Category Archives: Video games

Recent podcasts relevant to psychology and crime

MP3onred From the Leonard Lopate Show:

  • Are Sex Offender Laws Working? (20 December): “US sex offender laws may do harm than good, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. Strict notification laws and residency requirements don’t reflect the reality of the risks children face, may not protect victims, and violate the basic human rights of former offenders.”
  • Exonerated: Life After Wrongful Imprisonment (The Leonard Lopate Show: 19 December): “Barry Gibbs spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. David Shepard was wrongfully convicted of rape, and served 10 years of a 30-year sentence. Both were exonerated. But exoneration comes with its own set of challenges. Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Shepard, and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin explain why returning to the outside world is so difficult…and whether anything can make up for the years lost in prison.”
  • JFK’s Assassination, 44 Years Later (The Leonard Lopate Show: 23 November): “Today, 70 percent of Americans think Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Robert Stone’s new documentary about JFK’s assassination, “Oswald’s Ghost,” reviews what happened on November 22, 1963 and how that day’s events have become mythologized in American society.”
  • The Art of Political Murder (The Leonard Lopate Show: 15 November): Bishop Juan Gerardi was a Guatemalan human rights leader who was killed after he published a report on Guatemala’s army-led genocidal campaign in the 1980s and 90s. Francisco Goldman’s account of what happened is The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

A couple of videos via Sandra Kiume’s Channel N Blog:

  • Clinical Reality of Violence Against Women (Emory University Regional Training Center): “…understanding the dynamics of domestic violence by enhancing their response and intervention skills with patients who are victims of domestic violence.”
  • Adolescent Sex Offenders (Yale Psychiatry): “In a Yochelson Lecture, Roy O’Shaughnessy, M.D., Head, Division Forensic Psychiatry of the University of British Columbia (UBC) discusses the psychopathy, treatment and management of adolescent sex offenders. Interesting, and challenging to pop culture assumptions and values.”

From the BBC:

  • Assignment – The internet chatroom murder (22 November): “This week on Assignment, a story of lust, deception and betrayal on the internet. It tells the extraordinary story of a middle-aged factory worker who undergoes a virtual and very real transformation after he goes online – a transformation which ends in murder.”

And finally, over at The Psych Files:

  • The Effects of Video Game and Media Violence (7 December): “What do psychologists think about the effects of violent video games and violence in the media on viewers? Does it lead people to be more aggressive? More violent? Or is it the other way around?”

New issue: Aggressive Behavior 33(6)


Aggressive Behavior 33(6) , Nov/Dec 2007 is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • The impact of aggressive priming, rumination, and frustration on prison sentencing – Eduardo Antonio Vasquez, Vanessa O. Bartsch, William C. Pedersen, Norman Miller
  • Longer you play, the more hostile you feel: examination of first person shooter video games and aggression during video game play – Christopher P. Barlett, Richard J. Harris, Ross Baldassaro
  • Sequence and priming in 15 month-olds’ reactions to brief arm restraint: evidence for a hierarchy of anger responses – Michael Potegal, Sarah Robison, Fiona Anderson, Catherine Jordan, Elsa Shapiro
  • Young adults’ media use and attitudes toward interpersonal and institutional forms of aggression – Sonya S. Brady
  • Women who kill their husbands: mariticides in contemporary Ghana – Mensah Adinkrah
  • Psychopathy and behavioral correlates of victim injury in serious juvenile offenders – Michael J. Vitacco, Michael F. Caldwell, Gregory J. Van Rybroek, Jason Gabel
  • Human proactive aggression: association with personality disorders and psychopathy – Sylvain O. Nouvion, Don R. Cherek, Scott D. Lane, Oleg V. Tcheremissine, Lori M. Lieving
  • Physical aggression as a function of perceived fighting ability among male and female prisoners – John Archer
  • Impulsive and premeditated subtypes of aggression in conduct disorder: differences in time estimation – Donald M. Dougherty, Rachel E. Dew, Charles W. Mathias, Dawn M. Marsh, Merideth A. Addicott, Ernest S. Barratt

New issue: Aggressive Behavior 33(4)


