Funk, J.B., Baldacci, H.B., Pasold, T., & Baumgardner, J. (2004). Violence exposure in real-life, video games, television, movies, and the internet: Is there desensitization? Journal of Adolescence, 27 (1), 23-39.

Abstract:  It is believed that repeated exposure to real-life and to entertainment violence may alter cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes, possibly leading to desensitization. The goal of the present study was to determine if there are relationships between real-life and media violence exposure and desensitization as reflected in related characteristics. One hundred fifty fourth and fifth graders completed measures of real-life violence exposure, media violence exposure, empathy, and attitudes towards violence. Regression analyses indicated that only exposure to video game violence was associated with (lower) empathy. Both video game and movie violence exposure were associated with stronger proviolence attitudes. The active nature of playing video games, intense engagement, and the tendency to be translated into fantasy play may explain negative impact, though causality was not investigated in the present design. The samples’ relatively low exposure to real-life violence may have limited the identification of relationships. Although difficult to quantify, desensitization to violence should be further studied using related characteristics as in the present study. Individual differences and causal relationships should also be examined. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)(journal abstract)