Violent game effects?

This is not anything like systematic review, but more notes for myself.

The long debate of how violent games effect on behavior. Anderson, et al. (2010) argue that there are violent games increase aggression and lower empathy:

The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. Moderator analyses revealed significant research design effects, weak evidence of cultural differences in susceptibility and type of measurement effects, and no evidence of sex differences in susceptibility. Results of various sensitivity analyses revealed these effects to be robust, with little evidence of selection (publication) bias.

Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder (2017) provide a reanalysis of Anderson, el al. (2010) meta analysis and reach different conclusion:

First, we detect substantial publication bias in experimental research on the effects of violent games on aggressive affect and aggressive behavior. Second, after adjustment for bias, the effects of violent games on aggressive behavior in experimental research are estimated as being very small, and estimates of effects on aggressive affect are much reduced. In contrast, the cross-sectional literature finds correlations that appear largely unbiased. Third, experiments meeting the original authors’ criteria for methodological quality do not yield larger adjusted effects than other experiments, but instead yield larger indications of bias, indicating that perhaps they were selected for significance.

Ferguson and Kilburn (2010) also criticize Anderson et al. (2010) meta analysis, because  studies included does not study violent aggression. Fergunson (2007) elsewhere states that evidence to publication bias in videogame violence effects publications.

On the other hand, Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis (2008) states that there are evidence that violent imaginary in games has a short term effect to children (increasing aggressive or fearful behaviour), but inconsistent evident of any long term effect or any kind of effect to teens and adults.

Notably, studies looking at the link between violent videogames and violent real world behaviour has not found an evidence that those two are linked. Markey, et al. (2014) did not find evidence that playing violent games and aggressive assaults and homicides are positively linked. However, Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis (2008) claim that there is “weak evidence from correlation studies links media violence directly to crime.”

A new intervention study comparing effects of playing violent videogame and non-violent videogames to aggression, by Kühn, et al. (2018a) allows draw causal conclusions. Based on their study where participants played Sims 3 (n=24) or Grand Theft Auto V (n=25) daily for two months (and have third passive control group who did not play any game, n=28), they conclude

The present results thus provide strong evidence against the frequently debated negative effects of playing violent video games in adults and will therefore help to communicate a more realistic scientific perspective on the effects of violent video gaming.

Kühn et al. (2018a) states that the sample size in the study is enough to detect the average effect sizes, r=.18 reported Anderson, et al. (2010).

In fMRI study, Kuhn et al. (2018b) where people were randomly assigned to play Grand Theft Auto V (n=26), Sims 3 (n=24) or non play group (n=30). They did not find “any evidence for desensitization in the empathy network for pain in the violent video game group at any time point”.

EDIT 2018/03/20. There is a reply to Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder (2017) by Kepes, Bushman and Anderson (2017) and provide another set of meta analyses and claim “As stated in our title, although the magnitude of the mean effects were reduced by publication bias and outliers, ‘violent video game effects remain a societal concern.'” However, real life impact of the violent games is another question (cf. Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2008; Markey, et al., 2014).


  • Andreson, et al. 2010. Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2). DOI=0.1037/a0018251.
  • Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2008. The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: a public-health approach. Lancet, 365(9460). DOI=10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17952-5.
  • Ferguson and Kilburn, 2010. Much ado about nothing: The misestimation and overinterpretation of violent video game effects in Eastern and Western nations: Comment on Anderson et al. (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 136(2). DOI=10.1037/a0018566.
  • Ferguson, 2007. Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review,Aggression and Violent Behavior,  12(4). DOI=10.1016/j.avb.2007.01.001.
  • Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder, 2017. Overstated evidence for short-term effects of violent games on affect and behavior: A reanalysis of Anderson et al. (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 143(7). DOI=10.1037/bul0000074.
  • Kepes, S., Bushman, B.J. and Anderson, C.A., 2017. Violent video game effects remain a societal concern: Reply to Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder (2017). Psychological Bulletin,
  • Kühn, Kugler, Schmalen, Weichenberger, Witt, and Gallinat, 2018a. Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study. Molecular Psychiatry. DOI=10.1038/s41380-018-0031-7.
  • Kühn, Kugler, Schmalen, Weichenberger, Witt, Gallinat, 2018b. The Myth of Blunted Gamers: No Evidence for Desensitization in Empathy for Pain after a Violent Video Game Intervention in a Longitudinal fMRI Study on Non-Gamers. Neurosignals, 26. DOI=10.1159/000487217.
  • Markey,, Markey, French, 2014. Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence:  Rhetoric Versus Data. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(4) DOI=10.1037/ppm0000030.





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