The Situationist

Archive for October 8th, 2007

Encourage Your Daughters To Play Violent Video Games?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 8, 2007

Girl Playing Video GameWe have examined violence found in videogames on several occasions (see “The Situation of First-Person Shooters“; “The Intersection between Tort Law and Social Psychology in Violent Videogames“). We have also examined how, because of stereotype threat, the situation in which women find themselves can dramatically influence their expectations and levels of confidence (see “Gender-Inbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situaiton in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math”).

We now turn to an Economist article detailing a new study led by Ian Spence of the University of Toronto which identifies potential behavioral benefits to women who play violent video games, including, perhaps, decreased stereotype threat. The study was published in the October issue of Psychological Science and its abstract is available here. Below we excerpt a portion of the Economist article.

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Writing in Psychological Science, a team led by Ian Spence of the University of Toronto describes a test performed on people’s ability to spot unusual objects that appear in their field of vision. Success at spatial tasks like this often differs between the sexes (men are better at remembering and locating general landmarks; women are better at remembering and locating food), so the researchers were not surprised to discover a discrepancy between the two. The test asked people to identify an “odd man out” object in a briefly displayed field of two dozen otherwise identical objects. Men had a 68% success rate. Women had a 55% success rate.

Had they left it at that, Dr Spence and his colleagues might have concluded that they had uncovered yet another evolved difference between the sexes, come up with a “Just So” story to explain it in terms of division of labour on the African savannah, and moved on. However, they did not leave it at that. Instead, they asked some of their volunteers to spend ten hours playing an action-packed, shoot-‘em-up video game, called “Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault”. As a control, other volunteers were asked to play a decidedly non-action-packed puzzle game, called “Ballance”, for a similar time. Both sets were then asked to do the odd-man-out test again.

Among the Ballancers, there was no change in the ability to pick out the unusual. Among those who had played “Medal of Honour”, both sexes improved their performances.

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault

That is not surprising, given the different natures of the games. However, the improvement in the women was greater than the improvement in the men—so much so that there was no longer a significant difference between the two. Moreover, that absence of difference was long-lived. When the volunteers were tested again after five months, both the improvement and the lack of difference between the sexes remained. Though it is too early to be sure, it looks likely that the change in spatial acuity—and the abolition of any sex difference in that acuity—induced by playing “Medal of Honour” is permanent.

That has several implications. One is that playing violent computer games can have beneficial effects. Another is that the games might provide a way of rapidly improving spatial ability in people such as drivers and soldiers. And a third is that although genes are important, upbringing matters, too.

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For the rest of the article, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Entertainment, Social Psychology | 5 Comments »

 
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