New Study, Same Results: Violence Is Bad

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New Study, Same Results: Violence Is Bad

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If it's Thursday it must be time for a new study, so here's one from a couple of university professors who say that playing violent videogames renders people indifferent to the pain and suffering of their fellow human beings.

Conducted by Professor Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Professor Craig Anderson of Iowa State University, the study had 320 students play a videogame, either violent or non-violent, for roughly 20 minutes, after which they heard sounds of a staged fight that culminated with one of the combatants "groaning in pain" after ostensibly suffering a sprained ankle.

"People who had played a violent game took significantly longer to help the victim than those who played a nonviolent game - 73 seconds compared to 16 seconds," the professors noted. "People who had played a violent game were also less likely to notice and report the fight. And if they did report it, they judged it to be less serious than did those who had played a nonviolent game."

Similar results were reported in a separate study of people who watched a violent movie, who took a reported 26 percent longer to respond to a staged emergency outside the movie theater than subjects who had watched a non-violent movie. "The present studies clearly demonstrate that violent media exposure can reduce helping behavior in precisely the way predicted by major models of helping and desensitization theory," the study concluded. "People exposed to media violence become 'comfortably numb' to the pain and suffering of others and are consequently less helpful."

GamePolitics notes that both Bushman and Anderson have previously undertaken research into videogames that resulted in similarly negative findings; in November of 2008, Anderson published a study of children in the U.S. and Japan which concluded that playing violent videogames left them more prone to violent behavior. Results of this latest research did not mention whether similar effects could be measured in someone who had just spent a half-hour watching Fox News.

Comfortably Numb: Desensitizing Effects of Violent Media on Helping Others can be read in full here. (PDF format)

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After a lifetime of violent videogames, I still feel for one group of people's suffering. Cancer victims. Because there's no cure. There's still no cure. Periodically, we get a new report, compiled by very smart men, telling us how good/evil exposure to the youth's media preference of the day is, yet nobody has invented a sure fire pill that beats those rogue cells back into line.

The longer I live in a world where the greatest minds are dedicated to such banal, useless research, the more I hate my fellow man and enjoy his suffering.

Aardvark:
After a lifetime of violent videogames, I still feel for one group of people's suffering. Cancer victims. Because there's no cure. There's still no cure. Periodically, we get a new report, compiled by very smart men, telling us how good/evil exposure to the youth's media preference of the day is, yet nobody has invented a sure fire pill that beats those rogue cells back into line.

The longer I live in a world where the greatest minds are dedicated to such banal, useless research, the more I hate my fellow man and enjoy his suffering.

This.
Again.

It would be interesting if anyone bothered to research something besides violence and video games. The connection is always going to be tenuous at best because you still no way of knowing what's going on inside their heads while they play. Last time I checked, ANYONE who could not maintain the difference between fantasy and reality was a problem.

Why can't they study the potential teaching benefits? Memory retention? Therapeutic value?

Aardvark, my sentiments exactly. Well not entirely exactly, there is also the people who die essentially because malaria treatment isn't as profitable as E.D. medication, or the people who wouldn't starve if their farmland wasn't being turned into desert or being embroiled in civil war where starvation is used against them.

Yes, why can't they research anything else? Why can't they put out a study about some benefits? Or a news article about an avid gamer helping to build a homeless shelter?

I disagree with the videogames make people violent theory. People play these games as an escape from reality and a way to take their aggression out in a way that doesn't hurt anybody.

Blimey, and here I was thinking/hoping that we were past this...
*sigh*
The second my space laser is complete I will be aiming at those idiots...

Aardvark:
After a lifetime of violent videogames, I still feel for one group of people's suffering. Cancer victims. Because there's no cure. There's still no cure. Periodically, we get a new report, compiled by very smart men, telling us how good/evil exposure to the youth's media preference of the day is, yet nobody has invented a sure fire pill that beats those rogue cells back into line.

The longer I live in a world where the greatest minds are dedicated to such banal, useless research, the more I hate my fellow man and enjoy his suffering.

You do know the expenses involved in cancer research, correct? It's not anywhere as easy to sort out as you're appearing to claim.

Now, obviously, this is banal and useless research, but speaking frankly as a student of science, not everyone can be employed on the big issues.

how about instead of puoring millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money into these studies over and over, they put that money to reaserch cures for some of the world's worst diseases, like Cancer or AIDS.

