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Charging Neutral Cues with Aggressive Meaning through Violent Video Game Play

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Author(s): Robert Busching | Barbara Krahé

Journal: Societies
ISSN 2075-4698

Volume: 3;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 445;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: media violence | aggressive cognitions | associative networks | learning

ABSTRACT
When playing violent video games, aggressive actions are performed against the background of an originally neutral environment, and associations are formed between cues related to violence and contextual features. This experiment examined the hypothesis that neutral contextual features of a virtual environment become associated with aggressive meaning and acquire the function of primes for aggressive cognitions. Seventy-six participants were assigned to one of two violent video game conditions that varied in context (ship vs. city environment) or a control condition. Afterwards, they completed a Lexical Decision Task to measure the accessibility of aggressive cognitions in which they were primed either with ship-related or city-related words. As predicted, participants who had played the violent game in the ship environment had shorter reaction times for aggressive words following the ship primes than the city primes, whereas participants in the city condition responded faster to the aggressive words following the city primes compared to the ship primes. No parallel effect was observed for the non-aggressive targets. The findings indicate that the associations between violent and neutral cognitions learned during violent game play facilitate the accessibility of aggressive cognitions.
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