Chair Ineractive Media Committee, Media Psychology Division
American Psychological Association
March 29, 2006
Elizabeth K. Carll, PhD
Chair, Interactive Media Committee
Media Psychology Division
American Psychological Association
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights
"What's in a Game? State Regulation of Violent Video Games and the First Amendment"
March 29, 2006
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for initiating this important hearing on violence in videogames. I am Dr. Elizabeth Carll, the chair of the Interactive Media Committee of the Media Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association (APA). The effects of media violence on children has been a career long interest with the adoption of the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media being one of the initiatives when I served as the president of the Media Division of APA. I am also a psychologist in private practice in Long Island, New York, and have worked with children, teens, and families for more than 25 years. The APA is pleased to participate in today's hearing and thanks Sen. Brownback for his important work on issues surrounding media and children.
The Interactive Media Committee was formed to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media, adopted by APA in August 2005, which I will be discussing. APA's Media Psychology Division spearheaded the adoption of the APA Resolution with the recognition that there is often a disconnect between research, legislation and implementation of useful recommendations at the community level.
It may be of interest for the Committee to be aware that, as a result of the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media, a formal dialogue with the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has begun to discuss ways in which the current ratings system may be improved.
It is also important to emphasize that electronic media plays an important role in the emotional development, social behavior and intellectual functioning of children and youth. There are many video games that are very helpful for children to facilitate medical treatment, increase learning, and promote pro-social behavior. However, there are also video games that include aggression, violence and sexualized violence that may have a negative impact on children. It is this group of video games that I will be discussing today.
Many of the issues that I will be discussing today were of concern when I first testified at the 1999 New York State legislature's hearings on the effects of violence in interactive media on children and discussed the unique characteristics of video games. However, what has changed since that time has been the rapid growth in the body of research that continues to point to the detrimental effects of violence in video games and interactive media on children, as well as the increasing public concern regarding this issue.
What are the unique characteristics of video games and interactive media vs. TV and film?
More than four decades of research have revealed that TV violence has a strong influence on the aggressive behavior of children and youth. Exposure to violent media increases feelings of hostility, thoughts about aggression, suspicions about the motives of others and demonstrates violence as a method to deal with conflict.
However, video games and interactive media have certain qualities that are distinct from passive media, (i.e., TV and film). For instance, video games:
? Require active participation enabling rehearsal and practice of violent acts, which enhances learning;
? Include frequent repetition of acts of violence as part of winning the game, which enhances learning;
? Reward game players for simulated acts of violence, which enhances learning. Often the winner of the game is the one who kills and destroys the most; and,
? Enables the identification of the participant with a violent character while playing video games, which enhances learning.
Therefore, this practice, repetition, identification with a violent character and being rewarded for numerous acts of violence may intensify learning of violence. With the development of more sophisticated interactive media, the implications for violent content are of further concern. This is due to the intensification of more realistic experiences, which may be even more conducive to increasing aggressive behavior as compared to passively watching violence on TV and in films.
What are the effects of exposure of children to violence in video games?
A comprehensive analysis of violence in interactive video game research suggests exposure increases aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and decreases helpful behavior.
Studies further suggest that sexualized violence in the media has been linked to increases in violence towards women, the acceptance of rape myth and anti-women attitudes.
Research also suggests that the most popular video games contain aggressive and violent content. Girls and women, boys and men, and minorities are depicted in exaggerated stereotypical ways. Sexual aggression against women, including assault, rape, and murder, is depicted as humorous and is glamorized and rewarded.
What are some of the concerns regarding the current rating system for video games?
Efforts to improve the rating system for video games and interactive media would be a first step in providing additional helpful information as to the content of video games. Currently, the labels are very general and more content specificity is needed for parents to make more informed decisions about the video games their children play. For example, are there only a few depictions of violence or is it a main theme? What types of violence are depicted - sports violence, war violence, sexual violence (such as rape and murder) or random thrill kill violence? Is violence linked with negative social consequences or rewarded? The scientific community should be involved in the development of a more accurate rating system to better inform parents and consumers.
