Does playing video games with violent content temporarily increase aggressive behavior? A pre-registered experimental study (McCarthy et al., 2015)
The current study tested whether participants who played a violent video game (VVG) would exhibit increased aggressive inclinations relative to those who played a non-violent video game (NVG). Participants (N = 386) were randomly assigned to play a VVG or a NVG prior to presumably interacting with another (non-existent) participant. We then measured participants' aggressive inclinations: Participants reported how many pins they would like to stick into a “voodoo doll” representing their interaction partner, and participants reported how likely they would be to actually harm their interaction partner. We did not detect any differences between conditions for several outcomes: the amount of aggressive inclinations displayed during the interaction, the number of pins participants chose to stick into a representation of their interaction partner, and participants' self-reported likelihood they would harm their interaction partner. Thus, the hypothesis that playing a VVG would increase aggressive inclinations was not supported in this study. Exploratory analyses revealed associations between (1) participants' self-reported likelihood to aggress and perceptions of the game as frustrating or difficult, (2) gender and higher levels of pin selection, and (3) participants' self-identification as a gamer and lower levels of pin selection.