Study links violent behaviour to individual personalities

Research claims media links to violent videogames may "obscure a large portion of the equation"

A new study into violent behaviour and the possible influence of videogames has concluded that effects are likely to be limited only to those whose "personalities are predisposed to be highly neurotic, less agreeable and less conscientious."

The research, conducted by Dr Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr Charlotte Markey of Rutgers Univeristy, ties in with prior findings involving children exposed to violent TV programmes and cartoons with similar results.

"Individuals are not 'blank slates,'" explained Patrick Markey. "One's general disposition moderates the effect of violent media. General policy recommendations based on the notion that violent videogames (VVGs) are simply 'bad' and individuals who play violent videogames will inevitably become aggressive appear to be unwarranted.

"Instead it is crucial to consider the dispositional characteristics of the person playing the videogame when predicting the type of effect the violent videogame might have on his or her hostility."

Specifically the research indicated a "perfect storm" of personality traits that could lead to vulnerability - a high level of neuroticism, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness.

Violent and non-violent games were then played by 118 teenagers, and hostility levels assessed, with those individuals displaying the "perfect storm" traits most adversely affected - while participants "who did not possess these personality characteristics were either unaffected or only slightly negatively affected".

"Although the incidences of violence, particularly school violence, linked to videogames are alarming, what should perhaps surprise us more is that there are not more VVG-driven violent episodes," the report concludes. "Given the number of youths who regularly engage in VVG play and the general concern regarding this media, it would seem likely that resulting violent episodes would be a regular occurrence. And yet, daily reports of mass violence are not reported.

"It appears that the vast majority of individuals exposed to VVGs do not become violent in the 'real world.' Thus, the questions for researchers, policymakers, and laypersons become: 'Why do some individuals appear to be affected by VVGs while others are not?' and 'Who is most likely to be affected by VVGs?'"

The full text of the report is available on the website.

Latest comments (15)

Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up9 years ago
Generally proves what everyone with common sense has always said.
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Michael Abraham game designer 9 years ago
so basically the study has concluded that aggressive and anti-social people are more likely to be prone to violent tendencies as a result of stimuli.
i'd say it's a "common sense" statement anyway, but the amount of people that have knee-jerked that violent media (games/movies/tv shows) was responsible just shows that the whole idea of "common sense" is flawed in the 1st place.

well, at least we now have some scientific data to back it up, that's gotta be good for something.
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gi biz ;, 9 years ago
Agreed. Another research now might be "why some people need reaserch results to understand the obvious while some other doesn't?"
Anyways, after such a heavy and long campaign against violent games (I remember articles in newspapers already at the time of Silent Hill), changing the opinion of people will take at least as long, imo. I hope this research won't die as an isolated case.
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Show all comments (15)
Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix9 years ago
I think a lot of people in the industry would agree that this all generally sounds sensible - but it's actually pretty important that such conclusions can be based in some degree of scientific fact.

What's interesting is that it does actually say, therefore, that violent videogames can have an effect on some people, albeit at the extreme end of society - something which also seems fair.

What society has to decide is whether or not it should legislate for the individual and ban material that could influence these people, or take the line that it has generally done with literature and film and opt for more freedom.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 9 years ago
A nice study to confirm what everyone else in the world said apart from selective parents, politicians and Jack Thompson. Why is time spend on research on common sensical topics. People have tried to prove the whole video game violence thing, failed but still continued to insist it's true. My mother is such a person to have been brainwashed by news scaremongering.

What's next for scientific research? Is it cleaner to vacuum your room with your nostrils or vacuum cleaner?
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
You make a good point Phil, but as we discussed/commented in the recent article about Switzerland voting to ban violent games, I would hope governments act to introduce tougher rules and policing regarding minors playing/being supplied with games, as opposed to restricting everyone's choice.

