Psychological Effects of Violent
Video Games on Adolescents
Table of Contents
Background Information
Social Performance
Length of Time Played
Social Learning Theory
Operant Conditioning
Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research
Specialist of Pew Internet and
American Life Project:
• Video games are found in 80% of
homes with children 8-16 years old
• 87% of adolescents age 12-17 play
video games
Professor Jeanne B. Funk, Ph.D. in
• 1993 study found that 88% of boys and
64% of girls play video games (min. 1
• 29% of boys play 3-6 hours a week
Tracy L. Dietz, Ph.D. and head of
the Department of Sociology and
Anthropology at Central Florida
• Analyzed 33 best-selling video
games in 1998
• 79% contained violence
• 23.8% on average had high
Professor Jeanne B. Funk, Ph.D. in
rates of killing; at least
Psychology: 1993 study
every minute
Human Violence (17%)
Fantasy Violence (31.9%)
Social Performance
David A. Gentile, head of the Media Research Lab
at Iowa State University:
• Increase in aggressive behavior, aggressive
emotions, aggressive cognitions and
psychological stimulations
• Symptoms can linger up to 24 hours
• Direct association with increase physical
altercation/verbal quarrels
Craig Anderson, recipient of a Ph.D. in Psychology
from Stanford University and B.J. Bushman, Ph.D. in
Psychology from the University of Missouri:
• Increase in aggressive behavior, aggressive
emotions, aggressive cognitions, psychological
• Decrease in helping behavior
Social Performance
Am I at risk to negative social performance
from violent video games?
Anderson & Bushman:
• Aggressive behavior & aggressive
cognition +.2 effect size
• Aggressive emotions & psychological
arousal +.175 effect size
• Helping behavior -.27 effect size
What does that even mean?
• Comparable to effect sizes of
experiencing second hand smoke at
work and contracting lung cancer
Length of Time Played
What if I play longer than my friends do?
John L. Sherry, Professor of Communications
at Michigan State University: 2006 Study
• Longer play time has no correlation to
heightened changes in aggression
• “Overall, this analysis suggests that there is
a correlation between violent video game
play and aggression.”
Social Learning Theory
So how does the Social
Learning Theory fit in with
playing video games?
Albert Bandura, 1977
“The ability of learning is highly dependent
upon one’s observation of social interactions
and behaviors of others.”
Learning also occurs through the
observation of rewards and
Operant Conditioning
So I understand how the social learning
theory applies to video games, but what
about operant conditioning?
Operant Conditioning: An individual’s
behavior is modified by its antecedents and
Reinforcement – Increase Behavior
Punishment – Decrease Behavior
Positive: Add appetitive stimulus
Giving a dog a bone
Positive: Add noxious stimulus
Spanking a child
Negative: Remove noxious stimulus
Turning off alarm clock
Negative: Remove appetitive stimulus
Taking away a child’s toy
Video games are ubiquitous;
the majority of video games
played contain violence
They are played for multiple
hours per week
Pose negative threats:
Increasing aggressive behavior,
cognition, emotions and psychological
Decrease helping behaviors
Operant Conditioning & Social Learning
The brains of young adolescents are extremely
malleable, reinforcement from violent video
games will increase these behaviors

Psychological Effects of Violent Video Games on Adolescents