Can we finally put this to rest? How many studies does it take to prove that violent video games do not turn you into a killer?
The use of violent video games has been often linked to increase of aggressive behavior. According to the General Aggression Model, one of the central mechanisms for this aggressiveness inducing impact is an emotional desensitization process resulting from long lasting repeated violent game playing. This desensitization should evidence itself in a lack of empathy. Recent research has focused primarily on acute, short term impact of violent media use but only little is known about long term effects. In this study 15 excessive users of violent games and control subjects matched for age and education viewed pictures depicting emotional and neutral situations with and without social interaction while fMRI activations were obtained. While the typical pattern of activations for empathy and theory of mind networks was seen, both groups showed no differences in brain responses. We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.