by the ESRB. I'm 28 now and still play video games in my free time and feel that I am very well adjusted to the world. I have an active social life and maintain a full-time work schedule as well.

    I am dismayed however by the complete lack of understanding that people show video games. Just because some bad kids decided to use them as a scapegoat doesn't make them harmful to a child's mind. Politicians have no place in the video game industry because they don't understand them. It's a form of art and entertainment and just to clarify, not everything is but some games really are an achievement as far as the sheer depth of story ,visual and audio elements involved in them.

    Video games are not the problem. The problem is parents who are absent from a child's life and don't take the time to invest in their day to day activities and actually get to know them, rather then leaving them to their own devices. Point the finger in the right direction people!

    October 19, 2010 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      The original research was before video games so your example is bogus. There are, of course, exceptions to every statistic. It is the larger group that is the problem. My son is 28 and has played games since Super Mario through to Grand Theft Auto. I made sure he played RPG that include an ethics engine. I also play and am 62. My son is one of the most empathic people I have ever known and he can play violent games. He does agree that games like Grand Theft Auto should not be allowed as it does validate extreme and sexual violence. As a parent in the real world and a high school teacher I knew I could not control this without causing him misery with his friends. So I played and we discussed it. I withheld extremely violent movies until I could no longer control it as he saw them at the home's of friends. Again, I watched and discussed. It is easy and if you don't do it you are missing a chance to teach morality through depictions that are not very nice. Parents who do not talk about such serious things should not be breeding.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      @Sandy Did you take the time to read the article at all? Do you realize that the intent of the article is trying to link violent video games and violence in movies to increases in violence in children? Did you think maybe the social climate has changed from when you were younger? Ever heard the phrase "Product of your environment" in your entire life? You can't even begin to say that this article is in the least bit valid. I'm sorry your son is socially inept and can't seem to understand the entertainment value of such choice titles as the Grand Theft Auto series and I'm sorry that he had a mother trying to make him play video games that have your "ethics engine" built into them, as if it's some sort of special v-chip bit of software. You have no frame of reference unless you actually play video games yourself. Argue with someone else.

      October 19, 2010 at 22:56 | Report abuse |
  32. Susan

    The headline is misleading. Repeated exposure to violence and violent images desensitizes the brain to those images and may make teens more accepting of violence. That's very different than saying it will make a teenager (or adult) violent or aggressive. If you don't think there's been an increased level of acceptance of violence by teens, go to youtube and search for "fights" or "bum fight" and see how many people think that genuine violence against other people is entertainment. Ask the 15-year-old girl who was gang-raped for two hours at a school dance while a crowd of people watched if she thinks any of those watching have become too accepting of violence. Geez, read the entire article and look at the larger picture.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Actually it does make men more inclined to violence. It makes the young think it is okay to behave in these ways. It triggers those who are already thinking and now want to be doing. It validates the view that violence is acceptable. It is a lack of empathy that characterizes psychopaths more than anything else. This is old, old news and if the topic is of concern to you as a parent or teacher you should have known about it years ago.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  33. MattinMN

    This is news?

    October 19, 2010 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. yakisoba

    So, the study:
    1) Doesn't use games, but rather passive, violent media.
    2) Admits to a small and male only sample.
    3) References "previous research" which is otherwise not cited properly
    As science... Fail. If you want to make the case against violence in games, do better.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      Sweden, Canada. 1970's Look it up. There is no reason for them to waste space giving you a bibliograpy. Or are you too lazy to do the work yourself?

      October 19, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
  35. SeanNJ

    The results they see can be very easily explained without automatically assuming desensitization means "more likely to be provoked." The more violent the scenario, the less likely one is to empathize with such an event and the less visceral the reaction to watching it would be. Cartoon/animated violence, or over-the-top movie violence, is so out of touch with reality, that the brain would never process it as an actual event, hence the lack of empathy/sympathy with the victim.

