On May 12, 2008, I wrote — Violent Imagination Shaping Brain Reality — and the argument for that article was that we are formed and influenced by every experience, be it real or virtual, and that is why we must not seek out violence in our entertainment and pastime memes because the aftereffects are too dwelling in our real lives:

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.

On May 25, 2011, the University of Missouri confirmed my earlier argument with the publication of a new research study — Violent Video Games Reduce Brain Response to Violence and Increase Aggressive Behavior:

During the study, 70 young adult participants were randomly assigned to play either a nonviolent or a violent video game for 25 minutes. Immediately afterwards, the researchers measured brain responses as participants viewed a series of neutral photos, such as a man on a bike, and violent photos, such as a man holding a gun in another man’s mouth. Finally, participants competed against an opponent in a task that allowed them to give their opponent a controllable blast of loud noise. The level of noise blast the participants set for their opponent was the measure of aggression.

The researchers found that participants who played one of several popular violent games, such as “Call of Duty,” “Hitman,” “Killzone” and “Grand Theft Auto,” set louder noise blasts for their opponents during the competitive task – that is, they were more aggressive – than participants who played a nonviolent game. In addition, for participants that had not played many violent video games before completing the study, playing a violent game in the lab caused a reduced brain response to the photos of violence – an indicator of desensitization. Moreover, this reduced brain response predicted participants’ aggression levels: the smaller the brain response to violent photos, the more aggressive participants were. Participants who had already spent a lot of time playing violent video games before the study showed small brain response to the violent photos, regardless of which type of game they played in the lab.

Okay, so now what?

We now have empirical scientific proof that there is a known connection between fantasy violence and real life aggressiveness.

Do we remove the aggressiveness triggers from society?

Or do we invent a pill — or another therapeutic response — to lessen the effects of that bad, virtual, influence affecting our real behavior?

6 Comments

      1. A parent can definitely not police every waking moment however he or she can instill values which stay with the child. There’s also the problem that anything that gets banned becomes more desirable to children — see drugs, alcohol, etc. As is kids play games that are rated M and it’s hard to regulate that!

        1. I was never attracted to booze or drugs as a child — and they were banned. I do think it is impossible to regulate what children are exposed to — and that’s why I think we need to take a longer look at ways to prevent these things from ever reaching them in the first place.

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