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Video Game Players Have Increased Moral Reasoning Skills, Researchers Say

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Playing violent games had a positive correlation with higher moral scores whereas mature content, including Call of Duty, and length of time playing had a negative relationship, the study found.

Young people who play video games—including violent video games—have higher moral reasoning skills that those who don't, Bournemouth University researchers found.

Moral reasoning is the thought process of determining what is right and what is wrong, and the researchers surveyed over 160 11 to 18-year-olds about their video game consumption and asked questions around subjects including crime and law, family and friends, helping others, and life.

They found that those who played more video games, and a variety of genres of video games, have higher moral reasoning scores.

Close to 69 percent of participants listed at least one violent video game among their favorites, but researchers found that those who played video games with violent content also have higher moral reasoning.  

The research is described in "It's Double Edged: The Positive and Negative Relationships Between the Development of Moral Reasoning and Video Game Play Among Adolescents," published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The article is authored by Sarah Hodge, Jacqui Taylor, and John McAlaney.

"There has been lots of research into violent video games and we are still not sure what the cognitive effects are of that, but this study looked at whether there was any impact on a moral reasoning level," says Hodge, a lecturer in Psychology at BU.  "We found that those who play games did have higher moral reasoning than those who didn't so it might actually be potentially engaging morality.

"The positive impacts could have been from the types of games plays," Hodge says. "I use the example of balanced gameplay like a balanced diet to make sure there is lots of variety within the game play, not just playing violent shoot 'em ups.

"Violence actually had a positive relationship with moral reasoning—it was more the mature content that suggested a negative relationship. So it is important for people to think about the content of the game in relation to morality, not just the violence," she says.


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