Violent Video Games and the P300: No Evidence to Support the Neural Desensitization Hypothesis

Simon Goodson, Kirstie-Jayne Turner, Sarah Pearson, Pelham Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


It has been proposed that exposure to violent video games (VVGs) resulted in alterations of social behaviors such as increased aggression. The most damaging reported effect of playing VVGs is neural desensitization to violent stimuli and this is a major concern given the reported number of players and time spent playing major video game titles. The aim of this study was to investigate the existence of neural desensitization that was reported at the P300 component of event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to violent stimuli. Eighty-seven participants were recruited and placed into one of two conditions based on their video gaming behavior (violent games players and nonplayers). ERPs were recorded from participants who passively viewed violent and neutral images selected from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). The participants then played a VVG, postplaying ERPs were recorded while viewing the neutral and violent IAPS images. The mean amplitudes of the P300 were analyzed with respect to condition, time, and content. There was a significant effect of image but not of VVG player and nonplayer. The results were interpreted as evidence against the neural desensitization hypothesis. The findings of this study are consistent with imaging research and the implications for the reported negative effects of playing VVGs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021


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