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Violent videogames linked to negative permissive attitudes - study

The multitude of supposed harmful effects of violent videogames stepped up a gear today, with a new study that links aggressive games with lapse attitudes towards alcohol and marijuana abuse, unprotected sex, and hostile social behaviour.

A new academic study claims that games with violent content can cause players to adopt more permissive attitudes towards the use of alcohol and marijuana, and less likely to co-operate with others.

The study, which was conducted by Dr Sonya Brady of the University of California and Professor Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh, set out to test the effect of media violence exposure on young males.

100 male participants aged between 18 and 21 were randomly assigned gameplay sessions with either family-friendly action adventure The Simpsons: Hit and Run, or controversial Rockstar title Grand Theft Auto III.

According to the study, which was published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, "Young men randomly assigned to play Grand Theft Auto III exhibited greater increases in diastolic blood pressure from a baseline rest period to game play, greater negative affect, more permissive attitudes toward using alcohol and marijuana, and more uncooperative behaviour in comparison with men randomly assigned to play The Simpsons."

The study concludes that "Media violence exposure may play a role in the development of negative attitudes and behaviours related to health," and that "Although youth growing up in violent homes and communities may become more physiologically aroused by media violence exposure, all youth appear to be at risk for potentially negative outcomes."

"Parents have been told the message that violent video games and violent media in general can influence the likelihood that their kids will be aggressive," Dr Brady told Reuters. "What this study suggests is that they might increase any type of risk-taking behaviour."