Cohn, L. B. (1995). Violent video games: Aggression, arousal, and desensitization in young adolescent boys. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, 1995). Dissertation Abstract International, 57 (2-B), 1463.

Abstract:  Video games pervade the lives of today’s children and adolescents. With video games becoming increasingly violent and realistic, it is important to assess their impact. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test the effect of playing violent video games on children’s aggression, arousal, and desensitization to violence. One hundred and twenty-four male sixth- through eighth-graders were randomly assigned to play either a violent video game, a nonviolent video game, or to a control condition where subjects played a simple puzzle. The independent measures consisted of game played, past video game experience, and baseline aggression. The dependent measures consisted of aggression, arousal, and desensitization. Baseline levels of projective aggression were measured with the Child Hostility Inventory (CHI) and post-treatment levels of projective aggression were measured with the Multiple Adjective Check List (MACL). Post-treatment behavioral aggression was measured by the intensity of noxious noise delivered to an opponent in a competitive game. Physiological arousal (heart rate) was monitored with a pulse meter at designated times throughout the experimental conditions. Desensitization did demonstrate that past play experience was related to post-treatment behavioral aggression even when initial levels of aggression were controlled, but was not related to arousal or desensitization. Also demonstrated was that baseline aggression was related to behavioral and projective aggression. The results are discussed within the context of some of the prominent theories of the transmission of aggressive behavior via violent media, specifically social learning theory and drive theory. Social learning theory was found to be a valuable framework for understanding the effect of video games on children and adolescents. Implications for research on video games are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)