Fact-Check: Do Video Games Lead to Violence?

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We’ve likely all heard the arguments about video games and their role in violence. The grand_theft_auto__vice_city_by_homel001-d4al0zlquestion of whether or not video games have a part in aggression is an ongoing and complicated debate.

It’s not a new question either.  It’s been studied by psychologists, not to mention scholars from other disciplines, for decades.  Dr. Albert Bandura, along with countless other researchers, showed us that being exposed to aggressive behavior, even at a young age, results in imitation (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1961).

A more recent study by Hollingdale and Greitemeyer (2014), compared aggression levels in response to a violent video game (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) and in response to a neutral video game (LittleBigPlanet 2), both played online and offline. Participants in the online group played against human components, whereas the offline group played against computers, each for 30 minutes. They predicted that playing a more violent video game would increase aggression, and (surprise!) they were right. Not only do violent video games increase aggression, according to Hollingdale and Greitemeyer, but there is also no difference based on whether the game is played online or offline Call of Duty increased levels of aggression regardless of where it was played (online or offline). The authors also noted that there may have been other factors, such as the competitiveness of each game, which may have attributed to the increased aggression levels.

In addition to violence and competitiveness, there are other factors.  For example, games can be frustrating, which may increase aggression.  Plus, from a research perspective, how we define violence is also a complicating factor.  Do we only consider games like first person shooters or Grand Theft Auto to be violent, or are games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros included?

To make matters even more complicated, if video games lead to increase violence, then why do violent crimes decrease when new game comes out as noted by Ward (2011)? Ward argues that people playing violent video games are inside playing the game, not out and about causing trouble.  Ward calls this  “voluntary incapacitation” and noted that in areas where gaming is more popular, the violent crime rate goes down, which is the opposite of what people might expect (Ward, 2011). In fact, Ward’s (2011) results showed that there were reductions in arson, car theft, and robbery at the time of a new release for a game. This voluntary incapacitation most affects youth (ages 15-25) and draws them away from criminal or violent activity.

Taking all this into consideration, it would appear that playing violent video games does increase aggression. But, the relationship is much more complicated when you take into account are the other factors that attribute to the aggression. In saying so, I would have loved to write a piece that included definite answers, but the truth is, I don’t know and I’m not sure that we’ll ever know.

By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.

 

A Look Inside: Anger From an Athlete’s Viewpoint

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People think of anger as an emotion athletes often feel and even “use” during competition as a way to get pumped up, increase aggressive play, and even outperform others with the “angry edge”. Well, why not ask athletes themselves how they view anger the day of, immediately before, and during competition? Is experiencing anger seen as beneficial? Are sports an “outlet” for releasing anger in an acceptable way? Desired AngerStudents who competed in a varsity level sport in high school and some current college athletes participating in an online survey say that YES anger may be beneficial. Athletes actually desire to experience increased levels of anger as competition nears and hope to feel at their angriest during competition. On the other hand, athletes view anxiety as harmful to performance and strive to experience less of it as competition nears. Could it be that athletes actually strive to enter into a competitive scenario feeling angry?

AngerInterfered

Part of a bigger study looking at emotional intelligence in sports, the findings regarding anger were striking. As mentioned above, athletes want to feel angry, but the opposite seems to be true of anxiety. Athletes were asked to share personal examples in which anger helped and interfered with performance.  Athletes reported anger as a distraction as the biggest reason for it interfering with one’s performance. For example, say an athlete was angered by foul play from the opposing team, a poor call made by the ref, or a careless mistake he/she made a few moments earlier…this was oftentimes seen as interfering with performance. On the other hand, athletes associated increase in adrenaline as a positive component of anger. Athletes Anger Helpedthat felt angry indicated that their adrenaline was pumping, they felt more motivated and excited leading to increased levels of performance. Interestingly, athletes were also asked to participate in a questionnaire looking specifically at emotional intelligence.  Participants who scored higher on emotional intelligence considered themselves to be more successful in their sport when comparing their abilities to others they compete against. This suggests that athletes view emotions, or more importantly their understanding and ability to manage such emotions, as playing a role in sports performance.

What does this research suggest for athletes and their emotional experiences during sports competition? Athletes view anger as a beneficial emotion surrounding sports. This may suggest that athletes should incorporate feelings of anger into their sport routine and competition prep. Findings also suggest that athletes need to learn how to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions in order to reap the benefits of experiencing them surrounding a competition. Future research could look at sport type and see whether athletes involved in sports that are considered more aggressive in nature (e.g., football) view emotions such as anger as more beneficial to performance outcomes. Being able to recognize such emotions could lead athletes to better be able to use such emotional experiences, in turn, leading to increases in ability and performance in a sports context.