    Of course, I'm sure they thought of that already.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

      An expert in the field are you? Smarter and more knowlegable than those who disagree with your position? I suspect you are one who loves the violence and does not want to lose it. The brain, btw, is perfectly capable of viewing anime as real. It can take dreams and day dreams as real. I assume you have never had a dream that was wildly weird and unlikely. The brain can take the spoken word as real. Talk to a person who was verbally abused as a child and see how indifferent the brain was to that. Your stance is laughable.

      October 19, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
  36. CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

    Studies were done in the 70's on violence in movies and tv as well as on erotica in Canada and Sweden. After viewing violent movies girls were pretty much unaffected. Boys became much more violent. After watching erotica (Sweden were erotica is okay and violence is not for kids, at that time.) neither group was more violent nor more likely to commit sex crimes. This was likely supressed by those who make money off portrals of violence and all the people who prefer a blood bath to a meaningful plot.

    Again, as in so many things, the research is ignored or supressed. Follow the money. Always follow the money. And the christian right in the US but no where else. Oh, wait. That is also the money.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. FedUp2

    Who cares? Games are a waste of time. Get back to work people. No wonder your country sucks and is going straight to heck now. This slacker society argues pretentious points of view while productive nations leave your lame arses in the dust. FAIL! The only thing kids are being trained for is military applications. Tools.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chaz

      Where you from?

      October 19, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
  38. Chaz

    I've been playing video games since pre teens (I'm 30 now), and I've been watching violent movies just as long. I was taught however by my PARENTS that violence is a desperate act perpetrated by those who can not deal with problems like adults in productive ways.

    Teach your kids what the implications of real violence is, and the difference between the fantasy of video games and movies. NOT A NEW CONCEPT.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Demosthenes

    Fact – Mankind does not turn it's back on violence or war. We are exceptionally gifted for any task that we can think of. Desensitization is not pointed out to be a bad thing in this article, it neutrally points out that it CAN cause violent tendencies in those who have prolonged exposure. Humans are violent, it is a base part of our nature and instinct. It is our higher intellect that allows us to overcome our base nature. If you desensitize a portion of your intellect then you leave the choice of thought up to innate reaction rather than intellectual decision. Each person will have a different level of tolerance for violence and violent behavior as an individual but there is a common ground... we all feel the instinct. Sometimes it's healthy to hold a bad feeling back and other times it is not. Who get's to make that decision? Do some research on the Superego, Ego and ID.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Dr. Howell

    This study is absolute garbage. They have an incredibly small sample size. They show movie clips as their stimuli but then draw conclusions about video games. They use a single measure, skin conductance, to assess a complex and poorly defined behavior like acceptance of violence. And all they have done is identify brain activity in a region no one fully understands with watching videos. Guess what? Anytime we do or watch anything you will find brain activity. If not, it means you're dead or a vegetable.

    Garbage research like this grabs the headlines but does not contribute to science in any meaningful way. These scientists should be ashamed at their sloppy methods and wildly unfounded conclusions, and CNN should be ashamed for promoting their "work".

    October 19, 2010 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Catie

    Here's a clue. Moms went to work, discipline was taken out of school, t.v and video games are raising kids, we gave boys dolls and girls trucks so they have no clue what their identity is, they dont go outside to play and in 1973 we told them life had no value, so why would they value anything else in life. They are merely a product of their environment. Wake up

    October 19, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. NOYB

    Why are we over-thinking this? We are animals! We grow and establish our degree of dominance in our social groups. This is absolutely nothing new to our recent generations or species. Let's not blame our media; we are what we are, no apologies. With that said: NEEEERRRRDDDSSSS!!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Jangocat

    This is the very definition of junk science. Censorship advocates have been trying to convince the public violent video games and movies were bad for kids for a good 30+ years now. There have been many more studies showing this to be bunk over that time period. Millions of people including children regularly see violence every night on prime time TV with all these cop and crime drama shows with no ill effect. The majority of people understand the difference between reality and fiction.

