Are people playing violent video games blowing off steam, or are they developing habits of violence that may play themselves out off-screen? In the wake of a wave of school shootings that have touched off debate about the roots of violence, those are more than academic questions.
The second of those questions -- do video games promote violent behavior -- remains a matter of fierce debate. But a new study does offer some evidence to answer the first -- whether violent video games provide an outlet for negative feelings such as anger or frustration. For a large group of young adult males (average age 20), it found, frustration does make video game violence a more appealing prospect.
The study also found that antisocial behavior -- specifically cheating and stealing -- came pretty naturally to a sizable group of the more than 200 undergraduate males participating in two experiments. When these young men had the opportunity to cheat on a test or to steal by pocketing a few quarters from a common pot -- and then those opportunities were suddenly denied them -- they acknowledged feeling frustrated.
Compared with two other groups -- in one group, subjects took a mock-test without any subterfuge; in another, subjects were given an unimpeded opportunity to cheat -- subjects in the group that had seen their opportunity to cheat and had it snatched away were more likely afterward to acknowledge feeling frustrated.