...anyone think that maybe the people who played violent games were just better at realizing a fight was staged than anyone else? Of course not, that conclusion is both based on logic and puts violent games in a good light, so it can't be true.

Craig Anderson is on faculty at Iowa State University, not the University of Iowa.

Sure, after watching a street racing movie, I want to drive faster. But does that mean there will be long term effects? Whatever effect they observe is temporary. Though I do have to hand it to them for a well executed study.

RAKtheUndead:
You do know the expenses involved in cancer research, correct? It's not anywhere as easy to sort out as you're appearing to claim.

Now, obviously, this is banal and useless research, but speaking frankly as a student of science, not everyone can be employed on the big issues.

Then fire these people and direct their grants into cancer research. Once we're disease free, can regrow/replace limbs and organs, have cured global warming and are well on our way to becoming an intergalactic species, then we can worry about pesky things like this.

orannis62:
...anyone think that maybe the people who played violent games were just better at realizing a fight was staged than anyone else? Of course not, that conclusion is both based on logic and puts violent games in a good light, so it can't be true.

Sorry but this is not a likely explanation. The reason is that the students would have been assigned randomly to groups "violent" and "nonviolent", they wouldn't get to chose or anything. So the only way they would be able to be "better at recognizing staged fights" would be if the game had actually made them better at recognizing fights, which is a much less likely explanation than that they were made less sensitive to violence.

I am, however, glad that they mention comparing gaming to other forms of entertainment. What I would really like to see is something that attempts to compare consuming violent media with traditionally accepted forms of aggressive behavior, like playing football.

And as to all of you "why don't they get back to solving cancer" guys, how stupid are you people? Do you say the same thing to your garbageman? After all, he's just moving trash around when his time would be better spent curing cancer! However, these are psychologists, and, as another commenter pointed out, we are already spending massive amounts of money on cancer research. It's definitely paying my way through grad school. You can't just get a grant for violence and media research then go decide you prefer doing cancer research, something completely outside of your field. I really don't know how to explain how bad of an idea it would be to have every single scientist in the world, qualified or not, working on the same problem. Its simply stupid.

By the way, are y'all suggesting that no one has ever died from insensitivity to violence? Have you never heard about the cases of murders in broad daylight where bystanders just watch, doing nothing? This is, in fact, a potentially life-or-death problem if a violent game makes you hesitate even a second in calling the police or stepping in in such a situation.

Here's a thought...

Maybe they aren't desensitized by the violence. Maybe, the exposure to fake suffering has given them the ability to spot fake suffering. "Staged" injuries were used, maybe they saw through them, or saw something amiss that caused them to doubt the validity of the distress.

MaxTheReaper:

Aardvark:
After a lifetime of violent videogames, I still feel for one group of people's suffering. Cancer victims. Because there's no cure. There's still no cure. Periodically, we get a new report, compiled by very smart men, telling us how good/evil exposure to the youth's media preference of the day is, yet nobody has invented a sure fire pill that beats those rogue cells back into line.

The longer I live in a world where the greatest minds are dedicated to such banal, useless research, the more I hate my fellow man and enjoy his suffering.

This.
Again.

This.
Again and again.

Either this must be true or I'm a case for myself, since I rarely give a shit about anyone's suffering. Cripples, mentally retarded people, those born with defects etc. The funny thing is, I care more if a member of a different species is suffering than if one of my own is.

Sigh

Aardvark:

RAKtheUndead:
You do know the expenses involved in cancer research, correct? It's not anywhere as easy to sort out as you're appearing to claim.

Now, obviously, this is banal and useless research, but speaking frankly as a student of science, not everyone can be employed on the big issues.

Then fire these people and direct their grants into cancer research. Once we're disease free, can regrow/replace limbs and organs, have cured global warming and are well on our way to becoming an intergalactic species, then we can worry about pesky things like this.

It isn't just the costs either. The fact is that we only have a few ideas on where to begin, and they're hardly as useful as we'd like.

RAKtheUndead:
It isn't just the costs either. The fact is that we only have a few ideas on where to begin, and they're hardly as useful as we'd like.

If it's not the cost, pay more people to look into it. If we devote enough minds to the subject, at least one of them will discover something worth investigating.

