Could video games make you KINDER? study claims violent gameplay makes people more moral

Despite claims made earlier this year that video games leave players morally immature, new research suggests the activity actually boosts morality.

During tests, participants were asked to play violent video games that involved breaking moral codes, such as causing harm to others.

Those who hurt a virtual character, or made them suffer an injustice in the game, were found to be more emotionally affected than those who didn’t.

The study was led by Dr Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Communication.

‘Rather than leading players to become less moral,’ Grizzard said, ‘This research suggests that violent video gameplay may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity.

‘This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behaviour that benefits others.’

A total of 185 participants were randomly assigned roles and asked to play a shooter game either as a terrorist or as a UN soldier.

They were also asked to recall a real-life event that induced guilt, and one that didn’t.

After playing the video game, and recalling the memories, participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess how important the five moral domains are to them.

These included care and harm, fairness and reciprocity, in-group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity and sanctity.

The study found significant positive correlations between video game guilt, and the moral foundations violated during gameplay.

‘We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated,’ Grizzard continued.

In particular, those of care and harm – marked by cruelty, abuse and lack of compassion in the game – and fairness and reciprocity, marked by the injustice or the denial of the rights of others.

For instance, a player who plays a violent game ‘as a terrorist’ would likely consider his avatar’s behaviour unjust and violent, and this violates the fairness and reciprocity, and harm and care domains.

‘Our findings suggest that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations upon which human beings make moral judgments,’ Grizzard added.

‘This is particularly relevant for video-game play, where habitual engagement with that media is the norm for a small, but considerably important group of users.’

The study, Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive, was published in the the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

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