Recommendations from the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media
? Advocate for funding to support research on the effects of violence in video games and interactive media on children, adolescents, and young adults. APA supports the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA) to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize funding to establish a program on children and the media within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the role and impact of electronic media in the development of children.
? Teach media literacy to children so they will have the ability to critically evaluate interactive media. This needs to involve educating teachers, parents and caregivers.
? Encourage the entertainment industry to link violent behaviors with negative social consequences. Showing violence without realistic consequences teaches children that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Whereas, seeing pain and suffering as a consequence can inhibit aggressive behavior.
? Develop and disseminate a content-based rating system that more accurately reflects the content of video games and interactive media and encourages the distribution and use of the rating system by the industry, parents, caregivers and educational organizations.
The complete text of the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media is available at http://www.apa.org/pi/cyf/violence_in_videogames_interactive_media.pdf and is included as an attachment to my statement.
I would like to thank the Committee for their interest in this important issue and Senator Brownback for his continued leadership in this area.
For further information contact Dr. Elizabeth Carll, Chair, Interactive Media Committee, Media Psychology Division, American Psychological Association, Tel: 631-754-2424, Mobile: 917-941-5400, Fax: 631-754-5032, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Psychological Association
Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media
WHEREAS decades of social science research reveals the strong influence of televised violence on the aggressive behavior of children and youth (APA Task Force On Television and Society; 1992 Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972); and
WHEREAS psychological research reveals that the electronic media play an important role in the development of attitude, emotion, social behavior and intellectual functioning of children and youth (APA Task Force On Television and Society, 1992; Funk, J. B., et al. 2002; Singer, D. G. & Singer, J. L. 2005; Singer, D. G. & Singer, J. L. 2001); and
WHEREAS there appears to be evidence that exposure to violent media increases feelings of hostility, thoughts about aggression, suspicions about the motives of others, and demonstrates violence as a method to deal with potential conflict situations (Anderson, C.A., 2000; Anderson, C.A., Carnagey, N. L., Flanagan, M., Benjamin, A. J., Eubanks, J., Valentine, J. C., 2004; Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P. J., Linder, J. R., & Walsh, D. A., 2004; Huesmann, L. R., Moise, J., Podolski, C. P., & Eron, L. D., 2003; Singer, D. & Singer, J., 2001); and
WHEREAS perpetrators go unpunished in 73% of all violent scenes, and therefore teach that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Only 16 % of all programs portrayed negative psychological or financial effects, yet such visual depictions of pain and suffering can actually inhibit aggressive behavior in viewers (National Television Violence Study, 1996); and
WHEREAS comprehensive analysis of violent interactive video game research suggests such exposure a.) increases aggressive behavior, b.) increases aggressive thoughts, c.) increases angry feelings, d.) decreases helpful behavior, and, e.) increases physiological arousal (Anderson, C.A., 2002b; Anderson, C.A., Carnagey, N. L., Flanagan, M., Benjamin, A. J., Eubanks, J., Valentine, J. C., 2004; Anderson, C.A., & Dill, K. E., 2000; Bushman, B.J., & Anderson, C.A., 2002; Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P. J., Linder, J. R., & Walsh, D. A., 2004); and
WHEREAS studies further suggest that sexualized violence in the media has been linked to increases in violence towards women, rape myth acceptance and anti-women attitudes. Research on interactive video games suggests that the most popular video games contain aggressive and violent content; depict women and girls, men and boys, and minorities in exaggerated stereotypical ways; and reward, glamorize and depict as humorous sexualized aggression against women, including assault, rape and murder (Dietz, T. L., 1998; Dill, K. E., & Dill, J. C., 2004; Dill, K. E., Gentile, D. A., Richter, W. A., & Dill, J.C., in press; Mulac, A., Jansma, L. L., & Linz, D. G., 2002; Walsh, D., Gentile, D. A., VanOverbeke, M., & Chasco, E., 2002); and
WHEREAS the characteristics of violence in interactive video games appear to have similar detrimental effects as viewing television violence; however based upon learning theory (Bandura, 1977; Berkowitz, 1993), the practice, repetition, and rewards for acts of violence may be more conducive to increasing aggressive behavior among children and youth than passively watching violence on TV and in films (Carll, E. K., 1999a). With the development of more sophisticated interactive media, such as virtual reality, the implications for violent content are of further concern, due to the intensification of more realistic experiences, and may also be more conducive to increasing aggressive behavior than passively watching violence on TV and in films (Calvert, S. L., Jordan, A. B., Cocking, R. R. (Ed.) 2002; Carll, E. K., 2003; Turkle, S., 2002); and
