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Playing violent video games linked to impulsive behavior

Updated: Aug 3, 2013 09:04 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Arthur Carlo Franco © iStockphoto.com / Arthur Carlo Franco

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The fast-paced decision making required in so-called first-person shooter video games improves visual skills but may reduce a person's ability to control impulsive behavior, according to new research.

The findings suggest another way that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior, according to the authors of three new studies.

"These studies are the first to link violent video game play with both beneficial and harmful effects within the same study," Craig Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, said in a Society for Personality & Social Psychology news release.

In one study, Anderson and colleagues had volunteers play either a fast-paced violent video game, a slow-paced peaceful game, or no game during ten 50-minute sessions over 11 weeks. Compared to participants who played the peaceful game or no game, those who played the action game showed increases in visual skills but decreases in impulse control.

In another study, the researchers assessed the TV viewing and video game habits of 422 people. They found that total media exposure and violent media exposure both contributed to attention problems. Violent media exposure was directly associated with increased aggression and anger/hostility, but there was no significant link between total media exposure and aggression or anger/hostility.

The studies were scheduled for presentation Friday at the Society for Personality & Social Psychology-hosted symposium at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Honolulu.

In general, TV, movies and video games often feature rapid changes in images and sounds, which essentially trains the brain to respond to a fast pace, Anderson explained. Quick reactions are particularly important when playing violent video games.

"What such fast-paced media fail to train is inhibiting the almost automatic first response," Anderson explained.

This type of research could lead to new ways to help people control their anger and aggression, he suggested.

However, although the researchers found associations between media exposure and behavior, this does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers media use guidelines for children.

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