The Effects of Video Games and TV/Film Violence On Subsequent Aggression In Male Adolescents

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

B. Jo Hailey

Advisor Department



In the last 10 years, video games have become a five billion dollar industry. A recent Newsweek article quoted "industry estimates" that 90% of the customers are men and boys, and 80% are teenagers. Proponents say that video games are creating an entire generation familiar and comfortable with computers, whereas opponents have been particularly concerned over the possibility that video games may make children too willing to accept or even to copy real violence. One basis for this concern has been the large body of research linking exposure to violence on television with the instigation, frequency, and intensity of aggression in young viewers. The present study compared the effects on subsequent aggression of viewing a violent film on TV with playing a home video game in late adolescent boys who had been angered. Anger was provoked by insulting the subject's performance and aggression was studied in terms of resistance to interference from stress, expressed feelings of hostility, personality traits of aggressiveness and hostility, and behavioral manifestations of aggression. The subjects were 60 male adolescents age 18 and 19 enrolled in undergraduate classes. The subjects watched a segment from the film Rocky II, watched a video tape of a jazz trio, or played Space Invaders for about 13 minutes, and then completed the dependent measures. The major predictions of this study were not borne out as only 1 of the 15 hypotheses was supported by the data. The anger manipulation, the neutral film, and the measure of aggression were discussed as possible explanations for the lack of significant results. The impact of the anger manipulation may have been to produce a sense of failure and depression rather than anger. The aggression measure may have reflected a global evaluation of the experiment and did not require aggression by the subjects. The "neutral" film was rated as low-key and boring and may have magnified the impact of the anger manipulation in comparison to the video game and violent film conditions. The issue of the relative importance of video games or violence on TV as precursors of real-life violence is discussed.