Children who repeatedly play violent video games are learning thought patterns that will stick with them and influence behaviors as they grow older, according to a new study by Iowa State University researchers.
The effect is the same regardless of age, gender or culture. Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics, says it is really no different than learning math or to play the piano.
"If you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head. The fact that you haven't played the piano in years doesn't mean you can't still sit down and play something," Gentile said.
Aggressive ways of thinking and behaving from violent video games
"It's the same with violent games -- you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it's acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation, and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence."
Researchers found that over time children start to think more aggressively. And when provoked at home, school or in other situations, children will react much like they do when playing a violent video game.
Repeated practice of aggressive ways of thinking appears to drive the long-term effect of violent games on aggression.