To My Senior Thesis

Title:  The Role of Video Games in their Contributions Toward Violence and Aggression.

Last Name:  Williams

First Name:  Holly

YOG:  2000

Key Words:  Video Games, computer games, arousal, general arousal, violence, and aggression

Instrument:  Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory, (Arnold Buss & Ann Durkee), Davicon Medac System/3, and bias survey

Abstract:  The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of violent video games on aggressive prone individuals.  This study monitored arousal through skin conductance levels (EDA) and EMG response while the participants played an aggressive video game (James Bond 007) and non aggressive game (Tetris).  The study investigated whether high scores on The Buss Durkee Hostility Inventory would indicate high skin conductance levels while playing an aggressive video game.  Subjects included thirty college students (13 males, 17 females), whose aggression levels were determined by a Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory.  Of the thirty participants, fourteen (7 males, 7 females) were asked to play the video games.  The results of the ANOVA suggest significance for physiological arousal, which means that there was a difference between the baselines and intervention trials.  There was no significance found between physiological arousal, gender, and order of playing games and aggression levels in individuals before playing the video games.  These data suggest that all video games produce some arousal in individuals regardless of gender or level of aggressive nature in an individual.  This analysis has shown that when individuals play video games, they become physiologically aroused.  Investigating the clinical aspect of arousal compared to the statistical analysis could be discussed in future studies.  Statistically, the numbers may not show a major effect for measuring arousal, but there may be significance in the actual behavior of an individual.


Results:  The experiment was designed to determine if aggressive prone males and females would respond to aggressive video games with heightened physiological arousal.  Seven females and seven males were asked to participate in the video game part of the study.  The independent variables in the study were the video games:  James Bond 007 and Tetris.  Physiological arousal was recorded in three areas:  EMG, SCL and SCR.  Electromuscular response (EMG) was recorded in each individual along with EDA measurements.  Electrodermal response (EDA) measured skin conductance in people and was known to elevate with arousal.  Two components of EDA are skin conductance level (SCL) and skin conductance response (SCR) which work together to record the skin conductance.

    A 2 X 4 repeated ANOVA with aggression as a between subjects factor and physiological arousal as a within subjects factor. The statistical means were taken fro SCL, SCR and EMG in response to physiological arousal during baseline one, intervention one, baseline two and intervention two.  SCL response means shows a significant increase in scores between baseline one and intervention one.  Then, the scores fall from intervention one to baseline two.  The scores then rise again after baseline two into intervention one.  SCR has a similar pattern to SCL in which people had an increase in arousal between the baselines and interventions.  EMG response, which was very dramatic between baselines and interventions starting at a very low baseline one and increasing into intervention one.  Then, during baseline two, the scores fell with an increase during intervention two.

    Statistical means were calculated for each participant at 30 second intervals.  There were 10 intervals during each baseline and 20 intervals during each intervention.  In total, 60 data points were calculated and the means were graphed.  For example, SCL arousal shows a significant change between baseline and intervention levels.  The baselines show less arousal than the interventions.  SCR reveals the same pattern of a low baseline and high intervention, but the difference is not as great as SCL.  EMG arousal has a significant change between baselines and interventions.  EMG had a low baseline one with increasing scores at intervention one.  Then, the scores dropped at intervention two and rose again during intervention two.

    The ANOVA revealed main effects for SCL F (3,36)=4.119, p<0.01; SCR F (3,36)=5.856, p<0.02; EMG F (3,36)=12.962, p <0.01; Aggression level for SCL F (1,12)=0.909, p>0.359; Aggression level for SCR F (1,12)=0.668, p>0.430; Aggression level for SCL F (1,12)=0.909, p>0.359.  Gender and order of video game play did not have  main effect on arousal.

    Interactions were revealed for SCL X Aggression levels F (3,36)=2.223, p>0.102; SCR X Aggression levels F (3,36)=0.640, p>0.594; EMG X Aggression levels F (3,36)=0.064, p>0.978.  According to the ANOVA, there was significance at the 0.05 level for physiological arousal using SCL, SCR and EMG measures.  Gender, the order of video game play and the level of aggression in individuals were not significant at the 0.05 level.  People did become aroused during the intervention period and relaxed during baseline, but gender, the type of video game played and aggression levels of individuals were not significant factors for arousal.


Discussion:  The analysis has shown that violent content in video games does not enhance aggressive behavior in individuals.  In fact, people can become aroused when something is not violent at all.  In this experiment, the Tetris game produced arousal just as the James Bond 007 game.  Past literature revealed that people became aroused during a simple Ms. PAC Man video game which was challenging, but not highly aggressive (Dorman, 1997).  Similar results were seen in the Tetris game. The results of the ANOVA revealed significance for physiological aroused indicating that there was an increase during interventions and a decrease in baselines.  There was not any significance between physiological arousal and gender, level of aggression and order of video game presentation.  The significant part of this study tells us that people either male or female will become aroused if they play a violent or non-violent video game.  Gender did not have an impact on physiological arousal and neither did the order of playing the video games.
    Theories have tried to explain the phenomenon behind aggressive behavior.  The following experiment focused on General arousal theory, which explains the physiological arousal of individuals when faced with a stressful or highly active situation.  Other theories such as Deutsch's theory of competition, hostile attribution bias, Bandura's modeling theory, and cognitive theories have also tried to explain the reasoning behind aggressive behavior.
    In the future, it would be interesting to measure heart rate as an indicator for arousal and see if it influences aggressive behavior.  It would also be interesting to compare children and adolescents to see which age group would have greater physiological arousal while playing video games.  To take a step further, children should be asked to try out the new virtual reality video games that have been recently released on the market.  The virtual reality games are three dimensional computer  simulated scenarios where a person can look, move around in, and experience an imaginary world (Calvert & Tan, 1994). Once the game was over, the children would be allowed to play with the other children while they were observed for aggressive behavior.
    The results of the following study suggest that video game arousal does not have a negative effect on male and female students.  This will help the marketing of video games in the future because video games are not influential on people's behavior.  Perhaps, the interventions should have lasted for 20 minutes  instead of 10, which would have given individuals more time to become aroused.  In addition, the sampling pool was biased because participants were Caucasian and from a small liberal arts school in New England.  The results may have been different in the inner city where violence is more of an everyday affair.  Also, during the experiment, two people had the EMG sensor fall off of their forehead during the first intervention part of the study.  An average number of means was calculated to receive their level of arousal during intervention.  The nature of the results may have been different if the equipment had been more secure.
    It was interesting that aggressive people and non aggressive people become aroused at violent and non-violent video games.  These findings are useful for further research because researchers can look at the reasoning behind the arousal and why this arousal does not result in aggressive behavior.  It is good to know that video games may not promote aggression in people .  Taken a step further, television may also not have a negative effect on people.  This could be positive news for future consumers and  marketing of visual games.

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