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Violent video games leads to increased moral sensitivity

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A rampant killing spree on Grand Theft Auto may be actually be instilling a sense of guilt and right and wrong in gamers. Yes you read all of that correctly. According to a new study, these games tend to make gamers more morally sensitive and empathetic in real life.

Franchises like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have been taking a public relations beating because they were being blamed for inciting people to commit real life atrocities. However a number of new studies refute those claims.

This new study suggests that butchering countless people in the game are more likely to give gamers a guilty conscience in their daily life. Surprising right? The study was a joint collaboration between the University of Buffalo, New York, Michigan State University and the University of Texas.

The study encompassed 185 members of the public that were randomly assigned to play as a terrorist in a shooter or a controlled heroic role such as a UN soldier. Researchers induced guilt into gamers by testing their moral boundaries. They had the study participants play a game where they violated two of five moral domains: care/harm, fairness/reciprocity, in-group loyalty, respect for authority and purity/sanctity.

Matthew Grizzard, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo and the report's co-author, states "Rather than leading players to become less moral, the research suggests that violent video game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. We found that after someone played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated. Those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity".

Grizzard's findings show that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations that human beings use to make their moral judgments and decisions.

According to Grizzard a number of recent studies have shown that when players commit immoral behaviors in video games it incites feelings of guilt in the players that commit them.

In this study in particular, the guilt ridden gamers were found to be more sensitive to the moral issues they violated during gameplay. Other studies have shown that in real life situations guilt evoked by immoral behavior in the real-world elicits pro-social behaviors in most people.

We suggest that pro-social behavior also may result when guilt is provoked by virtual behavior.

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