There's no absolute limit of people required to discover something. The more people thinking about a problem, the more likely it is that one will come up with a solution, or even the beginnings of one that can be expanded by another group.

Either way, more people being trained and looking into problems that actually affect the quality of people's lives, rather than those are used to score political points rather than affect positive change, the better off this world will be.

shirin238:
Blimey, and here I was thinking/hoping that we were past this...
*sigh*
The second my space laser is complete I will be aiming at those idiots...

Just need to save about seven septilion more and I'll have enough for mine...

Ah, good job, Malygris. It's nice to see people putting links to the actual paper in these articles.

Anyways, to start my actual response, I have to admit that their data does seem to support their overall claim. I'd appreciate it if you guys would stop pretending that they faked their data - it makes us look bad.
(And I don't give much weight to the argument that the violent gamers were better at recognizing a fake fight as an explanation for their delay. They were less likely to report having heard a fight, but it's the difference between a 95% chance as opposed to a 99% chance.)

Also, some things I thought were interesting:

1) The fraction of the of the violent gamers who ended up helping the victim was not significantly different from other group's help-rate. (21% vs 25% - not even a std. dev. apart)
Yet it took them a whole lot longer?
I'm not familiar with the desensitization literature, but I think this is damn interesting.

2) The fraction of people who said their preferred game was violent was quite low. (what, 20%?)
3) Members of this fraction helped the victim much less often then the rest of the population. (11% vs 26%)

Aardvark:

RAKtheUndead:
You do know the expenses involved in cancer research, correct? It's not anywhere as easy to sort out as you're appearing to claim.

Now, obviously, this is banal and useless research, but speaking frankly as a student of science, not everyone can be employed on the big issues.

Then fire these people and direct their grants into cancer research. Once we're disease free, can regrow/replace limbs and organs, have cured global warming and are well on our way to becoming an intergalactic species, then we can worry about pesky things like this.

I'll bring out an example I read somewhere else in the escapist;

If I broke an arm, or severed an internal organ, and go to a doctor, how do you think I would feel if the doctor said "I'm sorry, we're working on a cure for cancer, you'll have to wait until we cure it."?

To fire everyone in alternative fields of science and force them to work on one disease or condition, when there are still hundreds of ways to help people who don't have that one particular disease, is ludicrous at best.

But this study is pointless, that much we can all agree with, right?

Jumplion:
I'll bring out an example I read somewhere else in the escapist;

If I broke an arm, or severed an internal organ, and go to a doctor, how do you think I would feel if the doctor said "I'm sorry, we're working on a cure for cancer, you'll have to wait until we cure it."?

The correct response to that example, when it was used previously, should be "Not all doctors are researchers."

BAM! Another poor example blown out of the water!

If you're going to be pedantic and insist that when the call is made to pull funding from people researching stupid, pointless things, such as linking violence and pop culture, reinventing the wheel or the correct pH balance of healthy, natural skin and instead redirecting it to something worthwhile, might be brain science, might be rocket surgery, then all people who have an IQ above room temperature must be fired to make way for one single scientific goal...

I'll let you fill in the last part of that yourself.

Aardvark:

Jumplion:
I'll bring out an example I read somewhere else in the escapist;

If I broke an arm, or severed an internal organ, and go to a doctor, how do you think I would feel if the doctor said "I'm sorry, we're working on a cure for cancer, you'll have to wait until we cure it."?

The correct response to that example, when it was used previously, should be "Not all doctors are researchers."

BAM! Another poor example blown out of the water!

If you're going to be pedantic and insist that when the call is made to pull funding from people researching stupid, pointless things, such as linking violence and pop culture, reinventing the wheel or the correct pH balance of healthy, natural skin and instead redirecting it to something worthwhile, might be brain science, might be rocket surgery, then all people who have an IQ above room temperature must be fired to make way for one single scientific goal...

I'll let you fill in the last part of that yourself.

"BAM! Another poor example blown out of the water!"?

Jeez, you need to calm down, no need to be pompous about it. I agreed with you on that this particular "research" was a waste of time and/or money.

But different scientists specialize in different things. It makes absolutely no sense to dump all of the worlds scientists on one thing when there is an equal number of things to tend to in the world.

