Study suggests gamers aren't desensitised by violent games

Space Marine - bloody splat

The results of a psychological study has suggested that people who play violent games aren't any more desensitised to violent images than those who don't play games. The research, published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal, tested participants' ability to remember violent images, and found that there was no difference in results between those who do and don't play.

As Gamasutra reports, the study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, and tested participants' ability to remember violent images. The theory goes that people used to regularly seeing violent scenes will be less likely to remember them.

Volunteers were separated into two groups: those who had played games in the last 6 months, and those who hadn't. They were then shown 150 images, including a few disturbing and violent ones. They were then asked to identify the same pictures an hour later. No difference in recall was observed between the two groups.

The two groups were asked to subjectively rate their own reactions to each image. There was no difference in response there either. One of the researchers noted that the study had used a relatively small group, but said that their findings were "another piece of the puzzle [suggesting] video games aren't having long-term effects on cognition and memory."

Hunter College associate professor of Psychology Tracy Dennis commented on the findings saying that "while this is an important study, what they're asking people to remember isn't necessarily linked to video game memories, so I think it's important to draw only moderate conclusions." Still, it's interesting to see serious studies being carried out into the effects of videogames, and nice to hear some sensible research in the light of the recent Fox News Bulletstorm controversy .

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.