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Games Science

Gamers Are More Aggressive To Strangers 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the xbox-live-proved-this-years-ago dept.
TheClockworkSoul writes "According to NewScientist, victorious gamers enjoy a surge of testosterone — but only if their vanquished foe is a stranger. Interestingly, when male gamers beat friends in a shoot-em-up video game, their levels of the hormone plummeted. This suggests that multiplayer video games tap into the same mechanisms as warfare, where testosterone's effect on aggression is advantageous. Against a group of strangers — be it an opposing football team or an opposing army – there is little reason to hold back, so testosterone's effects on aggression offer an advantage. 'In a serious out-group competition you can kill all your rivals and you're better for it,' says David Geary, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, who led the study. However, when competing against friends or relatives to establish social hierarchy, annihilation doesn't make sense. 'You can't alienate your in-group partners, because you need them,' he says."
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Gamers Are More Aggressive To Strangers

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  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @05:23AM (#29590747) Homepage
    If all y'alls weren't such retards, you'd have asked that question already. Suck it, LUUUUSERS.
  • pause for a moment and say, "And you're just now realising this?"
    • by Canazza (1428553) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @05:50AM (#29590865)

      I play with my co-workers at lunchtime. I can tell you I get no satisfaction from killing them... none at all *looks shiftilly around*

      *STAB STAB STAB STAB*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OverlordQ (264228)

      No, it's just news because it finds some way to make video games seem tied to bad behavior.

    • by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @06:41AM (#29591129) Homepage Journal

      And psychologists and endocrinologists are responding to that by saying, "If you knew this, then show us the data you have correlating testosterone response to a near identical stimulus in varying social situations."

      I wasn't aware that there were people out there studying anthropological endocrinology. Feel free to link to the studies upon which they base their knowledge. Because otherwise, this "common knowledge" had not yet been established as data, and history shows many examples of common knowledge failing in light of actual empirical observation.

      Even if this particular study isn't complete or perfect (I haven't read the actual paper, but only the abstract, so I cannot say), it is a start at establishing data and helping us gain an empirical understanding of how we function.

      • by mikael_j (106439)

        I suspect that while no one has studied gamers for this reason before there have likely been studies showing that among many mammals (including humans) these responses exist in similar situations, just not when playing WoW/Quake/CS/Whatever, and I believe this is what's making everyone "How is this news?".

        /Mikael

        • It is still useful to test to see if the same response happens in a different situation. This further establishes the manner in which our brain responds to different stimuli, and again shows that our brain has a degree of difficulty in determining the difference between things actually happening in the real world, and bits of colored light on a screen.

          Call it useless all you want, but science thrives on testing every possible angle so as to extract the maximum amount of truth from reality. There have been
          • by mikael_j (106439)

            It seems you're assuming that I'm one of those "stop wasting money on pointless research" nutjobs, I'm not.

            All I'm saying is that this isn't really news, and it sure isn't "news for nerds" just because the research involved video games. I'm actually fairly certain that, just like with lots of other seemingly boring and uninteresting research projects, these results will be very useful to a small set of researchers but it just isn't very newsworthy (there are tons of studies like this where the results are b

      • by T Murphy (1054674)
        Slashdot should hire you and the parent to make similar posts every time a study-related story is posted so people might catch on faster.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @05:26AM (#29590773)

    I find that I feel bad if I kill someone on my own team by accident.

    Then I feel better when I teabag them anyway. Laughter is definitely the best medicine.

    • First real LOL of the day. How can I ever thank you, BAG ?

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @06:56AM (#29591213)
      That's one reason why I probably would not make a good soldier. I once watched a news item about a US pilot who had accidentally attacked British ground troops (I think this was in Iraq). They played a cockpit recording of the incident where the pilot was told to abort a seccond attack. You could tell from the pilots voice he was shaken, he said "my God, what have I done". My first thought was how could he not feel the same way when attacking Iraqui troops too. These would also be men with families, probably enlisted without choice. Many of them would have little interest in the politics of the region. Some wife and kids would be left to grieve. When I said this I found that only one other person present thought they would feel the same way as me (fortunatley that was my wife!). I am not a pacifist but I think that most recent wars are unjustified. Even in necessary defense I would find killing other people very hard.
      • by Chatsubo (807023) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:06AM (#29591273)

        Indeed, ever notice how such a big deal is made over "civilian" casualties, but soldiers, they almost don't even count. Oh well, 10k soldiers died, but HOLY MOLY! You killed a CIVILIAN!!!

