Violent Video Game Players Feel Need to Cleanse, Study Shows

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Source: Optenet PC Internet Safety Blog, “Antonin Scalia and the Decision to Allow Children to Buy Violent Video Games,” optenetpc.com, June 30, 2011

New research from the University of Luxembourg shows that novice video game players experience “moral distress” and “remorse” after playing violent video games. Experienced players of violent video games did not experience the same phenomenon.

The researchers had 76 people play violent video games for 15 minutes, after which they were told to select gift items for others. Those who were “inexperienced” with violent video games were more likely to select “hygienic products” like shower gel, deodorant, and toothpaste than those who played violent video games on a regular basis.
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“The need to cleanse to keep moral purity intact, the ‘Macbeth effect,’ is a psychological phenomenon in which a person attempts to purify oneself in order to cope with feelings of moral distress,” said lead researcher Dr. Andre Melzer. “We find that the Macbeth effect can result from playing violent videogames, especially when the game involves violence against humans.”

The “Macbeth effect” is named after a scene from the play by Shakespeare in which Lady Macbeth suffers from guilt after a dream about her involvement in the bloody murder of the king. She obsessively washes her hands throughout the play.

Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. 
Video game advocates contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent video games may reduce violence by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play and by providing a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings.

Dr. Melzer plans to present his research findings at the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) World Meeting 2012 at the University of Luxembourg and publish his work in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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Sources:

Andy Chalk, “Violent Videogames Cause ‘Macbeth Effect’,” escapistmagazine.com, July 12, 2012

“Inexperienced Video Gamers Show Macbeth Effect,” University of Luxembourg website (accessed July 20, 2012)  

“Research: Inexperienced Violent Video Game Players Suffer from the ‘Macbeth Effect’,” gamepolitics.com, July 12, 2012

“Violent Video Games Can Cause the Macbeth Effect,” onlinenewsheardnow.com, July 16, 2012

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