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Violent Video Games May Provide Aggression Outlet

March 05, 2018

Americans who play first-person shooter video games are less likely than those who do not to create and distribute hate material online, according to a study published online in Violence and Gender.

Jim Hawdon, PhD
    Researcher Jim Hawdon, PhD

“This finding suggests that violent video games may serve as an outlet for aggression, not a precursor,” said researcher Jim Hawdon, PhD, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg.

Using a national sample of Americans aged 15 to 36 years, researchers conducted the study to investigate factors associated with the online distribution of hate material. In general, the number of Americans admitting to producing and posting such material has increased in recent years. In 2013, 8.1% of Americans in a national sample admitted to posting hate material. In 2016, that proportion jumped to 19.8%, researchers reported.

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“The increase in involvement with producing hate material is likely due to several factors, including the fact that more Americans are seeing extremist messages online,” Dr. Hawdon said. “Exposure to these materials also increased dramatically since 2013. In addition, the intensely polarized political atmosphere is likely a contributing factor.”

In addition to identifying a lower likelihood of posting hate materials among players of violent video games, the study revealed Tumblr users were 43% less likely to post hate material, compared with nonusers of that specific social networking site.

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On the other hand, males were 1.76 times more likely than females, Reddit users were 2.87 times more likely than nonusers, and users of general message boards were 2.19 times more likely than nonusers to post hate material.

“We also find that individuals who are close to an online community and frequent sites where hate material is frequently seen are more likely to produce online hate materials,” Dr. Hawdon said. “This finding likely reflects how the internet helps create insular online communities of like-minded people who collectively create, learn, and refine worldviews that justify, reinforce, and amplify their political dissatisfaction.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Costello M, Hawdon J. Who are the online extremists among us? Sociodemographic characteristics, social networking, and online experiences of those who produce online hate materials. Violence and Gender. 2018 January 19;[Epub ahead of print].

Violent video games may serve as an outlet for aggression, not a precursor, says Virginia Tech expert [press release]. Blacksburg, Virginia: Virginia Tech University; February 21, 2018

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