The debate about whether violent video games make us more aggressive and hostile has raged long and hard in recent years but new research suggests they may not be the real culprits.
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A study by psychologists at the University of Huddersfield found games in which the player can identify with a real-life situation elicit a much stronger reaction than shoot 'em ups.
Researchers asked 40 men and women to play a randomly selected game, either violent or football-based, and measured heart rate, respiration and brain activity both before and during play.
The results were surprising - while "killing" someone on screen caused very little brain activity, conceding a goal or foul sent activity soaring.
Dr Simon Goodson, who led the research, explained: "We all know how people react when England play in the World Cup, and we found these strong emotions could be reproduced by playing a football video game.
"The player can identify with a real-life experience and call up those emotions and aggression more easily than in a situation they would not have encountered, such as killing an individual.
"We've found that driving and 'road rage' scenarios also lead to people becoming angry very quickly compared with a shooting, which is likely to be the result of having experienced these feelings in real life."
The study, due to be presented at a British Psychological Society conference in Glasgow today, goes some way to dispelling the idea that violent games "contribute to general aggression", though the psychologists pointed out that their research was not designed to show whether game-induced aggression was carried over into real life.
But Dr Goodson added: "These findings suggest it cannot be automatically assumed that violent content leads directly to aggression, and that further research should attempt to uncover the aspects of video games which can lead to an aggressive response."
What do you think? Are violent games and movies to blame for rising levels of violence in our society? Leave a comment below...