Violent video games as exemplary teachers of aggression

Iowa State University researcher Dr. Doug Gentile studied 2,500
children and adolescents and found that violent video games do indeed foster
hostile actions and aggressive behaviors. Here’s the money quote:

We know a lot about how to be an effective teacher, and we know a lot
about how to use technology to teach. Video games use many of these techniques
and are highly effective teachers. So we shouldn’t be surprised that violent
video games can teach aggression.

Get the full
story at the ISU News Service

9 Responses to “Violent video games as exemplary teachers of aggression”

  1. It’s been shown that ALL games can cause aggression. Simply playing Tetris causes an elevation in heart rate for the player which makes them more likely to respond with aggression given appropriate stimuli. This is true of competitive sports and games as well.

    Violent video games work on this same principle.

    Violent negligent parenting is much more likely to cause unprovoked or misplaced violent behavior and aggression than video games, but games are a convenient excuse.

  2. I think the issue is not that video games are the primary cause of violent behavior and aggression but that, unsurprisingly, violent video games are great at teaching violence, just as nonviolent video games are great at teaching other things.

    Interesting note about Tetris, sports games, etc., but I think Gentile’s research shows that more’s going on than just elevation of heart rate?

  3. Perhaps so.

    I think that you’re on to something in the sense that this proves that video games do teach something.

    I read the article and it said very little about the context in which these violent games were played.

    I would agree that video games can be powerful teachers. The best ones align their designs with the most effective curriculum practices out there. Some games, even violent ones, seem developed almost directly out of Best Practice handbooks.

  4. Very hard to comment without access to the full paper, but the description notes an association between self-reports of aggressive behavior and self-reports of game playing. The causal direction of the association does not seem to be (well) established, nor is its strength indicated.

    Please let us know when details of the full study are available.

  5. Here’s what I found at the Institute web site:

    Measures included peer assessment of social adjustment, self-report of fighting, and teacher ratings of aggressive behavior.

    I confess this makes intuitive sense to me. If we’re going to tout gaming engines as powerful teaching tools, we have to recognize that they can teach bad things as well as good… We need more education-focused games and simulations!

  6. I think that this article does have some truth to it, however when I was reading I kept thinking to myself, wow isn’t it amazing how Americans try to find an excuse for everything. Violent video games is not the only factor in children becoming violent. There are many environmental factors that aid in this phenomena. There is some positives to video games, not all are violent.

  7. Thanks for the link to the article! I look forward to reading it!

  8. I think you’re right, Scott, that if people are to support gaming in the classroom as a teaching tool, that they must admit that they can teach both positive and negative behaviors.

    Violence as a behavior is a very broad concept; however, if games can teach that, can they also teach behaviors such as altruism, empathy, and problem-directed questioning?

    Further, can a violent game teach those behaviors simultaneously?

  9. “do indeed foster”?

    I don’t believe that studies controlled on basic demographics and where students self-select activities can determine the influence of the activity versus the development of the child without the activity.

    Far more interesting to me are studies into the development of predispositions. One long-term study showed a that a two-year-old’s inability to delay gratification could be correlated with increased placement in juvenile detention facilities during teenage years. It’s a terrifying truth – parenting before your child can even talk determines a great deal about how a child will interact with the world.

    To me, violent video games are so far removed from development of these core parts of who we are as to be completely inconsequential.

    Towards your actual point: yes, (great) video games can be great teachers! It’s a medium, like books or presentations or audio or video, but it gets a little boost from being interactive and able to combine so many other mediums. I want to see studies that investigate video game-taught skills transferring to other applications. It doesn’t always happen, and we need to know more about that before the “edutainment” genre can fulfill its goals.

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