Funk, J.B., Buchman, D.D., Jenks, J., & Bechtoldt, H. (2003). Playing violent video games, desensitization, and moral evaluation in children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24 (4), 413-436.

Abstract:  Relationships between short- and long-term exposure to violent video games and desensitization, as measured through components of moral evaluation, were examined. Sixty-six children aged 5-12 years old completed questionnaires assessing video game experience and preferences and empathy and attitudes toward violence. The children played a violent or nonviolent video game and then responded to vignettes about everyday occurrences. Vignette responses were coded for aggression and empathy. Preexisting empathy and attitudes towards violence were positively related to the corresponding vignette scores. Long-term exposure to violent video games contributed to lower empathy vignette scores. Playing a violent versus a nonviolent game did not affect vignette responses. Results suggest that long-term exposure to violent video games may be associated with desensitization as reflected in lower empathy, although the direction of causality remains unclear. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)(journal abstract