A gamer playing a first person shooter game must make decisions quickly. Fast-paced decision making boosts the playerâ€™s visual skills, but new research shows it also reduces the gamerâ€™s ability to inhibit impulsive behavior. This reduction of â€śproactive executive controlâ€ť is another way violent video games can increase aggressive behavior.
Links to attention deficits and aggression
â€śWe believe that any game that requires the same type of rapid responding as in most first-person shooters may produce similar effects on proactive executive control, regardless of violent content,â€ť explained Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University. â€śHowever, this is quite speculative,â€ť he warns. Even so, there is a growing body of research that links violent video games to attention-related problems and to aggression.
Proactive and reactive impulse control
Aggressive impulse control is partly dependent on good executive control capacity. Two types of cognitive control play a role: proactive and reactive. â€śProactive cognitive control involves keeping information active in short-term memory for use in later judgments, a kind of task preparation,â€ť Anderson said. â€śReactive control is more of a just-in-time type of decision resolution.â€ť Video games seem to reduce proactive cognitive control.
Study shows decrease in in proactive control
In one of Andersons studies they asked infrequent players to play fast-paced and violent video games and a second group to play slow-paced game over 11 weeks. They found marked decreased in proactive cognitive control among those who played the fast-paced games compare to the slow-paced gamers. At the same time, they did find increases in visual attentions skills of the fast-paced players.
And decreases in attention
In another study, they assessed the TV and video game habits of 422 people to find links between screen time and attention-related problems. They found total media exposure and violent media exposure both contributed directly to attention problems.
Fast response games reinforce automatic action, often aggressive
â€śImpulsive aggression, by definition, is aggressive behavior that occurs automatically, or almost automatically, without evidence of any inhibition or thought about whether it should be carried out,â€ť Anderson explained. There were significant links between both types of aggression and attention problems. â€śThis is theoretically consistent with the idea that attention problems interfere with peopleâ€™s ability to inhibit inappropriate impulsive behavior.â€ť
Source: MedicalNewsToday, American Psychological Association symposium