Aggressive Behavior 33(4) , July/August 2007 is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Gender symmetry in prevalence, severity, and chronicity of physical aggression against dating partners by university students in Mexico and USA – Murray A. Straus, Ignacio Luis Ramirez
  • Manipulation and force as sexual coercion tactics: conceptual and empirical differences – Amy E. Lyndon, Jacquelyn W. White, Kelly M. Kadlec
  • Women’s physical aggression in bars: an event-based examination of precipitants and predictors of severity – R. Lorraine Collins, Brian Quigley, Kenneth E. Leonard
  • Trajectories and predictors of indirect aggression: results from a nationally representative longitudinal study of Canadian children aged 2-10 – Tracy Vaillancourt, Jessie L. Miller, Joshua Fagbemi, Sylvana Côté, Richard E. Tremblay
  • Alcohol-aggression expectancies and dispositional rumination moderate the effect of alcohol consumption on alcohol-related aggression and hostility – Ashley Borders, Sara Smucker Barnwell, Mitch Earleywine
  • A latent variable modeling approach to identifying subtypes of serious and violent female juvenile offenders – Candice L. Odgers, Marlene M. Moretti, Mandi L. Burnette, Preeti Chauhan, Dennis Waite, N. Dickon Reppucci
  • Violent video game play impacts facial emotion recognition – Steven J. Kirsh, Jeffrey R.W. Mounts
  • Individual differences conducive to aggression and violence: trajectories and correlates of irritability and hostile rumination through adolescence – Gian Vittorio Caprara, Marinella Paciello, Maria Gerbino, Claudia Cugini

Quick links from around the web


Some snippets from around the web that caught my eye this month:

Providentia’s Dr Romeo Vitelli (14 June) highlights a new article in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine on Dating Violence, Sexual Assault Linked to Suicide Attempts in Teenagers.

Also recommended, Dr Vitelli’s post on the Tarasoff Decision, the ruling that when a client tells their therapist something that indicates that an identifiable individual may be at serious risk of harm from that client, the therapist has a duty to warn such a potential victims (see also this site).

Renowned eyewitness expert Professor Gary Wells provides some advice for law enforcement about best practice in line-ups (Nieman Watchdog, via CrimProfBlog, 13 June)

Mistaken eyewitness identification is the most common cause of the conviction of innocent people. Since 1992, there have been 200 definitive exonerations of people whose convictions were overturned using forensic DNA testing, and mistaken eyewitness testimony was involved in 154 of those cases. Scientists who study psychology have examined the mistaken identification problem and made recommendations regarding critical safeguards when conducting police lineups that can help prevent these mistakes.

Mind Hacks (23 June) links to an interesting article in Reason Magazine on neuroscience, mental health expert witnesses and insanity pleas:

By testifying in trials as expert witnesses, mental health professionals help us reclassify complicated moral and legal questions as seemingly clear-cut scientific matters. An endless stream of news stories about the latest advances in brain scans and the chemical conquest of personality enhances the experts’ credibility and feeds into a belief that we have come to a sophisticated understanding of the intersection between mind, brain, and behavior. […However,] despite all those popular accounts of high-tech tools for understanding the mind, the real role of psychiatry in the courts is far from objective and unimpeachable.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 25 is up at Abyss2Hope (15 June).

Violence costs the US $7 billion each year, according to a study from Phaedra Corso, associate professor of health policy at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, and colleagues (University of Georgia Press release, 5 June):

The researchers found that most of the costs of violence stem from males and young adults. Sixty-eight percent of the costs from assaults and 63 percent of the costs from self-inflicted injuries were in males aged 15 to 44… “The most burdensome category is among young males who are victims of assaults with firearms,” Corso said. “So if you want to prevent those costs from occurring, you need to focus on prevention in that particular population.”

The Situationist Blog (7 June) featured a story about a nine-year-old professional video gamer known as Lil’ Poison:

Lil’ Poison is the world’s youngest known professional videogame player. He has earned thousands of dollars in tournaments across the globe, playing and excelling at games like the violent first-person shooter Halo 2. His success has drawn him much attention, as he has appeared on 60 Minutes, hired a publicist, and, in recent months, been the subject of a filmmaker’s documentary–all of which can be read about on his official website. Lambert’s story [in the New York Times] reflects on the possible pressures Lil’ Poison faces and examines the role of his father’s enthusiasm.

Also on the Situationist (21 June), some comments on deindividuation and the perpetrator of April’s Virginia Tech massacre:

In today’s Washington Post, Sari Horwtiz has a fascinating piece on Seung Hui Cho […] According to investigators, Cho, among other things, radically changed his identity in the days and weeks leading up to the shooting. […] His identity modifications included:

  • When Cho was ready for his shooting spree, he wrote “I am Ax Ishmael,” an identity thought to be based on the biblical figure Ishmael, who lived as an outcast.
  • Taking pictures of himself in poses associated with other persons, including those where he mimics the appearance of Jesus Christ on the cross and where he depicts himself as a soldier.
  • Eliminating any traces of his identity as Seung Hui Cho from his computer, such as by deleting his Hotmail account and removing his hard drive.
  • Methodically obtained weapons and clothing, such as the cargo pants he wore during the rampage, to become a “soldier.”

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

Violent video games – recent research

videogamesResearch on the impact of playing video games (particularly violent games) is a topic that I know that some readers of this blog have a great interest in. Here are a few recent items concerning this topic:

First, a new book from the psych department at Iowa State University, whose press release (4 Apr) explains:

Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley share the results of three new studies in their book, “Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents” (Oxford University Press, 2007). It is the first book to unite empirical research and public policy related to violent video games.