HuckeBy Kayla Hucke
Kayla is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She will graduate with honors in May 2015 and plans to take some time off of school to gain experience before attending graduate school. She will present her honors project, Emotions in Sports Performance, at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago in April 2015.

Anger Experienced by Returning Veterans

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Due to the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are many veterans returning homeCapture and experiencing anger problems during reintegration into civilian life.  A recent study done by Miranda Worthen and Jennifer Ahern, published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma in 2014, investigated how veterans understood the causes, process, and social impact of their anger issues during reintegration.  In this study, the researchers had an open interview with each veteran in order to further understand the individual and the reasons causing the anger problems.

The researchers found three distinct patterns of anger problems: (1) loss of structure during reintegration (i.e., living in a less predictable and organized environment), (2) moral injury from being exposed to acts that disagree with one’s moral beliefs, and (3) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is triggered by a traumatic experience (National Center for PTSD, 2012).  While veterans reintegrate into civilian life, PTSD and moral injury caused persistent anger problems.  These anger problems can lead to marital issues, social isolation, and issues holding a job.

There is specialized help available for veterans who suffer from moral injury and PTSD.  These feelings are common and seeking help is highly encouraged.  It is important for each veteran to find what process or method works best for them to reintegrate into civilian life.

For those veterans who are looking for help, here are two useful resources:

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.

Fact Check: Do women use gossip as a form of aggression more often than men?

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indexWe have likely all heard people say that men typically express their aggression physically while women express their aggression indirectly using gossip. Gossip, or talking about people without their knowledge, is something that surrounds us every day. It starts in the hallways of middle school, follows us through college, and is present in our workplaces; it is nearly impossible to escape. That said, gossip isn’t always bad, as researchers often talk about “positive gossip.” Positive gossip helps individuals understand peer groups, learn who to trust, and build social connections by sharing personal information. It can sometimes, however, become a tool for aggression.

But do women gossip more often than men? To answer that question, we’ll turn first to a 2014 study conducted by Dr. Francis McAndrew, who investigated the distinct way women express aggression. McAndrew found that gossip was used in an effort to eliminate, damper, or constrict the social network of others. McAndrew also discovered that women were more likely to gossip about other women rather than men and he argued this was because women are seen as more direct competition.

Another study that looked for a concrete difference in aggression between males and females was a 2006 study by Dr. Nicole Hess and Dr. Edward Hagen exposed men and women to the same aggression-evoking stimulus. Specifically, participants were told that their group members had reported that they had not done any of the required work on a group project. Hess and Hagen found that women, in response to this provocation, had a stronger desire than men to aggress indirectly through gossip. One other interesting aspect of this study is that they controlled for social norms and approval and still concluded, “Young adult women reported a significantly stronger desire than men to retaliate with gossip against a reputational attack, even after controlling for social norms and approval” (p. 242).

Anger and aggression can be expressed in many different ways. The studies presented here don’t suggest that women are more angry, temperamental, or aggressive than men. However, they do seem to confirm the idea that compared to men, women use gossip more frequently as a form of aggression.

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.

The Science of Bitchy Resting Face

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Bitchy Resting FaceWe have all heard the jokes about “bitchy resting face” and what it means for women who have naturally angry looking faces. But, as it turns out, there may actually be some science behind the joke. A recent article by Mareike Jaensch and colleagues, published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, investigated how facial expression would play a role in whether or not men would maximize their viewing time of attractive vs. unattractive female faces. In the study, they exposed male participants to both attractive and unattractive female faces, varying whether those faces were expressing happy, neutral, or angry emotions.

The researchers found that while males still rated the angry, “attractive” faces as more attractive, on average, than the “unattractive” faces, they actively worked to reduce the amount of time they spent viewing them and increased viewing time of the happy and neutral attractive faces. Past research suggests that because an angry expression is an “aversive stimulus,” it indicates potential harm, thus encouraging avoidance. In other words, if males sense no chance of a reward, they move on quickly.0

By Allie Nelson
Allie is a senior with Psychology and Human Development majors. She plans on graduating in May of 2015 and attending graduate school.

