Does the entertainment provide to children and adults negatively affect behavior in real life? It seems this question has different answers in different times.
We’ve been told for years that exposure to video games themed on violence (war, combat, killing enemies and creatures etc) may influence violent tendencies among children later in their lives. The opinion has been divided; still parents have been advised on minimizing exposure of their children to violent video games for staying on the safe side.
More recently another study has been reported that found no link between real-life violence, or aggression, and playing video games. Bleeding Cool wrote:
The study basically concluded that it didn’t see a rise in aggressive tendencies in those who played hours of video games compared to those who played very little or none at all.
The post includes the Abstract of the cited study “Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents” to support their claim. Now far as the Abstract reads, it is apparent that the paper didn’t conclude “no link” between video games and real-life violence since the last line does mention observing “individuals in the moderate group displayed the highest levels of aggressive behavior at the final wave.”
Without reading the study in full, it won’t be possible to confidently arrive at any conclusion about what the study actually revealed and what were the merits and limitations of this study. It does provide a hint though that some level of violence was observed in one of the groups.
A related study—related being in the sense that it also falls in the entertainment field—came out in summer this year; this one is about the suspected link between pornography and sexual violence. The study “Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Can Meta-Analysis Find a Link?” was published in the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. The Abstract of the study reads:
Nonetheless, evidence did not suggest that nonviolent pornography was associated with sexual aggression.
Soon after that, the Abstract says that violent pornography was “weakly correlated with sexual aggression,” implying a weak link detected between the two after all.
It’s difficult to establish causation strongly in anything psychological and behavioral. Human behavior is influenced by so many factors interacting in a person, child or adult, as to induce a certain tendency or behavior pattern. These studies about video games and aggression in adolescents and pornography-sexual aggression link in adults can’t seriously be taken as decisive. At best, they add to the noise of opinions gathered over the decades. The common sense meter would indicate that the more fun you make something to be on the entertainment screen, the more people will fantasize about it, and there will be an increased likelihood—not necessarily but likely—of at least some of them trying to bring that fantasy into the real world. As a rule of thumb, if it looks cool on the screen, it’s worth pursuing whenever one gets a chance in real life – except that all other factors need to be ruled out.