A new study from a team at the University of Missouri-Columbia has claimed a causal link between video games and aggressive behavior, in findings published on the New Scientist website.
The team monitored the brain activity of thirty-nine games players, measuring a type of activity called the P300 response, which reflects the emotional impact of an image. When shown images of real-life violence, those who played violent video games were found to have a diminished response.
The test is similar to that used to study psychopaths, although when the same group was shown unpleasant, but non violent imagery – such as dead animals or sick children – the responses were more normal. Additionally, when the gamers were encouraged to mete out punishment to a pretend opponent, those with the greatest reduction in P300 dispensed the most violent punishments.
The full report is to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology later in the year, with lead researcher Bruce Bartholow commenting, "As far as I'm aware, this is the first study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behavior. People who play a lot of violent video games didn't see them as much different from neutral.”
Despite regularly implied connections in the wider media, this study is indeed one of the few to suggest any kind of link between video games and violence, with a study by the University of Illinois and the Nanvang Technological University in Singapore
last year suggesting that games were not a predictor of aggressive behavior.