Does Playing Grand Theft Auto Mean You Will Go Out and Kill Somebody?

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Does Playing Grand Theft Auto Mean You Will Go Out and Kill Somebody?     

Jim Windell

            It’s long been thought that exposure to violence in the media has an effect on behavior. There is considerable research that finds an association between watching violence and tendencies to be more aggressive and, indeed, more violent.

            Some researchers even go so far as suggesting that the interactive nature of violent video games makes them rehearsals for violent behavior. That, a few researchers have contended, is most likely true for individuals who are already predisposed to violence.

           In general, it might be said that results are mixed regarding any statistically significant associations between either criminality or more general aggression and violent video game playing. However, a great many studies seem to point toward positive relationships.

           When it comes to the effect of watching violence and the effect on behavior, much of the research in the past 50 years is laboratory research. But what about real life. Does playing a video game, such as Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto, actually translate into violent behavior?          

           That’s what a researcher at City, University London wanted to find out.

           Dr. Agne Suziedelyte, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at City, University of London, used econometric methods that identify plausibly causal effects of violent video games on violence, rather than only associations. She focused on boys aged 8-18 years – the group most likely to play violent video games. Using data from the U.S., Dr Suziedelyte examined the effects of violent video games on two types of violence: aggression against other people and destruction of things/property.

           The study was recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

           The results were that Dr. Suziedelyte found no evidence that violence against other people increases after a new violent video game is released. Parents reported, however, that children were more likely to destroy things after playing violent video games.

           Commenting on the results, Suziedelyte said that: “Taken together, these results suggest that violent video games may agitate children, but this agitation does not translate into violence against other people -- which is the type of violence which we care about most.”

           She went on to say that “A likely explanation for my results is that video game playing usually takes place at home, where opportunities to engage in violence are lower. This 'incapacitation' effect is especially important for violence-prone boys who may be especially attracted to violent video games.”

           Although politicians and governments may be interested in introducing policies restricting access to violent video games, it is important to establish whether violent video games do indeed make players behave violently in the real world. This research study concludes that no real-world violence ensures following the playing of video games.

           “Therefore,” adds Dr. Suziedelyte, “policies that place restrictions on video game sales to minors are unlikely to reduce violence.”

           To read the original study article, find it with this reference:

Agne Suziedelyte. Is it only a game? Video games and violence. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2021; 188: 105 DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.05.014

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