In the '80s it was banned and nasty films being blamed for violence amongst youths, and now games are in the crosshairs. There always has to be a scapegoat, and common sense rarely comes into it.
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Ben Hewett Studying MA Philosophy, University of Birmingham9 years ago
Kingman Cheng - This kind of research is essential; 'common sense' is more often than not derived from what is considered socially acceptable, which itself is often quite far from the truth of the matter. Therefore, this kind of 'common sensical' research is essential to either provide justifcation for our common sensical views or to dispel mere prejudice.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Ben Hewett on 8th June 2010 11:53am

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Prejudice against violence in videogames (or any form of media for that matter) will always exist, but as games are becoming more a part of society and more accepted these kinds of prejudices will become much less, for want of a better word, 'mainstream'.

Certainly here in the UK we have seen more politicians suddenly declaring their support for the industry (whether this will continue now that the election is over we'll have to wait and see). I think that people feel that they need 'something' rather than 'someone' to blame society's problems on. Now it seems that social networking is the new 'evil' in question.
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Philip Wride Producer - Community, Walt Disney Company9 years ago
Hurrah, another scientific report that backs up what a lot of people have been saying all along. It is only the minority that will be affected based on a combination of factors and isn't the "norm".

I remember one of the first things I said to Tanya Byron when she started her research into videogames and that went along the lines of "played violent sports at school, and violent videogames for 8 years and still not killed anyone".

I'll be looking to see what the rest of the UKCCIS members think of this research in the next group meeting we have, will be interesting to hear their thoughts.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 9 years ago
Ben, I'll agree with you there, if the people want figures and stats then I guess the best way is to feed it to them.

Joseph, that's because they finally see (after years of badgering) that computer games are something that's very investible. So some of the guys who said games were part of our problems has now suddenly it's all gravy because it's bringing in money. I agree, it's just media trends and scaremongering.

Philip, I was in the generation of kids that was brought up with Looney Toons, Tom and Jerry and all that. I don't ever recall dropping anvils on peoples heads or smashing people in with sledgehammers. ;)
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany9 years ago
And in the end politicians and J. Thompson copycats will just act according to whatever gives then profit and votes, as always.
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J B Technical Artist, EA Sports9 years ago
Knowing that unstable people can be more easily pushed over the line, e.g. Joran Van der Sloot, doesn't tell us where the line is and who those likely psychos are. We need more of these studies if we intend on finding ways to help susceptible people avoid violent behavior.
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Walt Pretorius Publisher, 1337 Media cc9 years ago
It will be interesting to see how this study is received by the howling masses who storm the gates of Video Game Castle with pitchforks and flaming torches every time a kid turns violent. I believe that this crowd find it easier to point fingers than take responsibility, and a convenient scapegoat is always a handy thing. VVGs have been far too convenient, in fact… just look at the reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings a good while back. Everyone was blaming VVGs, when (in truth) the perpetrator didn’t play games.

It’s easier to point fingers at VVGs than admit that Little Jimmy is anything other than ‘Mommy’s special angel’. It’s easier to blame external influences than to admit to internal problems – the whole ‘Devil made me do it’ scenario.
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Philipp Nassau Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.) 9 years ago
To be honest, I have little faith in the majority understanding the difference between correlation and causality. This study proves what my father once said to my mother in I think 96 when she was concerned with me playing VVGs: "Yes, violent people often play those games. But I think they play them, because they're already violent. It doesn't have to work the other way round."
Yet, most people only see: school shooters all played FPS. Ban FPS. The majority doesn't react on science, they react on the media, their agenda setting and priming, mostly even framing. So, as sarcastic as this sounds, we would need another school shotting and a bunch of courageous media to then blame something else (because there always needs to be something) and show these studies to all those in doubt. It'd take the pressure off this industry, but only change the victim, as the problem itself, sadly, cannot be solved anyway.
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Bryan Robertson9 years ago
"Why is time spend on research on common sensical topics"

Because what people believe to be "common sense" often has very little basis in fact. Research often ends in results that run counter to most peoples' intuition. It's important to determine these things scientifically, so that we have a sound basis for any conclusions that are made.

Consider also, that many people believe that it common sense that violent video games make people violent.
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