Critical Evaluation of the Research Findings about the Impact of Violent Games on the Aggressiveness of Children and Adolescents
The advent of technology and its subsequent global uptake has led to the proliferation of video games as a large entertainment platform for most enthusiasts. This phenomenon may be denoted by the growth in the video gaming industry where it is estimated that the top three markets that are, the U.K, U.S, and Japan spent nearly 1.3 billion each in the leisure software and entertainment products (Dyer-Witheford & De Peuter, 2009). Morphing of these virtual games from seemingly simple versions to more complex ideologies that mimic real life events has culminated in the genesis of violent games, which are more appealing due to the stimulation of the adrenaline rush while playing. Over time, this has led to the longstanding media debate of the correlation factors between aggressiveness and violent video games. As a result, numerous experimental reviews have been conducted to illustrate the link between playing violent video games and the following onset of aggressive behavior. Most studies carried out by scholars have focused on divulging information on the prolonged effects of exposure to violent games. On the other hand, researchers have employed the use of a theoretical framework most notably the General Aggression Model (GAM) where different assumptions are tested. Consequently, this essay focuses on offering a critical assessment of the research findings in regards to the relationship between aggressiveness and engagement in violent video games.
Correlation of Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents
Psychosocial Correlation Factors
Research indicates that young adults often experience an augmentation in internal conflicts and aggressive behavior owing to the struggles with unique emotional and social challenges that are prevalent during this phase of life. This process may be denoted by the need for adjustment due to spontaneous maturation and physical growth including the development of sexual urges. Additionally, adolescents are faced with social-emotional and cognitive challenges as a result of alterations regarding psychological relationships with their peers and parents. This duration is also characterized by the propagation depressive and negative moods, which may be coupled with aspects impulsivity. According to Steinberg (2001), the probable cause of increased aggressive behavior during adolescence may be attributed to the increase in negative emotions, which stimulates an aggressive response in provocative situations. Depressed individuals of those who have a high temperament may interpret provocation as coming from a hostile intent even though no harm was intended. On the other hand, Kirsh & Olczak (2000) argue that mood-congruent intelligence indicates that individuals who possess negative moods are more likely to recall information that contains negative connotations, unlike information that is positively valenced. As a result, these findings propose the notions that depression and negative effect, which are characteristically common amongst adolescents, may culminate in the inclination towards socially prejudiced information, which in turn leads increased likelihood of acting aggressively.
Biological Correlation Factors
Aside from psychosocial factors, biological changes, which comprise of both cortical and hormonal alterations, create an influence on the aggressive behavior of individuals. According to Spear (2000), the period of adolescence is marked with amplified levels of adrenarche (adrenaline hormones) and gonadarche (gonadal hormones). These biological chemicals have been determined to have a direct effect on aggressive behavior as evidenced by experimental studies. According to Svare (2013), these surveys illustrate that the administration of gonadal steroids on hormonal deficient individuals results in increased aggressive impulses and physical hostility. Research demonstrates that between the ages 7-16 years structural growth occurs in the brain where an individual loses nearly half of their prepubertal neocortical synapses. According to Forbes & Dahl (2010), the synaptic pruning is perceived as an appropriate way of enhancing the functioning of the prefrontal cortical which aids in the scrutiny of situations before making a sound judgment. According to Peper, & Dahl (2013), the presence of gonadal hormones more specifically testosterone has been associated with the bulging in size of the amygdala which is a limbic structure that is responsible for the regulations of emotions such as anger and fear. Additionally, the levels of testosterone tend to be higher in boys and girls and perhaps this offers an explanation as to why male adolescents are exceedingly aggressive than their female counterparts.
Playing Violent Video Games as a Function of Development
Contemporary research indicates that the adolescent phase is marked with increased frequency in the engagement in playing violent video games. During this developmental period, they respond to aggravation with lots of hostility, which ultimately leads to the engagement in seemingly competitive gaming arenas. According to research carried out by Olson, Kutner & Warner (2008), adolescents become more aggressive they are intrigued with activities that involve aggression hence the urge to play violent video games. Longitudinal studies show that highly aggressive adolescent boys prefer violent media than the less aggressive lads. Subsequently, one may conclude that as biological and psychosocial factors spur aggressive predispositions to violent activities. According to Olson (2010), the action-oriented nature of violent media creates higher levels of arousal and in the long run one gets accustomed to violent imagery. Current research indicates that individuals who have a high affinity towards being hostile have increased levels of epinephrine including increased heart rates and blood pressure, which occurs simultaneously as a consequence of playing video games that are violent. Accordingly, research indicates that physical arousal is a result of violent video games and as such, it assists in offering the partial explanation concerning attraction towards sensation producing activities though more research is required in this area.
