Thursday, October 11, 2018

Video violence and empathy

It was back in March that I last had a whinge about unnecessary blood letting and violence in video games.   In that post, I complained about how a couple of studies were claimed to show no connection between games and real life violence, but when you looked at the details, it was pretty ludicrous to conclude they were particularly useful studies at all.

Now I see that I had missed another study that came out at the end of last year, claiming to show that frequent violent video game players have lower empathy response.

Well, that's more aligned with my biases!

Anyway, the study was very technical in nature, and used EEGs and tests regarding looking at faces, etc.  All very technical.  As usual, with all of this sort of testing, it is best to treat it with a high degree of caution, but the test set up does sound a little less obtuse than that in the studies I complained about.   The abstract follows: 
Research on the effects of media violence exposure has shown robust associations among violent media exposure, increased aggressive behavior, and decreased empathy. Preliminary research indicates that frequent players of violent video games may have differences in emotional and cognitive processes compared to infrequent or nonplayers, yet research examining the amount and content of game play and the relation of these factors with affective and cognitive outcomes is limited. The present study measured neural correlates of response inhibition in the context of implicit attention to emotion, and how these factors are related to empathic responding in frequent and infrequent players of video games with graphically violent content. Participants completed a self-report measure of empathy as well as an affective stop-signal task that measured implicit attention to emotion and response inhibition during electroencephalography. Frequent players had lower levels of empathy as well as a reduction in brain activity as indicated by P100 and N200/P300 event related potentials. Reduced P100 amplitude evoked by happy facial expressions was observed in frequent players compared to infrequent players, and this effect was moderated by empathy, such that low levels of empathy further reduced P100 amplitudes for happy facial expressions for frequent players compared to infrequent players. Compared to infrequent players, frequent players had reduced N200/P300 amplitude during response inhibition, indicating less neural resources were recruited to inhibit behavior. Results from the present study illustrate that chronic exposure to violent video games modulates empathy and related neural correlates associated with affect and cognition.

No comments: