Want kinder kids? Video games may help

U. MICHIGAN (US)—Video games don’t have to be bad for kids after all. Some may even make children kinder and more likely to help others, researchers find.

A new report coauthored by a group of researchers from the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia is based on three separate studies conducted in different countries with varying age groups and scientific approaches. The findings suggest playing video games with prosocial content—characters who help and support each other in nonviolent ways—may cause players to be more helpful to others, even long after the game is over. The research was published in the June issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


In numerous studies, the researchers also found a strong correlation between playing violent video games and hurting others.

“This suggests there is an upward spiral of prosocial gaming and helpful behavior, in contrast to the downward spiral that occurs with violent video gaming and aggressive behavior,” says coauthor Brad Bushman, University of Michigan professor of communications and psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research.

In one of the studies, the researchers carried out an experiment with 161 U.S. college students, with a mean age of 19. After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles.

Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners. And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the hardest puzzles.

“Dozens of studies have documented a relationship between violent video games and aggressive behaviors,” says lead author Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University psychologist. “But this is one of the first that has documented the positive effects of playing prosocial games.”

The research team found that playing video games is not in itself good or bad for children. Rather, Bushman says, “the type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing.”

University of Michigan news: www.umich.edu/news