Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Is It Real or Is It "Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror?"

The Neurocritic did not find any new media coverage for the topic of Sunday's posting on Quotidian Virtual Violence. Two speculations on the lack of media hoopla were (1) no press releases from the journal (Human Brain Mapping) or the authors' institutions (Aachen University and Michigan State); and (2) moderating comments in the article's Discussion,
One might speculate that a frequent training of aggressive neuronal pattern leads to the development of aggressive problem-solving scripts, hostile attribution biases, and normative beliefs approving of aggression as stated by social-cognitive theory [Bandura, 2001]. This proposition with its important implications, however, is not a direct conclusion of this study's findings.
and Conclusion,
Although we observed patterns of suppressed affective structures induced by virtual violent interactions, the current experiment does not prove whether the rehearsal of such a mechanism can promote aggressive behavior in real life.
Well, despite the fact that the journal article was received by HBM on 29 August 2005 and accepted 13 December 2005, it was featured in NewScientist.com on 23 June 2005. So old news after all!
Do games prime brain for violence?

YOU know that just round the corner is a man who wants to kill you. Your heart is pounding and your hands are sweating - even though this is only a video game. But what is happening in your brain?

A small study of brain activity in video-game veterans suggests that their brains react as if they are treating the violence as real.
What's most interesting about the whole affair is a comparison of the quotes in the final article (above) and what the authors said to the press last year, here,
It is impossible to scan people's brains during acts of real aggression so Mathiak argues that this is as close as you can get to the real thing. It suggests that video games are a "training for the brain to react with this pattern," he says.
and here,
"There is a causal link between playing the first-person shooting game in our experiment and brain-activity pattern that are considered as characteristic for aggressive cognitions and affects," said René Weber, assistant professor of communication and telecommunication at MSU and a researcher on the project. "There is a neurological link and there is a short-term causal relationship.

"Violent video games frequently have been criticized for enhancing aggressive reactions such as aggressive cognitions, aggressive affects or aggressive behavior. On a neurobiological level we have shown the link exists."
SUMMARY from The Neurocritic: Nice to see that the reviewers and/or editors at Human Brain Mapping take their jobs seriously!

ADDENDUM:
Media Psychology
2006, Vol. 8, No. 1, Pages 39-60.

Does Playing Violent Video Games Induce Aggression? Empirical Evidence of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

by Rene Weber, Ute Ritterfeld, Klaus Mathiak.

This study aims to advance the media effects debate concerning violent video games. Meta-analytic reviews reveal a small but noticeable association between playing violent video games and aggressive reactions. However, evidence for causal associations is still rare. In a novel, event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study, 13 male research participants were observed playing a latest-generation violent video game. Each participant's game play was recorded and content analyzed on a frame-by-frame basis. Onscreen activities were coded as either "passive/dead, no interactions"; "active/safe, no imminent danger/no violent interactions"; "active/potential danger occurs, violent interactions expected"; "active/under attack, some violent interactions"; and "active/fighting and killing, many violent interactions." Previous studies in neuroscience on aggressive thoughts and behaviors suggested that virtual violence would suppress affective areas of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the amygdala subsequent to activity variations at cognitive areas of the ACC. Comparison of game play activities with and without virtual violence in 11 participants confirmed the hypothesis. The rather large observed effects can be considered as caused by the virtual violence. We discuss the applicability of neuroscience methodology in media effects studies, with a special emphasis on the assumption of virtuality prevalent in video game play.

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