[…] The book’s first study found that even exposure to cartoonish children’s violent video games had the same short-term effects on increasing aggressive behavior as the more graphic teen (T-rated) violent games.

[…] In another study […] the authors found that respondents who had more exposure to violent video games held more pro-violent attitudes, had more hostile personalities, were less forgiving, believed violence to be more typical, and behaved more aggressively in their everyday lives. […] The researchers were surprised that the relation to violent video games was so strong.

[…] A third new study […] found that children who played more violent video games early in the school year changed to see the world in a more aggressive way, and became more verbally and physically aggressive later in the school year — even after controlling for how aggressive they were at the beginning of the study.

Reference: Craig A. Anderson, Douglas A. Gentile and Katherine E. Buckley (2007). Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents (Amazon UK) / (Amazon US) Oxford: OUP

Next, research on trends in video gaming from Harris Interactive (via Docuticker, 3 April). According to the Harris Interactive press release:

Reports from around the world suggest that gaming addiction is real and on the rise. Nationally, 8.5 percent of youth gamers (ages 8 to 18) can be classified as pathological or clinically “addicted” to playing video games. Most youth play video games and many feel that they may be playing too much. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of youth say they that have felt “addicted to video games”, with about one-third of males (31%) and a little more than one in ten females (13%) feeling “addicted.” Forty-four percent of youth also report that their friends are addicted to games. With nearly 8 in 10 American youth (81%) playing video games at least one time per month, including 94 percent of all boys playing, this certainly raises concerns about video game addiction.

An informative report is available (link is a pdf file): Video Gaming: General and Pathological Use.

Finally, The Situationist Blog posted (20 March) about the latest activities of attorney Jack Thompson, “who has made it a personal and professional mission to prevent the sale and distribution of violent video games”:

The Miami-based, Vanderbilt Law-grad has initiated several tort lawsuits relating to children who harm others and who then attribute their harm-causing activities to the playing of violent video games. Thompson’s basic contention is that video game companies owe a duty to consumers to either produce “responsible” games or to ensure that sales of violent ones go stringently regulated and be made unavailable to children—and their failure to do either should be considered negligent behavior.

Photo credit: DrDemento, Creative Commons License

Articles in the latest issue of Personality and Individual Differences

Some interesting articles with forensic psych implications in the latest (March 2007) issue of Personality and Individual Differences42(4):

Self-injury in female versus male psychiatric patients: A comparison of characteristics, psychopathology and aggression regulation – Laurence Claes, Walter Vandereycken and Hans Vertommen

Self-monitoring style and levels of interrogative suggestibility – Stella A. Bain, James S. Baxter and Katie Ballantyne

Forgiveness for intimate partner violence: The influence of victim and offender variables – Jo-Ann Tsang and Matthew S. Stanford

Driving anger in Spain – Mark J.M. Sullman, M. Eugenia Gras, Monica Cunill, Monserrat Planes and Silvia Font-Mayolas

Finger length ratio (2D:4D) and sex differences in aggression during a simulated war game – Matthew H. McIntyre, Emily S. Barrett, Rose McDermott, Dominic D.P. Johnson, Jonathan Cowden and Stephen P. Rosen

Forensic posts on psych blogs – round-up

There have been a number of interesting forensic posts on other blogs in the last couple of weeks.

Mind Hacks carries a report on an unusual court case from Australia. The original report reveals that:

A man has been acquitted of raping a woman – because she had at least 14 personalities. In a bizarre case, a jury was told that the 40-year-old man was accused of sexually assaulting the woman 11 times in her home in 2004 while some of her alter egos looked on and at times intervened.

MH adds commentary about Dissociative Identity Disorder (more commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

The last issue of the BPS Research Digest blog highlights new research on burglary from Claire Nee and Amy Meenaghan in the latest issue of British Journal of Criminology:

The way burglars select houses to target, and how they search once inside, reveal evidence of an expert mind at work. […] Nee and Meenaghan interviewed 50 jailed burglars, all of whom had committed at least 20 burglaries in the last three years; half had committed more than 100. There was also evidence of expertise in the stereotyped way the burglars reported checking for relative wealth, occupancy, access and security when selecting houses to target.

Reference:Nee, C. & Meenaghan, A. (2006). Expert decision making in burglars. British Journal of Criminology, 46, 935-949.

Sign up here for the email version of the RD, if you haven’t already done so

The erudite psych blog Cognitive Daily (1 Sept) wonders, did violent media make Alvaro Castillo kill his father? At the end of August, Castillo drove into a North Carolina school and started shooting at the school. Two students were injured. CD takes up the story:

At Castillo’s home, a more gruesome scene was found: his father’s dead body, shot four times, covered with a sheet. After killing his father, Castillo had recorded his thoughts on video: “Look at me. I’m not even crying. I just killed him and I feel fine,” he said. In the video, Castillo spends most of his time offering commentary on violent movies playing on his small TV. Did these violent films, which he says he’s been watching since he was eight years old, have anything to do with the murder and shooting?

