Playing the same violent video game repeatedly reduces emotional responses — like guilt — not only to the original game, but to other violent video games as well, finds a new study.
Principal investigator Matthew Grizzard from the University of Buffalo said the reason why this happens remains a mystery.
Gamers often claim that their actions in a video game are as meaningless to the real world as players capturing pawns on a chess board. Yet, previous research by Grizzard and others shows that immoral virtual actions can elicit higher levels of guilt than moral virtual actions.
The study findings, published recently in the journal Media Psychology, seems to contradict claims that virtual actions are completely divorced from the real world.
Grizzard’s team wanted to replicate their earlier research and determine whether gamers’ claims that their virtual actions are meaningless actually reflects desensitisation processes.
Although the findings of his study suggest that desensitisation occurs, mechanisms underlying these findings are not entirely clear.
Grizzard said his future research is working toward answering these questions.
“This study is part of an overarching framework that I’ve been looking at in terms of the extent to which media can elicit moral emotions, like guilt, disgust and anger,” he said.