Quite frankly it's a childish notion, dump all the smart people in the room and they'll somehow solve all the worlds problems.

Jumplion:

No one is saying put all the world's scientists on one thing. What was said, by myself, is that the funding for stupid, banal, pointless things should be pulled and re-directed towards cancer research. I said the people should be fired. I said more people should be hired. I never said the same people should be hired.

Therefore, the example you used is a pointless example, which was thusly blown out of the water, as it should have been the first time anyone put those words together in that order, then applied them to internet.

The problem with the study is that they draw alot of conclusions based on how long it takes for the subjects to help in a non mundane situation. Even if they do find a tendency towards desensitizing which is attributed to the subjects responses, it doesn´t adress the stability of said desensitization and long term behavioral outcome in the subjects.

The study seem to talk only about priming effects in a short term perspective. Imagine how a long term addicted and full blown "FPS maniac" would react towards these experimental conditions..

1)How persistant are these "effects" in the individual as violence is "learned"? What are the long term effects? That is usually the main focus in the violent media = violent behavior debate.

2) How is violence learned? Actively or passively?

2)The effects are there but they are not that substantial compared to the control group.

3)The experimental conditions are not easily transfered to mundane conditions.

I have always enjoyed the suffering of my fellow man. Especially the stupid ones.

And the Bill Murray award for pointless repetition goes to...

Professors Brad Bushman and Craig Anderson!

Come on down and get your free stress balls and copies of Wii Play.

Aardvark:
Condesning

Aardvark:
Then fire these people and direct their grants into cancer research. Once we're disease free, can regrow/replace limbs and organs, have cured global warming and are well on our way to becoming an intergalactic species, then we can worry about pesky things like this.

Granted, I'll admit, I misread what your main point was, but I did interpret it as you saying everyone should direct everything to cancer research and the like.

But yeesh, you take things a wee bit too seriously. It wasn't much of an argument that you had apparently "blown me out of the water". Calm down and stop being so snarky about everything.

Jumplion:
But yeesh, you take things a wee bit too seriously. It wasn't much of an argument that you had apparently "blown me out of the water". Calm down and stop being so snarky about everything.

I never said I blew you out of the water. Just your stolen example.

Had to sneak that last jab in.

This is political research, nothing more. The only reason garbage like this gets funding is because this is a hot button issue with the ignorant scum and those who want their votes. The funding should be channeled elsewhere, to something that can actually benefit humanity. Something to unite, rather than divide. Cancer was just one big example, could be a hundred things that solve problems, rather than score political points.

oneplus999:

By the way, are y'all suggesting that no one has ever died from insensitivity to violence? Have you never heard about the cases of murders in broad daylight where bystanders just watch, doing nothing? This is, in fact, a potentially life-or-death problem if a violent game makes you hesitate even a second in calling the police or stepping in in such a situation.

This is the famous bystander effect and is much better explained by diffusion of responsibility, as previous studies has showed, than a degenerated populace that is subjected to violence in the media.. Long term effects are very hard to infer since studies often are short term designs, that study behavior in a certain experimental situation.

Malygris:

"People who had played a violent game took significantly longer to help the victim than those who played a nonviolent game - 73 seconds compared to 16 seconds," the professors noted. "People who had played a violent game were also less likely to notice and report the fight. And if they did report it, they judged it to be less serious than did those who had played a nonviolent game."

Ugh, how long after the playing of the "violent" game did they test this out? I'd imagine for a whole 30 minutes or so afterwards, this could be possibly true. But given I'm the one more likely to help people out on the street if they trip or fall, or at least enquire if they are ok, I officially call "Bull*poop*" on this research.

I reckon they are publishing these "studies" in an attempt to make us snap and "prove them right". That, or I'm paranoid....the voices say I'm not...?

Why did we need another another study to tell us the same thing?

Aardvark:
This is political research, nothing more. The only reason garbage like this gets funding is because this is a hot button issue with the ignorant scum and those who want their votes. The funding should be channeled elsewhere, to something that can actually benefit humanity. Something to unite, rather than divide. Cancer was just one big example, could be a hundred things that solve problems, rather than score political points.

You're right about all this, but you're forgetting one important fact: these aren't real scientists. Real scientists don't do social scientific work - that's for the plebes that can't understand proper science.

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