Does perceiving violent acts — real or imagined — change the shape of your brain and how it processes information? The blunt — and likely unpopular — answer is, “Yes.”
A new study confirms that experiencing real violence — and even processing violence-as-entertainment — taints the brain and changes your personality and talents:
Anyone who doubts the malleability of the adult brain should
consider a startling piece of research conducted at Harvard Medical
There, a group of adult volunteers, none of whom could previously play the piano, were split into three groups.
The first group were taken into a room with a piano and given
intensive piano practise for five days. The second group were taken
into an identical room with an identical piano – but had nothing to do
with the instrument at all.
And the third group were taken into an identical room with an
identical piano and were then told that for the next five days they had
to just imagine they were practising piano exercises.
The resultant brain scans were extraordinary. Not surprisingly,
the brains of those who simply sat in the same room as the piano hadn’t
changed at all.
Equally unsurprising was the fact that those who had performed
the piano exercises saw marked structural changes in the area of the
brain associated with finger movement.
But what was truly astonishing was that the group who had merely
imagined doing the piano exercises saw changes in brain structure that
were almost as pronounced as those that had actually had lessons.
“The power of imagination” is not a metaphor, it seems; it’s real, and has a physical basis in your brain.
One can no longer argue gory movies, neighborhood killings and violent video games do not re-shape the brain in bad and terrifying ways.
One need not kill in order to perceive the effects of murder on the body by the brain — and that is a harsh and bitter reality for us to accept when so willfully immerse our children in a culture of violence and celebrated bad behavior.
If we instead chose to fill our brains with only love and respect for each other — imagined or not — how fast could we create real change in the world for the betterment of us all?
I think it makes sense. What we see and feel becomes a part of us. How do we get rid of fantasy violence? Through censorship?
Many people on several of my blogs have claimed in the past that violence witnessed and expressed in violent video games has no ill-effect on the player participant.
I have always argued that all experiences, even virtual ones, lead to the success formation — or deformation — of social skills and the ability to get along with each other.
Now that we have proof of a study to offer that supports the notion that even imagined violence can lead to behavioral changes, we might be able to finally make some progress beyond the, “no, it doesn’t” counter-argument to our common sense.