WHEREAS studies further suggest that videogames influence the learning processes in many ways more than in passively observing TV: a.) requiring identification of the participant with a violent character while playing video games, b.) actively participating increases learning, c.) rehearsing entire behavioral sequences rather than only a part of the sequence, facilitates learning, and d.) repetition increases learning (Anderson, C.A., 2002b; Anderson, C.A., Carnagey, N. L., Flanagan, M., Benjamin, A. J., Eubanks, J., Valentine, J. C., 2004; Anderson, C.A. & Dill, K. E., 2000); and
WHEREAS the data dealing with media literacy curricula demonstrate that when children are taught how to view television critically, there is a reduction of TV viewing in general, and a clearer understanding of the messages conveyed by the medium. Studies on media literacy demonstrate when children are taught how to view television critically, children can feel less frightened and sad after discussions about the medium, can learn to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and can identify less with aggressive characters on TV, and better understand commercial messages (Brown, 2001; Hobbs, R. & Frost, R., 2003; Hortin, J.A., 1982; Komaya, M., 2003; Rosenkoetter, L.J., Rosenkoetter, S.E., Ozretich, R.A., & Acock, A.C., 2004; Singer & Singer, 1998; Singer & Singer,1994)
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that APA advocate for the reduction of all violence in videogames and interactive media marketed to children and youth.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA publicize information about research relating to violence in video games and interactive media on children and youth in the Association's publications and communications to the public.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA encourage academic, developmental, family, and media psychologists to teach media literacy that meets high standards of effectiveness to children, teachers, parents and caregivers to promote ability to critically evaluate interactive media and make more informed choices.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA advocate for funding to support basic and applied research, including special attention to the role of social learning, sexism, negative depiction of minorities, and gender on the effects of violence in video games and interactive media on children, adolescents, and young adults.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA engage those responsible for developing violent video games and interactive media in addressing the issue that playing violent video games may increase aggressive thoughts and aggressive behaviors in children, youth, and young adults and that these effects may be greater than the well documented effects of exposure to violent television and movies.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA recommend to the entertainment industry that the depiction of the consequences of violent behavior be associated with negative social consequences.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that APA (a) advocate for the development and dissemination of a content based rating system that accurately reflects the content of video games and interactive media, and (b) encourage the distribution and use of the rating system by the industry, the public, parents, caregivers and educational organizations.
LIST OF RELEVANT RESOURCES
Books, Articles, Papers
American Psychological Association. (1993). Violence and Youth: Psychology's response: Vol 1: Summary Report of the American Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth. Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychological Association, Advertising Council, & National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2002). Adults and Children Together [ACT] Against Violence Campaign.
American Psychological Association Task Force on Television and Society. (1992). Report on televised violence. Washington, DC: Author.
Anderson, C.A. (2000). Violent video games increase aggression and violence. U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Hearing on "The Impact of Interactive Violence on Children." Tuesday, March 21, 2000. Hearing Chaired by Senator Sam Brownback, Kansas.
Anderson, C.A. (2002a). FAQs on violent video games and other media violence. Small Screen, 179-180, September & October issues.
Anderson, C.A., (2002b). Violent video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Chapter in S. L. Calvert, A. B. Jordan, & R. R. Cocking (Eds.). Children in the digital age, (pp. 101-119). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Anderson, C.A., & Bushman, B.J. (2002). The effects of media violence on society. Science, 295, 2377-2378.
Anderson, C.A., Carnagey, N. L., Flanagan, M., Benjamin, A. J., Eubanks, J., Valentine, J. C. (2004). Violent Video Games: Specific Effects of Violent Content on Aggressive Thoughts and Behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 199-249.
