A recent study by the University of Michigan has concluded
that repeated exposure to violent television and video games is a stronger influence on aggressive behavior than is living in poverty, engaging in substance abuse or having abusive parents.
According to Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology and communications studies and a research associate at the University's Institute for Social Research, the correlation between media violence and aggression is stronger than the link between condom use and reduced risk of HIV, or between second-hand smoke and lung cancer.
“Playing video games, particularly first-person shooter games, may be much more dangerous than watching violent television shows or movies,” Bushman said.
Bushman has been studying the effect of media violence on aggressive behavior alongside social psychologist L. Rowell Huesmann at the University since 2003. Huesmann has himself focused on the issue at the university since 1992, when he began contributing to a study that has now tracked the same group of children for four generations to see how aggressive behavior develops from childhood through adulthood.
Huesmann asserts that the level of media violence has changed since the study began, becoming increasingly graphic, even in shows aimed at children.
However, Bushman highlighted first-person shooter games as the worst offenders. “Playing games is highly active, and it requires players to identify with violent characters,” Bushman say. “It also rewards aggression, and the amount of violence is almost continuous.”
According to Huesmann, watching violence also “primes” aggressive scripts and beliefs, heightening excitement while lowering actual emotional response.
Said Huesmann, “A high and steady diet of TV violence in early childhood increases the risk that both females and males from all social backgrounds will become violent, aggressive adults. Media violence can affect any child from any family, not just children who are already violence-prone.”