Perspective taking in violent videogames

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University of Alabama Libraries

While the relationship between violent videogame play and aggression has been widely investigated empirically, the results have been largely inconclusive and highly controversial. This research synthesizes the current literature and responds to the call for a broader and more ecologically valid approach to videogame research. Two studies examine different aspects of videogame play that were hypothesized to impact the relationship between violent video games and aggression including; different game narratives, the game environment and, most importantly, player perspective. This research utilized action identification theory (AIT; Vallacher & Wegner, 1985) as its theoretical framework. This framework makes predictions on how individuals’ actions are identified when describing their own behavior. The AIT also informed the development of a new individual difference measure of player’s perceptions of their actions, employing the rationale that there are important implications for whether an action is perceived as concrete or abstract (Vallacher & Wegner, 2000). Previous research has shown that cooperation and prosocial goals lead to fewer hostile cognitions and decreased arousal along with increases in prosocial cognitions and behaviors (Ewoldsen et al. 2012; Gitter, Ewell, Guadagno, Stillman & Baumeister, 2013). I hypothesize this is due to the level of abstraction the game player applies to their perceived action. I believe that cooperative play or prosocial intentions lead players to think in a more abstract manner and therefore, perceive their actions as less aggressive or violent. Study 1 manipulated game narrative and context and found evidence that competitive narratives increased hostility in players. It was also found that player performance was a significant predictor of numerous variables including hostility and positive affect. Abstraction was not found to significantly mediate the relationship between experimental condition and aggression. Study 2 manipulated abstraction in an attempt to demonstrate its effect on the relationship between game narrative and aggression. Study 2 replicated the finding from Study 1, that player performance was related to aggression and positive affect. Unexpectedly, participants in Study 2 viewed the competitive condition more abstractly than the cooperative condition. Experts were not found to be more aggressive or hostile than novices. Implications for future research are discussed.

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