04:12pm Saturday 19 August 2017

Young teenagers playing violent video games become accustomed to violence

The study examined how prior gaming habits affect psychophysiological reactions among young teenagers (13-15 years old) when playing violent video games.

“Those with little experience of playing violent games had stronger activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This suggests that there is a blunting, both physiologically and emotionally, among those who play a lot of violent games,” says Malena Ivarsson, PhD student at the Department of Psychology and the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University.

Half of the thirty boys who participated in the study were used to playing violent video games at least three hours per day. The other half had low exposure, playing no more than one hour per day. During the study, all the boys played video games at home for two hours on two occasions – a nonviolent cartoon game on the first occasion and, on the second, a violent game. During the gaming and the subsequent night, the boys’ heart rate and heart rate variability (variation in the interval between heartbeats) were measured. The boys also answered a questionnaire on sleep quality and emotions after the game.

The violent game elicited significantly higher levels of stress at bedtime among both groups, as compared to the nonviolent game.

“The most significant difference appeared during sleep. Boys in the low-exposure group had faster heart rates the night after playing the violent game, compared to the night after playing the nonviolent game. This group also reported that they had slept poorly and felt more depressed after playing the violent game,” says Malena Ivarsson.

For more information
Malena Ivarsson, PhD student at the Department of Psychology and the Stress Research Institute, mobile: +46 (0)737 07 89 09, email: malena.ivarsson@stressforskning.su.se


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