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Pro-Social Video Games Make Children Kinder


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between playing violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. But now, for the first time, the three new studies have concluded that some video games influence good behavior and can even make children kinder and more likely to help other people.

All the three separate studies that were carried out in the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia and used different age groups and a variety of scientific methods, suggest that people who play video games with pro-social content, become more attentive and helpful to others after the game is over. Douglas Gentile, a psychologist at Iowa State University and a principal investigator of the study, said: "Dozens of studies have documented a relationship between violent video games and aggressive behaviors. But this is one of the first that has documented the positive effects of playing pro-social games."

For the purposes of their first study, the researchers involved and studied 727 Singapore children with an average age of 13 years. The participants were asked to name their favorite games and also to recall how often the characters in those games "helped, hurt or killed other characters." In addition to these questions, the experts asked all kids how likely they were themselves to perform good deeds, including sharing, helping and cooperating, or in some cases, reacting in an aggressive way to situations. The results revealed that there was a strong link between playing pro-social video games and helping other people. But the experts also said that they found a strong correlation between playing violent games and negative behavior.

For the second experiment, the investigators involved about 2,000 Japanese children with the ages between 10 and 16 years and examined the long-term connection between video game habits and pro-social behaviour. Children were asked questions about their use of pro-social video games, and then to report how often they had helped other people in the previous month. Between 3 to 4 months later, all the kids were surveyed again, and researchers found that there was a significant connection between playing pro-social games and helpful behaviour few months later.

In the third study, U.S. college students with an average age of 19 years, played either a pro-social, violent, or neutral game. After that, the participants assigned puzzles to a randomly selected partner. In case the partner could solve the puzzle, he/she would earn $10. The main idea was that the participant choosing the puzzles could pick easy puzzles or hard puzzles, essentially deciding how easy or difficult it would be for the partner to earn the money. The research found that those students who played a pro-social game, were considerably more helpful, when compared to those who played violent or neutral games. They were found to select more easy puzzles to their partners. And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to choose the hardest puzzles.

"Taken together, these findings make it clear that playing video games is not in itself good or bad for children," researchers said. "The type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing."

The study appears in the June 2009 issue of the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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