Anderson, C.A., & Dill, K. E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 772-790.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Berkowitz, L. (1993). Aggression: Its causes, consequences, and control. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Boland, M. (2001, December 17). Left in the dust: Oz distrib defies vidgame restriction. Variety, 385, p. 7.
Booth, L. (2001, November 26). Do you enjoy showering with men and picking on sissies? Join the military. New Statesman, p. 83.
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Brown, J.A. ( 2001).Media literacy and critical television viewing in education. In D.G.
Singer & J.L. Singer (Eds.). Handbook of children and the media, (681-697) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Buchman, D.D., & Funk, J.B. (1996). Video and computer games in the '90s: Children's time commitment & game preference. Children Today, 24(1), 12-15, 31.
Bushman, B.J., & Anderson, C.A. (2001). Media violence and the American public: Scientific facts versus media misinformation. American Psychologist, 56, 477-489.
Bushman, B.J., & Anderson, C.A. (2002). Violent video games and hostile expectations: A test of the general aggression model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1679-1686.
Bushman, B. J., & Cantor J. (2003). Media ratings for violence and sex: Implications for policymakers and parents. American Psychologist, 58(2), 130-141.
Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R. (2001). Effects of televised violence on aggression. In D. Singer & J. Singer (Eds.). Handbook of children and the media (pp. 223-254). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Calvert, S. L., Jordan, A. B., Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (2002). Children in the digital age: Influences of electronic media on development. Westport, CT: Praeger
Carll, E. K., Singer, D., Anderson, C., Bushman, B., Dill, K., & Friedland, L. (2005). American
Psychological Association Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media, adopted by APA on August 17, 2005.
Carll, E. K. (1999a). Effects of exposure to violence in interactive video games on children. New York State Senate Hearings, Senate Majority Task Force on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry Hearing on "Video Game Violence: Fun and Games or Deadly Serious?" October 6, 1999 & November 23, 1999. Hearings chaired by Senator Michael A. L. Balboni.
Carll, E. K. (1999b). Violence in our lives: Impact on workplace, home, and community. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Dietz, T. L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38, 425-442.
Dill, K. E., Gentile, D. A., Richter, W. A., & Dill, J. C. (in press). Violence, sex, race and age in popular video games: A content analysis. In E. Cole and J. Henderson Daniel (Eds.), Featuring females: Feminist analyses of the media. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Donnerstein, E., & Malamuth, N. (1997). Pornography: Its consequences on the observer. In Schlesinger, L. B. and Revitch, E. (Eds.) Sexual dynamics of antisocial behavior. Pp. 30-49.
Emes, C.E., Is Mr. Pac Man eating our children?. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, May 1997; 42(4):409-14.
Eron, L.D., Huesmann, L.R., Lefkowitz, M.M., & Walder, L.O. (1972). Does T.V. violence cause aggression? American Psychologist, 27, 153-263.
Eron, L.E., Gentry, J.H., & Shlagel, P., (Eds.). (1994). Reason to hope: A psychological perspective on violence and youth. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Fisher, S. (1995). The amusement arcade as a social space for adolescents: An empirical study. Journal of Adolescence, 18(1), 71-86.
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Funk, J.B., & Buchman, D.D. (1996). Playing violent video and computer games and adolescent self-concept. Journal of Communication, 46(2), 19-32.
Eron, L.E., Gentry, J.H., & Shlagel, P., (Eds.). (1994). Reason to hope: A psychological perspective on violence and youth. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Gentile, D. A., Humphrey, B. S., Walsh, D. A. (2005). Media ratings for movies, music, video games, and television: A review of the research and recommendations for improvements, Adolescent Medicine Clinics, 16, 427-446.
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Hortin, J.A. (1982). Innovative approaches to using media in the classroom. Educational Technology, 22(5), 18-19.
Huesmann, L. R., Moise, J., Podolski, C. P. (1997). The effects of media violence on the development of antisocial behavior. In Stoff, D. M., Breiling, J., et al. (Eds.) Handbook of antisocial behavior, (pp. 181-193). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY.
