Gamers not desensitised by violent video games

The recent row over video game Bulletstorm has resurrected the age-old debate over whether violent video games desensitise players to real-life violence.

A recent study carried out by psychology PhD candidate Holly Bowen seems to show that 'chronic exposure' to violent video games has little or no long-term effect on emotional memory.

In fact, the study discovered that people who played the kind of video games the which Fox News and the Daily Mail like to tell us are responsible for all of society's ills have exactly the opposite effect.

"Emotional long-term memory helps us avoid negative situations," Bowen said in the study. "This has significant implications for public health. For example, if you remember the negative experience of being involved in a bar fight, you will avoid future situations that may lead to an altercation."

The study involved 122 mixed-gender undergraduate students, 45 of whom were gamers with the remainder having no gaming experience at all.

They were shown 150 negative, positive and neutral images and an hour later shown the same material but mixed in with an added 150 'distractor' images in random order.

The students were asked whether or not they had seen each image before.

Previous studies suggested that those who had regularly played violent video games would be less sensitive to the nasty images and would have a reduced memory of them.

In fact the results showed absolutely no difference between the gamers and non-gamers and no differences in self-reported emotional stimuli.

"The findings indicate that long-term emotional memory is not affected by chronic exposure to violent video games," said Bowen.

Bowen and colleagues will be carrying out further studies into the effects of violent video games on young children.