Numbing Quality in Violent Video Games

Reduced brain response to inappropriate violence leads to aggressive behaviors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Science fiction novels often portray a society where people have become numb to the violence around them. War torn countries' citizens also accept tanks filling their streets and impoverished children suffering. The same type numbness occurs in children when playing violent video games.

Researchers at the University of Missouri recently conducted a study examining the effects on the brain of participants playing violent video games like "Call of Duty", Hitman", and "Grand Theft Auto." When tested, playing a violent video game caused a reduced brain response to pictures which should have been perceived as shockingly violent.

"Violent video games can dull your senses."

Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri comments that  video game exposure did not affect the brain activity of study participants who played violent video games frequently.

Perhaps they are so used to this violence and regard it as commonplace, their brains become inappropriately numb. Bartholow suggests there might be something the study didn't measure which makes one person prefer violent games as they respond so mutedly to violence. Both possibilities need to be further examined.

Bartholow also said that video games encourage participation in violence more than any other media. Psychologically speaking, video games are great teaching tools because they reward players for certain types of behavior. Sadly, these video games reward violence.

Bartholow recommends future research needs to examine those with constant exposure to violent games and its effects upon their behavior. 

Surveys indicate that the average elementary school child spends more than 40 hours a week playing video games.

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Review Date: 
May 26, 2011
Last Updated:
May 30, 2011