        I think I'd make just as bad a soldier as you.

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          Eh. I agree to some extent, but there is a clear difference. First of all, the soldiers have some expectation that they're going to die. Secondly, the civilians aren't shooting at you. It's the same with police. If the police shoot someone who's aiming a gun at them - no big deal. They're just doing their job. Hell they might even be called a hero and/or given a medal in some situations. But if the police shoot someone who's entirely unarmed, it's fairly big news. They might lose their job over that one.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Possibly, that's because the *aim* is to kill the soldiers. If they don't want to be killed they can surrender or just not show up.

        • Because getting shot at is sort of in the job description of being a soldier, and you cant exactly be an effective soldier if you have a break down every time you fire on an enemy squad?
        • by Ma8thew (861741)
          Civilians, in general, don't volunteer to live in a war zone.
        • by snowgirl (978879) * on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @10:19AM (#29593083) Journal

          Indeed, ever notice how such a big deal is made over "civilian" casualties, but soldiers, they almost don't even count. Oh well, 10k soldiers died, but HOLY MOLY! You killed a CIVILIAN!!!

          I think I'd make just as bad a soldier as you.

          Actually, I'm cool with the differences between civilian and military deaths. Thing is that there are certain people who have consented by Geneva Convention to risk their life in military conflicts. It's the same as boxing. I don't get sad when two boxers fight, and one of them gets beat up. I don't get upset when a football player gets tackled in a football match in a fair play.

          I do get upset when a boxer chews another's ear off, because that's not what the other person consented to, and I do get upset if a football player is injured outside of the rules of play.

          The whole issue here is consent to harm. A soldier has consented to harm and death, while a civilian has made no such choice. That's why it's reasonable for us to treat their deaths in combat differently. Now, say a group of soldiers step over the line and kill five prisoners of war for no reason at all... the POWs vacated their consent to be killed indiscriminately by laying down arms... they are thus "protected".

          It's a sad thing when any human dies, period... however, some people take explicit consent to involve themselves in dangerous activities that may result in their death. If that choice is made willingly, then such be their choice... free-will and self-determination to me is more important than any presumed "sanctity of life".

          • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:07AM (#29593837)

            >A soldier has consented to harm and death, while a civilian has made no such choice.

            Historically, soldiers are draftees who server under the penalty of treason, which is traditionally punishable by death. The US's professional military is the exception, not the rule. So when youre shooting Nazis in any of the hundreds of WWII games, you're killing the virtual equivalent of some kid who was drafted by leadership and forced to fight under the penalty of death.

          • by dissy (172727)

            The whole issue here is consent to harm. A soldier has consented to harm and death, while a civilian has made no such choice.

            While your general point is sound, and I even agree, you forgot to take into account that the majority of the soldiers that are in the position to kill or be killed are drafted and also have no choice.

            I am from the US, so we are fortunate in that there hasn't been a draft since Vietnam in the 60's, so at least for our soldiers since then you are correct.

            Each country goes about drafting differently. A lot of the countries with dictators in control, almost never put their 'higher up' officers in harms way, o

        • by Chatsubo (807023)

          To all the captains obvious replying... Yes I knew that typing the reply. That is my whole point! No, we shouldn't value the lives of soldiers less because they're "expecting to die". No it's not acceptable just because we've been conditioned to believe it is. The human loss stays just as real, no matter how you prefer to rationalize it.

          Ever think think that maybe, had we not put such a low threshold on the value of a soldiers' life, as compared to us normal civilians, that maybe wars wouldn't be fought as

        • Indeed, ever notice how such a big deal is made over "civilian" casualties, but soldiers, they almost don't even count. Oh well, 10k soldiers died, but HOLY MOLY! You killed a CIVILIAN!!!

          You don't see a difference between killing someone who is trying to kill you in return, and killing someone who is trying not to get involved?

          The big problem with modern war is, the killers come home. If the soldiers who went off to war never came back, we'd be much better off, I think...
        • Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying!
          If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan."
          But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Blue Stone (582566)

        Part of military training is to counter people's natural tendency toward empathy. It's no good asking someone to kill another human being when they view them as the same or similar to themselves. Dehumanisation of the enemy is a fundemental requirement when training an army.

        It always make me wonder, when I hear people here (in the UK) saying all these ferral youths and ASBO kids would be better human beings if they were subject to National Service, what exactly they think military training is really all abo

        • by Bob-taro (996889)

          Part of military training is to counter people's natural tendency toward empathy. It's no good asking someone to kill another human being when they view them as the same or similar to themselves. Dehumanisation of the enemy is a fundemental requirement when training an army.

