Cognitive Daily’s Monthly version, the creatively named Cognitive Monthly, came out (for $2 on Lulu) on June 1. Unfortunately, Sci didn’t really get around to reading it until last night. But it’s well worth the read.
This month’s issue is on video games, and whether or not violent video games can contribute to violence in children and adolescents. Their conclusion: maaaaaaaybe.
Sci will admit that she doesn’t have a lot of exposure to video games. They weren’t allowed in the house when I was a kid, and so, by the time I was old enough to play them with friends, I was woefully behind in the motor skills necessary, and was no kind of competition. Portal made me motion sick (though it was totally cool otherwise). So I’m coming at this entirely on the outside.
The Mungers are in fine form (as always) with their coverage of whether or not video gaming can increase violent behaviors, or whether it also might have educational benefits. This issue of Cognitive Monthly is especially personal, and the Mungers have kids, and those kids, of course, play video games. Their personal experiences with kids and gaming help give them article a personal touch.
People are exposed to many violent sights these days, on TV, in video games, and in the news. Exposure to graphic violence sends our heart rates shooting up, and makes us sweat, indications of the activation of fight-or-flight responses. However, over time, as we are exposed to more and more violent sites, we will grow tolerant, and our physiological responses will decrease. But that doesn’t indicate that we are more likely to go out and commit violence. For most people, the exposure to violence isn’t enough to MAKE them violent.
But for some people, who have genetic or behavioral tendencies toward violence already, exposure to violent media may tip the scales. It’s the same as with other psychological disorders: those who are predisposed toward melancholy may find that exposure to depressing events affects them more intensely than those who are more sunny in disposition.
But this doesn’t mean that exposure to video games is entirely bad, and going to turn all of our children into cold-blooded killers. In fact, educationally designed video games can have a positive effect on learning in young children, and massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) can build camaraderie and friendship among the people playing together, even though they are sitting miles away and staring at screens where they are represented by odd cow-like beasts.
But parents don’t just have the violence in video games to worry about. There’s also the potential for addiction. It’s not yet accepted in the DSM, but many young people report being addicted to video games at the expense of health, sleep, and normal social relationships (not to mention things like work). Most playing is probably ok, but there is the potential for too much. On the other hand, who are we to talk, relentlessly wielding our iPhones and checking our email 50 times an hour? Still, when these things get in the way of the performance of daily activities, it is something to worry about.
So exposure to video games isn’t entirely bad, but it’s not entirely good. Perhaps you want to keep your 6 year old away from Doom 3, but other video games, maybe not so much. The verdict? Maaaaaaaaaybe.