New Study Examines Anger, Aggression, Videogame Violence

New Study Examines Anger, Aggression, Videogame Violence

A recent study examining the complex interplay of anger, aggression and violent videogames has shown that, as predicted, individuals who showed greater predisposition toward angry personalities were more affected by violent videogames than those who did not.

Unlike most previous studies which focused solely on the causal links between violence in videogames and violent behavior, this study, conducted by the University of Villanova in Pennsylvania, measured anger as a personality trait and used that as a moderating factor in determining the influence of games.

In the study, 167 university students were first given standardized questionnaires in order to determine their "dispositional trait of anger." Following that, they were randomly assigned to play either one of three violent videogames (Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Doom 3 or Return to Castle Wolfenstein), or one of three non-violent videogames (Tetris Worlds, Top Spin Tennis or Project Gotham Racing). After 15 minutes of gaming, the students were given another round of standardized testing to determine the impact of the gameplay on the individual's general disposition.

The testing demonstrated that exposure to violent videogames produced a greater number of aggressive responses to the testing than non-violent videogames. Of greater interest, however, was the impact of pre-existing anger traits in each subject's personality, which the study found "significantly moderated the effect of videogame condition." Angry individuals exhibited increased aggressive behavior when exposed to violent videogames; individuals who were not angry, however, remained relatively unaffected.

This study is far from the final word on the subject; in fact, it may be little more than a starting point. The text of the study itself states, "Since technology continues to outrun our ability to empirically study it, future studies will need to examine the newest and most advanced consoles in order to best understand how this newest form of media violence affects individuals." But the implications of the study, and their significance, cannot be missed.

In its conclusion, the study reads, "It appears that general policy recommendations based on the notion that violent videogames are simply "bad" and that individuals who play violent videogames will inevitably become aggressive may be unwarranted. Instead, it appears that it is crucial to consider the dispositional characteristics of the person playing the videogame when predicting what type of effect the violent videogame might have on his or her thoughts or behaviors."

Full text of the study is available here. (PDF)


It's hardly surprising that people who are predisposed toward anger respond more strongly to frustrating cues. Barring brain damage, people don't get angry for no reason; it stands to reason that people who have, historically, been easier to anger in general are also easier to anger with one specific arousing cue.

What a surprise. This is what every thinking person has been telling everyone else - parents are responsible for their kids aggression, so if a kid goes on a rampage after a game, the question should not be "What have games done to our children?" but instead "Why was this child so angry?". Which is what normally happens in every violence case EXCEPT when videogames are involved.


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