Publication details

Does violence in video games impact aggression and empathy? A longitudinal study of Czech adolescents to differentiate within- and between-person effects

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Year of publication 2024
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Computers in Human Behavior
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords Violent video games; Aggression; Empathy; Within-person effects; Adolescents; Longitudinal research
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Description The associations between exposure to violent video games (VVG) and aggression/empathy have been extensively studied. VVG are often depicted as triggers for increased aggression and decreased empathy in line with the General Aggression Model. However, longitudinal evidence that distinguishes within- and between-person effects and focuses on various dimensions of aggression/empathy remains scarce. Drawing on representative sample of 3010 Czech adolescents (aged 13–17), data were collected over four waves to measure physical and verbal aggression, and cognitive and affective empathy. VVG was evaluated based on open-ended responses. A random-intercept cross-lagged panel model was employed to differentiate within- and between-person associations. VVG positively correlated with cognitive empathy, verbal aggression, and physical aggression at the between-person level. At the within-person level, two hypotheses were examined: the selection effect (effects of changes in aggression/empathy on changes in VVG) and the desensitization effect (effects of changes in VVG on alterations in aggression/empathy). All desensitization effects were statistically insignificant. Regarding selection effects, an increase in affective empathy was linked to a decrease in VVG. Conversely, an increase in physical aggression was associated with an increase in VVG, both positively and negatively, depending on the wave of data collection. Furthermore, the moderation effects of age and gender were tested at the within-person level. The positive (but not negative) effect of physical aggression on exposure to VVG was moderated by age, with a stronger effect evident among younger participants. These findings challenge the portrayal of VVG as a significant contributor to heightened aggression and decreased empathy in adolescents.
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