Huesmann, L. R., Moise, J., Podolski, C. P., & Eron, L. D. (2003). Longitudinal relations between children's exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977-1992, Developmental Psychology. 39(2), 201-221
Hobbs, R. & Frost, R. (2003). Measuring the acquisition of media-literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 38,( 3), 330-355.
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Kirsh, S.J. (1998). Seeing the world through "Mortal Kombat" colored glasses: Violent video games and hostile attribution bias. Childhood, 5(2), 177-184.
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Linz, D., & Donnerstein, E. (1989). The effects of counter-information on the acceptance of rape myths. In Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (Eds.) Pornography: Research advances and policy considerations. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Pp. 259-288.
Linz, D., Wilson, B. J., & Donnerstein, E. (1992). Sexual violence in the mass media: Legal solutions, warnings, and mitigation through education. Journal of Social Issues, 48, 145-171.
Mulac, A., Jansma, L. L., & Linz, D. G. (2002). Men's behavior toward women after viewing sexually-explicit films: Degradation makes a difference. Communication Monographs, 69, 311-328.
National Television Violence Study (1996). Mediascope: Studio City, CA.
Phillips, C.A., Rolls, S., Rouse, A., & Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Home video game playing in school children: A study of incidence and patterns of play. Journal of Adolescence, 18(6), 687-691.
Potter, W. J. (1999). On media violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Reid, P., & Finchilescu, G. (1995). The disempowering effects of media violence against women on college women, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 397-411.
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Rosenkoetter, L.J., Rosenkoetter, S.E., Ozretich, R.A., & Acock, A.C. (2004). Mitigating the harmful effects of violent television. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 25-47.
Ryan, J., & Wentworth, W. M. (1999). Media and Society, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Singer, D.G. & Singer, J.L. (1994). Creating critical viewers; a partnership between schools and television professionals. New York: National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Denver, CO: Pacific Mountain Network.
Singer, D.G. & Singer, J.L. (1998). Developing critical viewing skills and media literacy in children. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 557, (164-179).
Singer, D.G. & Singer, J.L. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of children and the media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Singer, D.G & Singer, J.L. (2005). Imagination and play in the electronic age.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Taylor, L. N. (2005). Positive Features of Video Games. In N. E. Dowd, D. G. Singer, and R. Fretwell Wilson (Eds.), Handbook of children, culture, and violence (pp. 247-265). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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Conference Presentations, Websites, Videos
Carll, E. K. (2003). New media technologies and social change in the 21st century: Psychology's role. Symposium, New media technologies, psychology, and social change, Carll, E. K., chair. American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Toronto, Canada.
Entertainment Software Review Board. ESRB game ratings-Game ratings and descriptor guide. Entertainment Software Review Board Web site. Retrieved March 16, 2006 from http://www.esrb.org/esrbratings_guide.asp
Dill, K.E., & Dill, J.C. (2004). Video game violence exposure correlated with rape myth acceptance and attitudes towards women. Unpublished manuscript.
Huntemann, N. (executive producer and director). (2000). Game over: Gender, race and violence in video games. [video]. (Available from the Media Education Foundation, 26 Center Street, Northampton, MA 01060)
Jhally, S. (executive producer and director). (1994). The killing screens: Media and the culture of violence. [Video]. (Available from the Media Education Foundation, 26 Center Street, Northampton, MA 01060)
Walsh, D., Gentile, D. A., VanOverbeke, M., & Chasco, E. (2002, December). MediaWise video game report card. Retrieved January 15, 2003, from http://www.mediafamily.org/research/report_vgrc_2002-2.shtml
Herbert, B. (2002, November 28). The gift of mayhem. The New York Times. p. A35.
Knapp, D. (1996, October 16). Adolescent males blamed for violent gaming trend. Retrieved January 16, 2003 from http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9610/16/video.games/
Marriott, M. (2002, November 7). Game formula is adding sex to the mix. The New York Times. p. G1.
Video game industry gets an "F." (2002, December 19). Retrieved January 16, 2003 from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/19/eveningnews/main533790.shtml