    October 19, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. CalgarySandy, Calgary, AB

    As usual, when the boys think they might lose their toys they get hysterical and irrational. They do not do some research they just spew emotionally. There is a doctor who has obviously done no research other than reading this article. Of course sticking a scope into someone or doing surgery is enhanced by gaming skills. It is hand / eye coordination. So is the understanding of physics and mathematics. When parents are there and discussint it, there fewer problems. The problem is that parents are rarely there. However, if there are unexpressed genes for violence and mental illness exist many things can trigger them including child abuse and heavy trauma. So, let us get rid of as many triggers as we can or accept the fact that most of society would rather err on the side of violence.

    It is the rage that tells me there is something wrong with the "speaker." Why do you care so much that you deliberately try to squash a study rather than look at other studies over the years. Why don't you look into the sciences instead of your fear that you might lose your game pad or joy stick?

    October 19, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      Do you even know what you're talking about? You know why we (meaning the people who have grown up with video games and the like) comment on this article? We ARE the research. We know what we are talking about because we do have experience with video games. You have no idea at all what you are referring to. You are quoting facts about some research done in the 70's that has nothing to do with this article. Again, find some other cause to champion because you are out of your league on this one. You aren't an expert on video games but we are so I think you should leave this discussion now and save some face.

      October 20, 2010 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
  45. someoneelse

    We desensitize ourselves to things all the time. It's a fairly normal human defense mechanism. Why people still consider that video games is somehow immune to this, I can't fathom except pure stupidity. Video games can be quite useful in building some skills. There is no need for what we have nowadays though.

    October 19, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Aaron Rowdawg

    I play violent video games all the time and only killed 3 puppies. Not bad, eh?

    October 19, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RJ

    Could it be they aren't really desensitized because it IS a movie / game and therefore NOT REAL? The majority of these teens know what is fiction and what is reality. If you really want to do a study about this, let them play their games and watch their movies. Then have actors act out a "real" life situation and see if they are really desensitized or not. I'll bet the majority will do whatever is necessary to help the victim even if it's just calling 911. The ones that don't would probably be too scared to do anything which would also prove they aren't desensitized.

    October 19, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Red

    Do the same "study" again but this time replace the violent images with that of rainbows and unicorns, I'm guessing the participants will be desensitized to them too (it's human nature). Does it make them more inclined to random acts of kindness... highly doubtful. Many of us grew up on slapstick cartoons as children but I don't recall the desire to drop anvils on people. Parents need to parent and stop relying on an electronic box to raise their kids.

    Most of these "mass killings" are loners that wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, to teach the world a lesson for wronging them in some way. They know full well the more horrific the incident the longer that people will talk about them, in death they attain the notary they so desired in life. Want to cut down on the mass killings tell the media to stop making these killers the "stars" for months and years after their selfish acts. Also consider that the vast scope of the internet (and global media) now means you now hear about these acts (20 or 30 years ago they might not have been broadcast outside the region in which it happened). Is violence really up or do we just hear about it more?

    Playing first person shooters does not make you more inclined to pick up a gun and shot people, that makes about as much sense as saying people who cut their food with a knife are more inclined to stab someone. People predisposed to violence will be violent. Very few of those are willing to say it's my fault, no there is always some excuse (video games just happens to be the flavor of the day, before that it was books, TV, movies and music) just ask their lawyer.

    October 19, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. t tran

    I find it hard to believe that anyone can claim videogames causes violence. With how long it takes to beat them, all the additional content developers may add, and the cost I really see no time to go out to actually do any violence.

    October 19, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Kate

    This argument is lazy and fails to address the real issues. Video games have not caused the rise of depression, bi-polar, and other mental illnesses. A staggering amount of Americans have some form of depression. The drugs used to medicate these conditions often cause violent behavior and aggression. This argument points fingers at people who DO play these games, labeling them unfairly as violent individuals. They mention "increased desensitization" which completely negates the argument, revealing the objective of this study. Desensitization implies that these acts of violence had no effect on the participants. I am an avid gamer, and resent the label and insinuations in this article, and am personally offended by this study and this article.

    October 19, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.