Many a Daily Mail headline would have you believe that violent games create violent people, but one new study suggests the opposite might be true.
As reported by Polygon, a new research paper entitled ‘Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive’ actually concludes that the feelings of guilt evoked by committing immoral acts in video games can actually lead to a heightened sense of morality in the real world.
“Several researchers have demonstrated that the virtual behaviours committed in a video game can elicit feelings of guilt,” the report’s abstract reads. “Researchers have proposed that such guilt could have pro-social consequences. However, this proposition has not been supported with empirical evidence.
“The current study examined this issue in a 2×2 (video game play vs. real world recollection×guilt vs control) experiment. Participants were first randomly assigned to either play a video game or complete a memory recall task. Next, participants were randomly assigned to either a guilt-inducing condition (game play as a terrorist/recall of acts that induce guilt) or a control condition (game play as a UN soldier/recall of acts that do not induce guilt).
“Results of the study indicate several important findings. First, the current results replicate previous research indicating that immoral virtual behaviours 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 behaviours in a video game can lead to increased moral sensitivity of the player. The potential pro-social benefits of these findings are discussed.”