Despite the frequent association of violent video games with school shootings and other violent acts, it is likely that such games predominantly affect those with preexisting personality dispositions, according to a new study released by the American Psychological Association.
"The direct link from [violent video games] to school violence that has been highlighted in the media may obscure a large portion of the equation: personality traits," reads one study, published as part of a video game-focused special issue of the Review of General Psychology
"Given that 45.7 million American homes have at least one video game console, it is clear that most children who play these games do not go on to behave in violent or murderous ways," the report points out. "In fact, although many youths who have engaged in violent school rampages were video game players, most also possessed maladaptive personality traits and characteristics."
Researchers Patrick M. Markey and Charlotte N. Markey conclude that many past studies ascribing links between games and real-world violence have failed to properly weigh those existing personality traits, which can significantly exacerbate or moderate the influence of violent media, including games.
"School violence attributed to violent media has involved shooters who were described by themselves and others as extremely angry, mean, depressed, psychotic, unruly, anxious, aggressive, and hateful before the shootings occurred," the study reads. "These descriptions suggest that certain types of individuals may be more adversely affected by VVGs than other individuals."
The researchers applied the "five-factor model" of personality traits, encompassing neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, to a raft of studies examining violence and video games. They claim that, despite that model's widespread use and acceptance, video game violence researchers had not yet taken it into account.
"Current research suggests that personality moderates individual proclivity to respond adversely to violent video games," the researches said. "It appears that violent video games only adversely affect some individuals, and those who are affected have a preexisting disposition (i.e., high neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness) which make them susceptible to such violent media."