[…] The evidence from the Castillo adds support to the notion that parenting may be a significant — perhaps the most significant — part of the equation. […] Clearly Castillo’s abusive upbringing had a lot to do with his shooting spree. But did violent movies help egg him on? It’s difficult to say where one influence began and the next one ended. It’s certainly likely that viewing so much violence at such a young age desensitized Castillo.

UPDATE (12 Sept): Local paper the News & Observer has extensive coverage of the murder (including links to excerpts from Castillo’s video).

Petra Boynton has a post on proposals in the UK to outlaw violent porn (30 August):

As you may have seen in the news today a UK mother has won a battle to ban the possession of violent pornographic images after her daughter was murdered by a man who allegedly consumed violent porn regularly. There is violent porn available that features the abuse of children, adults and animals and most people would agree it is something that needs to be targetted and controlled. However, it’s not really clear if this proposed legal change will really protect those at risk.

The proposal is the result of a Home Office consultation carried out over the last year. Boynton comments:

[…] Worryingly in this consultation a response was taken from The British Psychological Society that claimed the evidence is that violent pornography causes violent sexual behaviour – and yet the overwhelming amount of psychological research either does not show this or is based on studies so flawed it’s impossible to draw safe conclusions from them.

Recently published articles: Aggression and violence

Recently published journal articles from non-forensic journals:

Sixty-Six Years of Research on the Clinical Versus Actuarial Prediction of Violence – N. Zoe Hilton, Grant T. Harris, and Marnie E. Rice. The Counseling Psychologist 34(3): May 2006

Multidimensional individual differences in anger-related behaviors – H. Van Coillie, I. Van Mechelen, E. Ceulemans. Personality and Individual Differences 41(1), July 2006

Aggression following performance feedback: The influences of narcissism, feedback valence, and comparative standard – C.T. Barry, W.F. Chaplin, S.J. Grafeman. Personality and Individual Differences 41(1), July 2006

The role of violent cognition in the relationship between personality and the involvement in violent films and computer games – Jon Fridrik Sigurdsson, Gisli H. Gudjonsson, Atli Viðar Bragason, Elsa Kristjansdottir and Inga Dora Sigfusdottir. Personality and Individual Differences 41(1), July 2006

Trait Aggressiveness and Situational Provocation: A Test of the Traits as Situational Sensitivities (TASS) Model – Margaret A. Marshall and Jonathon D. Brown
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32(8): August 2006

Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual-Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression-Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior Toward the Same and the Opposite Sex – Peter Fischer and Tobias Greitemeyer. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32(9):Sept 2006

Brain Potentials Implicate Temporal Lobe Abnormalities in Criminal Psychopaths – Kent A. Kiehl, Alan T. Bates, Kristin R. Laurens, Robert D. Hare and Peter F. Liddle. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 115(3), August 2006

The Effects of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that one of the things guaranteed to irritate me is when a press release highlighting newly published research over-hypes or over-applies the research findings. Here’s another example that pushes the ‘over-hype-alert button’.

The Iowa State University press release (27 July) claimed that “research led by a pair of Iowa State University psychologists has proven for the first time that exposure to violent video games can desensitize individuals to real-life violence”. The authors define desensitization to violence as “a reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence.” The study involved taking physiological measurements before and after participants played violent or non-violent video games, and subsequently whilst they watched a 10-minute videotape of real violent episodes:

When viewing real violence, participants who had played a violent video game experienced skin response measurements significantly lower than those who had played a non-violent video game. The participants in the violent video game group also had lower heart rates while viewing the real-life violence compared to the nonviolent video game group.

Nicholas Carnagey, one of the authors, is quoted thus:

“It appears that individuals who play violent video games habituate or ‘get used to’ all the violence and eventually become physiologically numb to it.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that this has set many wondering if this conclusion is actually warranted.

Continue reading The Effects of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence

Priming effects of violent video games

From Reuters via ABC News (10 April 06) comes news of a study that suggests that violent video games prime young men to perceive others’ attitudes towards them as hostile.

[…] Playing the violent game boosted young men’s blood pressure, and appeared to have more of an effect on those who came from more violent homes or communities, the study says. But regardless of whether they grew up in a violent environment, the young men who had played the violent game were less cooperative and more competitive in completing an assigned task with another person, compared to those who played the non-violent game.

Reference: Effects of Media Violence on Health-Related Outcomes Among Young Men. Sonya S. Brady and Karen A. Matthews. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 160(4), April 2006.