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Logan Colhoun
AP Seminar
Neurological Effects of Video Games
In recent years video games have become increasingly popular among people all over the
world. What many people recognize as the first video game, Pong, came out in 1972 and since
then, the video game industry has skyrocketed. Today we can play video games on phones,
computers, and a multitude of gaming consoles. As the popularity of video games continues to
increase people have started to question some of the effects of video games on the human brain.
One of the suggestions given by neurologists and researchers is that video games can cause
people to be more violent. This is supported by the increase in the amount of mass shootings
alongside video games. Politicians and the media have also been blaming video games for
antisocial and isolated behaviors. This issue could alter the course of a multi-billion dollar
industry and affect the safety and security of the entire population. This will also change
political policies on companies such as the ESRB and create laws that may inhibit the future
growth of video games.
Aggression and Visuospatial Cognition
The debate on whether or not video games have negative psychological effects on the
brain have reigned on in political and scientific debates since Columbine. The problem in this
particular topic is the lack of sufficient research without biases. There are also so many different
factors involved that it is very difficult to account for them in one study. This has caused a lot of
biases in the media and in various studies but a study by John Ferguson, ​The Good, the Bad, and
the Ugly: A Meta-Analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games,
eliminated biases and looked in to both the negative and positive effects of video games. For the
negatives he looked into whether or not that violent video games lead to aggressive behavior. A
total of 17 different studies were collected with a total of 3,602 participants. When all of the data
from these studies were put together they found that the r value (correlation coefficient) was
0.14. This is a weak correlation and when the data was put into a funnel plot they determined
that there was some publication bias and the value was moved down to 0.04. This value shows
that there is almost no correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior. This
same process was completed to find if video games had an impact on visuospatial cognition.
This is the cognitive process responsible for depth perception and spatial navigation. For this
they found 7 studies with a total of 384 participants. The r value for these studies was found to
be 0.49. This is a correlation to be considered to have moderate strength and after any
publication biases were removed the r was still a 0.36. This is a much stronger correlation than
was found with the aggression studies which suggests that there is no correlation between
playing video games and aggressive behavior.
Aggression and Stress
Another study done by Chritopher Ferguson, ​Violent Video Games Don’t Increase
Hostility In Teens, but They Do Stress Girls Out,​ helps support the data found in the
meta-analysis and establish a consistency in between the studies. A group of teen participants
took pre-assessments to determine their stress and hostility levels. They also surveyed them on
the amount of video games they played and what type of video games. They then had everyone
play violent video games to try and determine if there was a difference in there scores before and
after playing the video games but they found that there appeared to be no noticeable difference.
Interestingly enough they conducted the same test but with stress levels and it was found that the
stress levels of females actually increased after playing violent video games (from 30.25 to
38.63) while males stayed at about the same from (29.47 to 29.56). This finding supports the
previous data by suggesting that video games don't cause aggressive behavior but rather some
other unexpected positive and negative effects.
Affective Orientation
Another study done by Vincent Cicchirillo and Rebecca M. Chory-Assad look into the
effects of violent video games aggression and how it related to affective orientation. Affective
orientation could be defined as “the degree to which individuals are aware of and use affect cues
to guide communication” (Booth-Butterfield & Booth-Butterfield, 1990, p. 1451). In the study
they had two different groups of people; one group played violent video games and the other
played non-violent video games. They then put the two groups through different tests of
evaluating their researchers courtesy and a test on aggressive thoughts. When the testing was
complete they found that there was no difference between the two groups in the amount of
aggressive thoughts. In relation to people’s affective orientation the people with a higher
affective orientation had more aggressive thoughts after playing violent video games than the
people with a lower affective orientation. Their hypothesis is that people with a higher affective
orientation had more of an emotional response to the video games and therefore retained more of
the violent action of video games with them. This may give us an answer as to why research on
this topic in the past has been so inconsistent because violent video games have different effects
on each individual person.
With all of the research that has been done we have reached a few hypotheses on why the
research on this topic has been so inconsistent and what we can do to further our knowledge.
From this research we learned that there is a correlation between people's affective orientation
and the effects that video games have on them. This is a big find and may help us find more
reliable data. The research also showed us that the findings for aggression may still be uncertain
but there was solid evidence of increased visuospatial cognition. This finding shows us how
biases in the media have shed light on all of the proposed negative consequences and not the
positives. The future of this research needs to be focused on how videogames can be used for
good from its positive effects instead of being scrutinized for the uncertain cause of aggression.
Work Cited:
Bulik, Beth Synder. ​Despite Recession, video game industry shows massive growth.
Advertising Age, Vol. 79 Issue 20, p6-6, 5/19/2008.
Mark Follman. ​US Mass Shootings, 1982-2019: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation. M
​ other
Jones, Gavin Aronsen and Deanna Pan, August 31, 2019.
Christopher, Ferguson. ​The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Meta-Analytic Review of Positive
and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games. ​Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol. 78 Issue 4,
pg309-316, December 2007.
Cicchirillo, Vincent. ​Effects of Affective Orientation and Video Game Play on Aggressive
Thoughts and Behavior. J​ ournal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Rebecca M.
Chory-Assad, Vol.49 Issue 4, pg435-449, December 2005.
Crystal L. Byrd. ​Television Consumption and Affective Orientation. ​ A Thesis Presented to The
Graduate Faculty of The University of Akron, May, 2006.
Ankay Yilbas, Aysun, Ozgur Canbay, Basak Akca, Filiz Uzumcugil, Asli Melek, Mert Calis, and
İbrahim Vargel. 2019. “The Effect of Playing Video Games on Fiberoptic Intubation
Skills.” ​Anaesthesia Critical Care & Pain Medicine​ 38 (4): 341–45.
Clemente, Miguel. ​The Media and Violent Behavior in Young People: Effects of the Media on
Antisocial Aggressive Behavior in a Spanish Sample. ​Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, Espinoso, Pablo, Vidal, MiguelAngel, Vol. 38 Issue 10, pg. 2395-2409,
October 2008.