EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AGGRESSIVE COGNITION, AGGRESSIVE AFFECT, PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL, AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature By Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman
Iowa State University Research on exposure to television and movie violence suggests that playing violent video games will increase aggressive behavior. A metaanalytic review of the video-game research literature reveals that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults. Experimental and nonexperimental studies with males and females in laboratory and ﬁeld settings support this conclusion. Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases prosocial behavior.
Paducah, Kentucky. Jonesboro, Arkansas. Littleton, Colorado. These three towns recently experienced similar multiple school shootings. The shooters were students who habitually played violent video games. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School students who murdered 13 people and wounded 23 in Littleton, before killing themselves, enjoyed playing the bloody video game Doom. Harris created a customized version of Doom with two shooters, extra weapons, unlimited ammunition, and victims who could not ﬁght back—features that are eerily similar to aspects of the actual shootings.
The one positive result of these tragedies is the attention brought to the growing problem of video-game violence, from the newsroom to the U.S. Senate (2000). At a Commerce Committee hearing, several researchers testiﬁed that there are indeed valid reasons, both theoretical and empirical, to be concerned about exposing youths to violent video games (Anderson, 2000). Video-game industry leaders deny the harmful effects of their products. For example, in a May 12, 2000, CNN interview on The World Today, Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, said, “I think the issue has been vastly overblown and overstated, often by politicians and others who don’t fully understand, frankly, this industry. There is absolutely no evidence, none, that playing a violent video game leads to aggressive behavior.” There is one grain of truth in the industry’s denials. Speciﬁcally, the fact that some highly publicized school killings were committed by individuals who habitually played violent video games is not strong evidence that violent video games increase aggression. Society needs solid scientiﬁc evidence in addition to such case studies. And here is where media researchers and the video-game industry differ. Research evidence has been slowly accumulating since the mid-1980s. This article reviews the research. DEFINITIONS Key terms used by the research community often mean something different to the general public and public policyCopyright © 2001 American Psychological Society
The authors contributed equally to this article. Address correspondence to either author at Iowa State University, Department of Psychology, W112 Lagomarcino Hall, Ames, IA 50011-3180; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or bushman@ iastate.edu. Questions about speciﬁc aspects of the meta-analyses should be addressed to Brad J. Bushman. VOL. 12, NO. 5, SEPTEMBER 2001
Meta-Analytic Review of Video-Game Violence makers. In this article, we use the following, more precise, meanings common to media-violence researchers. Violent Media Violent media are those that depict intentional attempts by individuals to inﬂict harm on others. An “individual” can be a nonhuman cartoon character, a real person, or anything in between. Thus, traditional Saturday-morning cartoons (e.g., “Mighty Mouse,” “Road Runner”) are ﬁlled with violence. Aggression Aggression is behavior intended to harm another individual who is motivated to avoid that harm....