Adolescent Mental Health and Gang Violence

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It is not uncommon to hear about gang violence in many areas throughout the United States, including rural and urban areas. According to Dr. Sarah Kelly, a Registered Nurse at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, “Almost 30% of cities with more than 2,500 people have reported problems with gangs, and more than 80% of cities with more than 50,000 people have reported these problems.” Dr. Kelly and her colleagues sought to discover the link of exposure to gang violence, its effects on adolescents’ mental health, and their increased interest in illegal activities. According to Kelly, “there is a lack of research on adolescents’ exposure to gang violence and the effects it can have on their mental health.”

Exposure to gang violence or being an active gang member can have multiple effects on one’s mental health. In a recent study published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, Kelly used multiple methods to collect data from adolescents, their parents, and their community caregivers, to determine the effects of being exposed to gang violence. Interviews were conducted with the adolescents asking about their direct or indirect exposure to gang violence and how it had affected their lives. Following that, adolescents were asked to complete a Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC), which included subscales for anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, sexual concerns, dissociation, and anger. The study found a positive correlation between anger and depression and anger and dissociation for the adolescents. This suggests that anger can manifest itself in a variety of ways such as the victims or witnesses of gang violence expressing their anger as depression or utilizing a safeguard for themselves by becoming dissociated and not remembering the traumatic event.

In addition to the checklist that the adolescents filled out, the parents and caregivers filled out the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which asked about the behavior and mental health of their adolescent(s) including things such as rule-breaking, aggression, anger, anxiety, depression, dissociation, and posttraumatic stress disorder . They found that the parents and/or caregivers stated that their children were experiencing either a mixture of many of the listed behaviors on the CBCL or just a couple.

Finally, they asked community center employees, teachers, and administrators to complete the Teacher Report Form (TRF), which asked about the same behaviors as the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) . They found a negative correlation between dissociative symptoms on the TRF and externalizing symptoms on the CBCL which is an interesting finding since dissociation is usually correlated with amnesia or hysteria. Dissociation is also a common coping mechanism for victims of traumatic events, which is why it is interesting that it would be correlated with symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

The current study shows that exposure to gang violence can have numerous side effects on adolescents, which creates a growing concern for the youth that live in gang occupied neighborhoods. Many adolescents cannot avoid the dangerous situations in these neighborhoods, which is causing drastic effects on their lives while living in these dangerous cities. Also, many of the youth that live in these cities cannot afford to move, which makes them more prone to gang violence. According to Kelly, “Adolescents deserve to live in a supportive nurturing environment and we need to help them achieve that vision.”

By Timothy Zietz
Tim is a Psychology and Human Biology Major with a minor in Chemistry.  He plans on graduating in 2015 and attending medical school to obtain his MD and PhD and specializing in neurosurgery.

Masculinity, Sexual Prejudice, and Antigay Anger

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It will come as no surprise to most that gay men and women are often the targets of aggression ranging from verbal abuse to crimes against property to physical assault.  In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers Wilson Vincent, Dominic Parrott and John Peterson investigated why people commit such crimes against sexual minorities.

Dominic Parrott, a clinical psychologist and researcher at Georgia State University, suggests that “aggression toward sexual minorities stems from extreme expressions of dominant cultural values.” Past research has demonstrated that the values of masculinity and religious fundamentalism are strongly associated with sexual prejudice.  However, the link between these values and actually perpetrating aggressive acts against sexual minorities is still unknown.

In order to find out if and how masculinity and religious fundamentalism lead to aggressive acts, they asked male participants questions about masculinity, religious fundamentalism, and anger and aggression toward lesbians and gay men. The relationships between participants’ responses provided some insight as to how internalizing dominant cultural values translates into aggression.

High levels of masculinity directly affected aggression towards gay men and lesbians.  In particular, anti-femininity, a subscale of masculinity, was associated with increased sexual prejudice and anger in response to sexual minorities, which in turn was linked with higher acts of aggression towards sexual minorities.

The link between religious fundamentalism and aggression was a bit more complicated. Although religious fundamentalism was associated with aggression towards gay men and lesbians, there were other mitigating factors. The relationship was only found when religious fundamentalism was combined with sexual prejudice and/or antigay anger. “These data suggest that religious fundamentalism is a risk factor for aggression toward gay men and lesbians inasmuch as it fosters sexual prejudice,” states Dominic, “otherwise, religious fundamentalism could potentially serve as a protective factor for aggression toward gay men and lesbians. “ He concludes,

“Anger in response to sexual minorities is a critical mediating variable linking the internalization of certain cultural values…sexual prejudice, and aggression toward gay men and lesbians. In other words, these values lead to anger in response to sexual minorities, and that anger facilitates aggressive acts.”

