With any psychological study, especially about gaming, you have to keep the salt shaker handy. We’ve explained before why most of these studies are B.S. even before you get into how supposedly a taste for soap means you’re mentally ill after playing games or that video games make white people racist. So, keep that in mind when you read this shocking study that gamers, you know, are just normal people.
Here are the shocking results. Well, the shocking summary from the shocking abstract:
First, the current results replicate previous research indicating that immoral virtual behaviors are capable of eliciting guilt. Second, and more importantly, the guilt elicited by game play led to intuition-specific increases in the salience of violated moral foundations. These findings indicate that committing “immoral” virtual behaviors in a video game can lead to increased moral sensitivity of the player.
In other words, gamers run around doing all sorts of horrible things in the digital world, but they feel kind of bad about doing them. And that makes them more aware of potential immoral decisions in real life.
I’m skeptical that video games can really make you that much more of a morally aware person. It’s a case of what you bring to the game in the first place; a deeply screwed up human being is not going to be healed just because they play a game. But I have to admit, I’ve experienced this, to the degree where I try not to be a complete sociopath while gaming, even in games that allow or encourage it. I enjoy them immensely, but I don’t go around blowing up cop cars with a grenade launcher as a general rule, either, and I’ve found over time that I’m less and less likely to do that with each open-world mayhem simulation I play. So while I don’t think playing video games will make you the Pope, there’s probably something to this.
And either way, it’s just nice to see a study that wasn’t bought and paid for by people with a direct motivation to take your games away from you. For once, the soft sciences are on the side of gamers!