The theory that violent video games have a way of causing violent tendencies in players is nothing new, and most players who take part in games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and other similar M-rated titles have probably heard about the supposed correlations most of all. And while there's hardly a shortage of studies that exist in an attempt to validate one side of the argument, a new study conducted by a group of German researchers employed fMRI technology and concluded that violent video games (VVG in the study) don't result in violent actions.
While choosing the participants for the study, those who were selected were required to have played games such as Call of Duty and other first-person shooters for at least four years with two hours per day played on average. After selecting their subjects, they compiled functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data while monitoring the video game-playing males that were selected. Below is an excerpt from their study that reports on some of their findings:
Long term effects were the focus of the present study, which assessed neural responses to stimuli designed to elicit empathic reactions. To rule out short term effects of VVG, users had ben abstinent for at least 3 h prior to the measurements. Contrary to our initial hypothesis of a reduced activity in empathy related brain regions in VVG users, the fMRI data did not provide evidence for a neural desensitization in the processing emotionally salient stimuli. In fact, the responses of both groups were very similar and no group differences were observed even at relaxed statistical thresholds. This lack of a group main effect and of interaction effects involving the group factor is not due to a general lack of emotional reactivity in our participants. Indeed, we found robust activations for the factor emotional content in our data set similar to those found previously in studies using the same materials.
Thus, the lack of group differences in our fMRI data does not suggest, that excessive VVG use leads to long term emotional desensitization and a blunting of neural responses related to empathy. This is corroborated by the questionnaire data which did not reveal differences between VVG users and controls for empathy and aggression measures, even though some differences emerged for measures assessing novelty seeking and antisocial personality.
As indicated in the brief part of the full report above, the researchers went into the study with a hypothesis that lower empathy levels would be detected from VVG users, a hypothesis that they found to be incorrect. They concluded their study by saying that they found plenty of evidence against their hypothesis to say that any impact that VVG had on users was pretty short-lived if present at all.