Thrill Of Crime Linked To Violent Games
March 12, 2013

Frustrated Desire For Crime Linked To Violent Video Games

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Do you enjoy the rush you get from a night spent carjacking playing the latest Grand Theft Auto game? Well, a new study suggests that the thrills you get from that game could be due to the frustrations of being denied the chance to commit real crimes.

A report from Ohio State researchers appeared recently in the journal Psychological Science suggesting that people who are frustrated in their attempts to cheat or steal are more likely to be attracted to violent video games.

"We made new discoveries in what makes people frustrated and aggressive, but also what people do when they're feeling this frustration," said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. "Our results help us understand why people are attracted to violent entertainment in the first place — they feel they can take out their frustration virtually."

For the study, the team asked 120 male college students to complete a multiple-choice history exam in 30 minutes. Half of the participants were given the opportunity to cheat in the exam and half of these participants had the chance withdrawn from them.

They found that students who had the chance to cheat withdrawn from them were more attracted to the violent video games than those in the other two groups who either never had the chance to cheat or had the chance to cheat the entire time. Both groups who either could not cheat or could cheat the entire time did not differ in their attraction to violent video games.

Bushman said that none of the students admitted to cheating or having the chance to cheat even though they did cheat. The students who were denied the chance to cheat had different preferences than the other participants when it came to their video game choices.

"Because violent video games permit aggression, they may be especially attractive to people who experience frustration," he said. "We believe students felt frustrated when they didn't get a chance to cheat on the test."

Researchers set up another experiment for the study, giving students the opportunity to steal coins. Similar scenarios were set up as the first study, taking away the opportunity for some students to steal coins while leaving the door wide open for the other students to take the money.

After the second experiment, students were asked to fill out a "mood" form, where they were asked to rate on a scale of one to five how much frustration they felt afterwards. Students who had the chance to steal did so on an average of about 75 percent of the time, depending on their level of access. Those who had the chance to steal withdrawn from them showed higher-than-average levels of frustration than the other groups. This group was also found to being more attracted to violent video games afterwards.

"The prevention of taboo behaviors like stealing produces frustration, just as does the prevention of more desirable goals," Bushman said. "This is a new finding that adds to our understanding of what causes frustration and aggression."

Bushman noted that many people today believe that violent games are a kind of catharsis that allows them to vent or alleviate frustration or feelings of aggression. However, he points, "research findings suggest this isn't true, but that's part of the appeal to many people."

Last year, Bushman conducted another study looking at how violent video games are linked with aggression. This study was the first to prove experimental evidence that this aggression accumulates with time — rather than being alleviated — potentially leading to long-term effects.

“It´s important to know the long-term causal effects of violent video games, because so many young people regularly play these games,” explained Bushman in a statement.

During this study, the team also found that students who played the violent video games acted more defensive and responded with more aggression than their counterparts.