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ISU psychologists Douglas Gentile (left) and Craig Anderson (right) are two of the authors on a new study published in this month's Pediatrics about the harmful effects of violent video games. Photo by Bob Elbert.
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Center for Study of Violence paper finds violent video game effects across cultures
AMES, Iowa -- It's not just American kids who become more aggressive by playing violent video games. A new study -- presented last month at the inaugural seminar sponsored by Iowa State University's Center for the Study of Violence -- showed effects of violent video games on aggression over a 3-6 month period in children from Japan as well as the United States.
ISU Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson -- director of the Center for the Study of Violence -- presented the results from the study, which is published in the November issue of Pediatrics, the professional journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The research links an earlier ISU study of 364 American children ages 9-12 with two similar studies of more than 1,200 children between the ages of 12-18 from Japan. It found that exposure to violent video games was a causal risk factor for aggression and violence in those children.
"Basically what we found was that in all three samples, a lot of violent video game play early in a school year leads to higher levels of aggression during the school year, as measured later in the school year -- even after you control for how aggressive the kids were at the beginning of the year," said Anderson, who was recently elected president-elect for the International Society for Research on Aggression (IRSA).
ISU Assistant Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile, the center's associate director, and Akira Sakamoto -- an associate professor of psychology at Ochanomizu University and a leading violent video games researcher from Japan -- collaborated with Anderson and additional Japanese researchers on the study.
Studying kids video game habits and aggression
Researchers assessed the children's video game habits and their level of physical aggression against each other at two different times during the school year.
"The studies varied somewhat in the length of time between what we're calling time one and time two (times between the reports of video game use and physical behavior)," Anderson said. "The shortest duration was three months and the longest was six months.
"Each of the three samples showed significant increases in aggression by children who played a lot of violent video games," he said.
Anderson began collaborating with Japanese researchers on the study several years ago when he visited Japan to give an invited address at the International Simulation and Gaming Association convention. He says Japan's cultural differences with the U.S. made it attractive for the comparison studies.
"The culture is so different and their overall violence rate is so much lower than in the U.S.," Anderson said. "The argument has been made -- it's not a very good argument, but it's been made by the video game industry -- that all our research on violent video game effects must be wrong because Japanese kids play a lot of violent video games and Japan has a low violence rate.
"By gathering data from Japan, we can test that hypothesis directly and ask, 'Is it the case that Japanese kids are totally unaffected by playing violent video games?' And of course, they aren't," he said. "They're affected pretty much the same way American kids are."
"It is important to realize that violent video games do not create schools shooters," Gentile said. "They create opportunities to be vigilant for enemies, to practice aggressive ways of responding to conflict and to see aggression as acceptable. In practical terms, that means that when bumped in the hallway, children begin to see it as hostile and react more aggressively in response to it. Violent games are certainly not the only thing that can increase children's aggression, but these studies show that they are one part of the puzzle in both America and Japan."
ISU's new Center for the Study of Violence
Anderson led the effort to establish the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State last fall. Jointly sponsored by ISU's Institute for Social and Behavioral Research and Department of Psychology, the center will serve as an umbrella organization across all disciplines promoting research on understanding and reducing aggression and violence in modern society.
"The goal of the center is to first, bring together researchers around Iowa State who have an interest in aggression -- to sort of give them a home and to provide opportunities for collaborative research, eventually with people around the world who have similar research interests," he said.
Additional information on the center is available through its Web site at www.isucsv.org.
A new study, led by ISU Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson, shows effects of violent video games on aggression over a 3-6 month period in children from Japan as well as the United States. Anderson also led the effort to establish the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State last fall.
"Basically what we found was that in all three samples, a lot of violent video game play early in a school year leads to higher levels of aggression during the school year, as measured later in the school year -- even after you control for how aggressive the kids were at the beginning of the year."