Thursday, 18 Jun, 2009 Science

Prosocial Video Games Make People More Helpful


The latest issue of the top-tier journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin features an article in which researchers conclude that some video games are able to make kids kinder and motivate them to help others instead of hurting them.

The article features the results of three different studies carried out in different countries with people of different ages, using different methods. The outcome of all studies is that playing video games that bring prosocial content makes players more helpful to other people in the real world.

"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 prosocial games," outlined lead author Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University psychologist. Such video games motivate people to be peaceful and support each other. The co-author of the report, Brad Bushman, professor at University of Michigan said that because all experiments were conducted with different age groups and with the use of different methods, the results provide the strongest possible evidence that the discoveries are valid. "These studies document that children and adolescents learn from practicing behaviors in games," said Rowell Huesmann, a U-M co-author of the report.

First Study

One of the researches analyzed the connection between different video games and prosocial behavior among 727 students from Singapore with an average age of 13. They were asked about favorite video games and rate how frequently characters from their favorite video games helped, hurt or killed other characters. Scientists also wanted to find how often these students spent time helping other people, working together sharing their stuff with other people. They also asked about how often students showed aggression in different situations. Just like in many other studies, violent behavior was associated with playing violent video games (here at we also wrote about similar studies which you may find below), but researchers also found that helping others had a strong connection with playing prosocial video games.

Second Study

Another study involved the analysis of 2,000 children from Japan, aged between 10 and 16. Children completed questionnaires in which they mentioned the time they usually spend playing prosocial video games and how often they helped others over the last month. After 3-4 months children were surveyed once again and researchers noticed the connection between prosocial games and helpful behavior.

Third Study

During the third study, scientists studied 161 college students from the United States, who had an average age of 19. The first step was playing video games that were prosocial, violent or neutral. Afterwards students were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. There were three types of puzzles: easy, medium or difficult to complete. In case their partner completed all puzzles they could win $10. It was found that students who played prosocial video games were much more helpful than others, offering easier puzzles to their partners. Those who played violent games were found to give the hardest puzzles to their partners.

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

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