Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Can video games inspire altruism?

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine).

Gam­ing for Good
Research sug­gests that games like Lem­mings, where the goal is to help oth­ers, inspire real-life acts of altru­ism.
— By Kyle Smith

For years, video games have been linked to aggres­sion and vio­lence, with researchers and media reports sug­gest­ing that vio­lent games have inspired or even caused vio­lent acts.

But a new study sug­gests that video games can be a force for good, find­ing that games with pos­i­tive objec­tives can actu­al­ly inspire peo­ple to per­form acts of altru­ism.

lemmings-435x285Over four exper­i­ments, Tobias Gre­it­e­mey­er and Sil­ia Oss­wald, researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sus­sex in Eng­land and Lud­wig-Max­i­m­il­ian Uni­ver­si­ty in Ger­many, respec­tive­ly, had par­tic­i­pants play either a “proso­cial” game—a game where the goal is to help others—or a “neu­tral” game, mean­ing it has no char­ac­ters with whom to inter­act pos­i­tive­ly or neg­a­tive­ly, like Tetris. Then the researchers placed the par­tic­i­pants in sit­u­a­tions where they had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to help oth­ers, rang­ing from low-risk sit­u­a­tions, such as see­ing a dropped cup of pen­cils, to high-risk ones, like wit­ness­ing an angry ex-boyfriend harass an exper­i­menter.

Gre­it­e­mey­er and Oss­wald want­ed to see if the par­tic­i­pants wee more like­ly to inter­vene after play­ing a proso­cial game such as Lem­mings (pic­tured), which tasks play­ers with ensur­ing the safe­ty of a group of fatal­ly stu­pid crea­tures.

The results, pub­lished recent­ly in the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­i­ty and Social Psy­chol­o­gy, show that those who had played a game like Lem­mings were much more like­ly to help in low- and high-risk sit­u­a­tions than were those who had played a neu­tral-themed game.

The authors also inves­ti­gat­ed why they might have seen this link between proso­cial games and proso­cial behav­ior. Essen­tial­ly, they sug­gest that play­ing video games with proso­cial objec­tives fos­ters a proso­cial mind­set that makes peo­ple more will­ing to help oth­ers.

Accord­ing to a study cit­ed in the paper, 70–85 per­cent of games involve some kind of vio­lence. So, although the con­tent of games can cause behav­ioral shifts in either an aggres­sive or altru­is­tic direc­tion, gamers are much more like­ly to expe­ri­ence the for­mer.

The authors’ response to this dis­par­i­ty is a sim­ple one. “There is clear­ly a need for proso­cial video games that are high­ly attrac­tive to cus­tomers,” they write. “Con­vinc­ing the video game indus­try to cre­ate such games would be an impor­tant first step.”

– Kyle Smith is a Greater Good edi­to­r­i­al assis­tant. Greater Good Mag­a­zine, based at UC-Berke­ley, is a quar­ter­ly mag­a­zine that high­lights ground break­ing sci­en­tif­ic research into the roots of com­pas­sion and altru­ism.

Relat­ed arti­cles:

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

3 Responses

  1. Ron says:

    The link between video games and human behav­ior is a unique one. It would be great if peo­ple only fol­lowed the “pos­i­tive” in video games.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I believe the prob­lem with hav­ing pos­i­tive video games is that it does not keep the atten­tion of those who play the game — espe­cial­ly those who are young. The benign tends to get bor­ing. Per­haps video games that stim­u­late the mind, instead of the heartrate are the way to go. Just a thought.

  3. Kerry says:

    Great Post Thanks ~ Excel­lent Idea ~ “Stim­u­late the mind and not the Heartrate” 🙂

Leave a Reply

Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)