Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Priming Effect of Computer Game Violence on Children's Aggression Levels

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Priming Effect of Computer Game Violence on Children's Aggression Levels

Article excerpt

Literature Review

Aggression has been defined as a problem behavior involving the intention to attack other people who wish to avoid the attack, or where two aggressive parties attack each other, and neither wants to avoid the attack (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Baron & Richardson, 1994; DeWall, Anderson, & Bushman, 2012). Therefore, we consider aggression as an implicit action whereby individuals with deliberate intent bring harm to others both directly (i.e., physically hitting, kicking, and punching, or insulting) and indirectly (i.e., engaging in hurtful social gossip, spreading rumors, or excluding a person from the in-group).

Aggression may be enhanced in children through playing computer games, which is a popular form of entertainment for this group (Cesarone, 1998; Gross, 2010; Kirsh, 2003). Playing computer games has been found to make people feel relaxed (Wu, Wang, & Tsai, 2010) and many children spend a great amount of time on this activity (Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004). Researchers have estimated that around 89% of the electronic games children play include images of blood and violent content (Wallenius & Punamäki, 2008). For example, counter-strike games teach users to shoot others with automatic rifles in real-life settings through observational learning (Bandura, 1973; Polman, Orobio de Castro, & van Aken, 2008).

In relation to this, teachers have reported that pupils are negatively affected by school violence, and experience great stress from interacting with perpetrators on campus. Rodkin, Hanish, Wang, and Logis (2014) observed that bully/ victim dyads were pernicious for both boys and girls in school from a gendered perspective, and caused serious adjustment problems. Thus, violent computer games may represent a virtual world filled with aggression-related stimuli that cause children to tackle conflicts by resorting to violence.

Over the past two decades, researchers have proposed many theories to interpret the mechanisms underlying aggression. For instance, in the general aggression model (Anderson & Bushman, 2002) it is stated that repeated exposure to violent games increases aggressive attitude, aggressive thoughts, hostile feelings, and desensitization. Desensitization, in turn, decreases a person's levels of empathy in relation to realizing the serious consequences of violence toward victims in real life (Funk, Baldacci, Pasold, & Baumgardner, 2004; Strasburger & Wilson, 2002). In this way, players of violent games might become insensitive to the suffering of others and underestimate the consequences of aggression.

Violent Computer Games and Aggression

A growing number of researchers have revealed that violent video games increase aggressive cognition, hostile feelings, aggressive thoughts, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior (Anderson, 1997; Barlett, Anderson, & Swing, 2009; Giumetti & Markey, 2007; Sherry, 2001; Uhlmann & Swanson, 2004) and decrease prosocial behavior (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Anderson, Gentile, & Buckley, 2007; Anderson et al., 2010). Further, adolescents who play violent video games more often display more hostile expectations and aggressive behavior than do those who do not play these games or play them less often (Hasan, Bègue, Scharkow, & Bushman, 2013). Bingenheimer, Brennan, and Earls (2005) conducted a 2-year longitudinal study and indicated that exposure to firearm violence in video games approximately doubled the likelihood of adolescents resorting to violence when faced with aggravating situations in real life. Thus, we speculated that playing violent computer games might escalate adolescents' aggression, and put forward the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: Children who play violent, compared to nonviolent, computer games will show stronger aggression.

Violent Computer Games, Gender, and Aggression

Scholars have indicated that gender differences exist in relation to aggression among adolescents who play violent games (Bartholow & Anderson, 2002; Hoeft, Watson, Kesler, Bettinger, & Reiss, 2008; Martins, Williams, Ratan, & Harrison, 2012). …

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