This study begins to untangle the sometimes confusing relationships between certain mainstream values, anger, and aggression. It also demonstrates how there is not one quality or belief that predicts behavior and that people with similar beliefs don’t necessarily engage in the same types of behaviors.

By Kate Darnell
Kate is a recent graduate of the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

An “A” in Aggression may lead to an “F” in College Relationships

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It is far from uncommon to hear of dating aggression among college couples. Recently, a research team led by Erica Woodin, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Victoria and a registered Clinical Psychologist in British Colombia, Canada, published a study on dating aggression in emerging adulthood.

Their study looked at the roles of relationships along with individual attitudes and emotional states to predict the probability that one will commit an act of dating aggression during emerging adulthood. The researchers predicted that there would be a link between depressive symptoms and attitudes that condone aggression with individual’s relationship bonds and acts of partner aggression. More specifically, they measured cooperation, psychological aggression, physical assault, sexual force, and injury.

Sixty-five college couples completed a two-hour assessment on the history and route of their relationship. Fifty couples were placed under the category of “aggressive couples,” and showed more psychological and mild physical abuse in comparison to the “non aggressive couples”. Characteristics of these “aggressive” couples included lower female relationship satisfaction, weaker relationship bonds, higher condoning attitudes of aggression from males, and greater symptoms of depression in females. The “aggressive couples” also participated in an intervention designed to reduce partner aggression while the “non-aggressive couples” did not have to complete any further tasks.

Woodin shared, “The primary message of this study is that aggression in college dating couples is most likely when the relationship bond is weak and partners are experiencing symptoms of depression, but that when men in particular believe that it’s ok to be physically aggressive against women, they are at even greater risk of being physically aggressive against their partners. She continued, “There may be a gender difference in which men’s aggression can be predicted by their pro-aggression attitudes whereas women’s aggression is better predicted by their mood state and the quality of their relationship.”

In addition, Woodin felt passionate about the necessity of educating young men in particular. She illustrated this feeling by saying that, “Hitting women is never ok and that we also need to help young men and women learn healthy strategies for handling emotions in their relationship so that fights don’t escalate into aggression.”

There is good news that came from this study as well. The researchers found that by following up on the couples who received feedback and a brief assessment regarding their aggression were “significantly less physically aggressive with their partner in the following nine months.” They also concluded that “it is possible for men and women to become less aggressive in their relationships if there is awareness and motivation to change the aggressive behaviors.”

By Amarra Bricco
Amarra is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Spanish. A senior, she plans on graduating in the Spring of 2014 and attending graduate school to earn a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology.

A Look at How our Thoughts Influence Aggressive Driving

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It has long been a mystery why aggressive and non-aggressive drivers handle hostile situations differently. Sundé Nesbit, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, recently published an article in the Journal of Transportation Research examining this very question.  Specifically, Nesbit looked at the cognitions, or thoughts, of aggressive and non-aggressive drivers.

About the article, Nesbit wrote that, “I tend to view behavior (of any kind) as a consequence of how people think about and interpret their world.” This opinion was illustrated through Nesbit’s research as she questioned and surveyed participants about their past driving experiences, and how they would react in various driving situations. It was expected that the drivers who typically expressed their anger outwardly would be more likely to be aggressive drivers. Likewise, it was expected that those who were more able to control their anger would drive more safely.

Nesbit found that the data supported her hypothesis saying that, “The majority of participants in the higher aggression group had been in at least one collision (72%) and had received a speeding ticket (63%). In comparison, participants reporting fewer aggressive acts also reported fewer collisions (49%) and speeding tickets (34%).” In addition, it was found that those who were maladaptive thinkers were more likely to be aggressive drivers than those who laid out the consequences before they acted on a situation.

Clearly, the way we think and act regarding a certain situation, such as driving, can have an impact on the consequences of the situation. Nesbit believes that, “how we think about these situations (i.e., if we think about our driving circumstances and other drivers in a hostile and retaliatory way) will increase the likelihood that we will become angry and will react in aggressive ways while driving.” This research suggests that drivers should think positively about the provocations on the road, in order to prevent accidents and speeding citations. Remember, the way you think will most likely influence the way you act.

For questions about this research, contact Dr. Sundé Nesbit at sunde.nesbit@uni.edu.

By Timothy Zietz
Tim is a Psychology and Human Biology Major with a minor in Chemistry.  He plans on graduating in 2015 and attending medical school to obtain his MD and PhD and specializing in neurosurgery.