Theoretical Evaluation of Aggressive Behavior
The GAM proposes a connection between the exposure of a situational component such as violent media and the outcome of a component such as aggression, which is reconciled by an individuals arousal and cognition. Additionally, the GAM has an exceptional facet as a module of aggression since it digresses from the assumptions that human beings ought to be treated as a blank slate before their exposure to violence-laced content in the form of entertainment (Uhlmann & Swanson, 2004). On the contrary, GAM holds that not all people would respond or be affected when they are exposed to intense stimuli. In this theory, aggressive behavior is predicted by placing an individual in a certain predicament whereby the stable temperaments might alter how one reacts to a hostile surrounding. For instance, recent studies into the working mechanisms of GAM assisted in the earmarking of characteristics of anger as the causal role of aggression. According to Gentile et al. (2004), one of the reasons is the fact that violence acts as an instigator of aggressive acts while also priming belligerent thoughts, which construe equivocal situations as being hostile. Furthermore, Sandler & Alpert (2000) argue that anger has been known to energize behavior in the sense that the increment in the arousal levels of a person may culminate in aggression if sufficient provocation is inflicted. Anger has also been known to be a trigger that focuses ones attention towards aggressive information.
Anderson & Bushman (2002) tested the presumption under the GAM model where they evaluated whether the temperamental attribute of anger mediated upon the relationship between ferocious virtual games and the supposed aggression. A sum of 167 participants whose demography comprised of 88 males and 79 females participated in an anger measurement exercise after being randomly ascribed to play either non-violent or games which had lessened forms of violence. After playing the games on a console for a specified duration, the participants were requested to complete equivocal story structures in a bid to evaluate for aggression. The above study arrived at the conclusion that violent media had caused a significant impact on the behavioral outcomes of individuals both in the near future and in the long-term as well. This may be attributed to the fact that violent games evoke aggressive emotions and behavioral patterns, which may culminate in maladaptation to anti-social tendencies. Moreover, the findings indicated that anger moderates the correspondence between aggression and contact with violent video games According to Anderson et al. 2010, the underlying hypothesis that participant who was subjected to violent games would respond to the ambiguous story aggressively was proven to be true. The second hypothesis, which denoted that angry video gamer would react to the story stems in a hostile manner, was also proven to be true. In essence, these findings have been found to be consistent with the paradigms of the GAM which illustrates that antagonistic conduct can be projected through the considerations of an individuals characteristics (anger) and his general surrounding ( an act of playing violent video games).
Another study employed the use of valence test stimuli, which sought to provide vital material on the expected emotional reaction based on virtual violence and the related frameworks. The study incorporated the considerations under the GAM, which stipulated that common adverse reactions are the ultimately expected response to violence (Moller, & Krahe, 2009). Conversely, participation in violent video games may also be as engaging in playful fighting behavior with no expectations of adverse effects. According to Ferguson (2007), similar longitudinal studies have assigned their participants randomly to play either highly aggressive games or the non-violent type and later subject them to a lexical decision making examination, which comprises of aggressive, negative, neutral, and positive target words. Conclusively, the data obtained indicates that although pro-violence video games are bound to elicit aggressive outcomes, positive conceptualizations were also retrieved independently of the participants account of playing games laced with violence
Violent Video Games and Delinquency
The premises under which media violence may be perceived to perpetuate conditions under which social violence may thrive is based on the assumption that an aura of hostility is always created. When children are raised in such an environment, their general perceptions are more likely to be laced with aggressive connotations as this would be regarded as the norm in such a society. Moreover, psychological mechanisms that have been recognized by different theories such as desensitization, general arousal, social learning and belief cultivation assist in the explication of aggressiveness on an individual level although information is scanty on a wider scale. According to Fischer et al. (2012), the general ideology is that exposure to violent video games bears a significant contribution the complacency in an atmosphere pervaded by social violence. In the long run, children develop a sense of tolerance insofar as violence is concerned where they become more comfortable with its presence in society and utilize it as a resolve for social problems on a personal level.
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