Title

Playing Violent Video Games Alone or with Others Present: Relations with Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, and Hostility

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology/Clinical

First Advisor

Eric Dubow

Second Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jean Gerard (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Montana Miller (Committee Member)

Abstract

In the present study, I sought to further explore the relation between exposure to video game violence and aggressive behavior by examining the relation between social video game play and negative outcomes associated with playing violent video games. I examined whether there were differences in aggressive cognition, state hostility, and aggressive behavior (a computer reaction time task against a fictitious opponent) after playing a violent or nonviolent video game either alone or with another person present, and whether trait aggression or normative beliefs about aggression moderated any relations found. The study included 100 male participants randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: The first group played a violent video game alone; the second group played a violent video game against a confederate; the third group played a nonviolent video game alone; and, the fourth group played a nonviolent video game against a confederate. Prior to the game play period, participants completed measures of trait aggression, normative beliefs about aggression, exposure to video game violence, video game experience, and demographic variables. After the game play period, participants completed measures of aggressive cognition, state hostility, and aggressive behavior. A series of ANOVAs were computed to determine if video game content and social play condition affected behavior, cognition, or state hostility. A series of regressions were computed to determine if the aggression outcomes were moderated by trait aggression or normative beliefs. As expected, playing a violent video game was associated with increases in state hostility and aggressive behavior. Contrary to what was predicted, playing in a social setting was associated with decreases in aggressive cognition and was unrelated to state hostility or aggressive behavior. Moderation analyses indicated that neither normative beliefs nor trait aggression moderated the effects found. Limitations of the current study design, and their effects on the findings of the present study, were discussed, including issues regarding generalizability of the findings, short video game play time, and the artificiality of the play condition. Future directions were discussed, including the need to better understand possible differences in exposure to video game violence when it happens while playing with another person present.