New Study Finds Violent Video Games May Heighten Moral Sensitivity

It's a scene set many times in the lab: have a bunch of people play violent video games, and test the hypothesis that they will behave more violently themselves. However, according to a new study released by the University of Buffalo, the exact opposite may be true – violent video games could make players more morally sensitive.

According to results published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, subjects were randomly chosen to play through video game scenarios either as a terrorist or a United Nations peacekeeper. After playing, participants were asked to recall “real-life acts” that caused the “terrorist” players to feel guilt, or acts that did not induce guilt for the “peacekeepers.”

Co-author of the study Matthew Grizzard found that “an American who played a violent game 'as a terrorist' would likely consider his avatar's unjust and violent behavior – violations of the fairness/reciprocity and harm/care domains – to be more immoral than when he or she performed the same acts in the role of a 'UN peacekeeper.'” The study also found significant positive correlations between guilt and the violation of one's moral foundation.

The University of Buffalo study is just the latest in a slew of research, often finding inconsistent evidence linking, or failing to link, violent video games and aggressive behavior. Have there been moments in gaming where you, as a player, have felt guilty for in-game actions? Let us know.