          Do you have anything to back up that claim, other than it's plausibility?

          Kill for yourself, you're a psycho, a murderer, a blight on society. Kill for your government and you're "our brave boys and girls" and a "hero".

          That's a bit of an oversimplification, isn't it? If you take "killing is wrong" as an absolute, then yes, most governments are hypocritical. But I don't think it's unreasonable to think that killing in self defense is justified. War is arguably self-defense on a large scale. I have never been in the military, so I wouldn't know if dehumanization is part of the training. Somehow I don't think it would be necessary. I'm a pretty pe

      • You could tell from the pilots voice he was shaken, he said "my God, what have I done". My first thought was how could he not feel the same way when attacking Iraqui troops too.

        My first thought was that he was a big Talking Heads fan.

      • recent wars are unjustified.

        There's never any justification for slaughtering your brethren or destroying property. There is no victory in war, only degrees of defeat.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        Enemy soldiers want to kill you back, and that makes all the difference in the world. No so with civilians or allies.

        What is tragic is not that these instincts are natural, they are quite rational when understood in their proper context, but they are exploited by politicians to wage immoral and unnecessary wars. The enemy is the enemy is the enemy, never mind the fact that until some demagogue gave the marching orders, the enemy was just another guy who loves his country and wants to protect his family. Our

    • by Jaqenn (996058)

      I find that I feel bad if I kill someone on my own team by accident.

      In counter-strike, I used to feel bad if someone killed me and used my old gun to kill my teammates.

      • by tibman (623933)

        I play DOD:S often as a machine gunner. Anytime my position gets overrun and they take my MG and turn it on my teammates... i feel like i'm somehow responsible for friendly deaths. Should have fought harder!

  • by Darbacour (1606895) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @05:29AM (#29590787)
    Nowadays, there too many jocks passing themselves off as "Gamers"
    • by Phoe6 (705194)

      Not to mention, how many of them are passing themselves off as "Researchers" doing interesting research on those "Gamers".

    • I think you mean that there are too many nerd gamers fantasising about being violent jocks.

    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @06:34AM (#29591099)

      Nowadays, there too many jocks passing themselves off as "Gamers"

      Huh? Aren't games based on pro sports among the most popular/best-selling video game categories? Would it not stand to reason that the more detailed and realistic these games become, the more interest they will hold for people who play the games in real life?

      And come on, let's face it... what does it take, really, to "pass oneself off as a gamer"? Videogames -- and especially casual video games -- have become a multi-billion dollar industry. It's not like it's 1978 and you're meeting in your friend's basement to toss around 20-sided dice; entire Hollywood movie franchises are being built around videogame characters. Face it -- it ain't geekery anymore, it's mainstream... just like pro sports.

      But a nerd trying to pass himself off as a jock... Now, That's Entertainment!

      • by pjt33 (739471) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:26AM (#29591395)

        Would it not stand to reason that the more detailed and realistic these games become, the more interest they will hold for people who play the games in real life?

        No. It's at least as reasonable to expect an uncanny valley effect whereby the more realistic the game becomes, the more its unrealistic aspects jar for people who are familiar with it in real life.

  • Sample Bias? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @06:23AM (#29591049) Journal
    It sounds like they are counting gamers as 'people who play games online' which naturally biases the sample towards people who enjoy beating strangers. I enjoyed LAN gaming a lot, but never got in to online FPS games because beating some random person who may or may not be a bot (or using various cheats) didn't seem as satisfying as beating someone in the same room (and, conversely, being shot by someone in the same room gave you a chance to express disbelief at their skill, or complain about their camping tactics). People who had the same reaction as me would not have been counted as 'gamers' for this study.
    • From the article, it doesn't sound like they specifically recruited guys who were already playing online games. They recruited students, and then assigned them to play a multiplayer videogame. And each team sat together within earshot of their opposition.

      So I see no reason to dismiss the effect as a selection bias.

  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:00AM (#29591245)

    If every soldier got to personally know their enemy, there would be no war.

    The lack of communication, and the alienation and dehumanization of the foe are what justifies violent recourse. If only saddam hussein hadn't denied Bush's friend request on facebook...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Firemouth (1360899)
      Even if soldiers knew their enemy, there would still be war. Soldiers aren't necessarily the ones who decide to fight. Case in point, the American civil war. Families were split on the issues and consequently were on opposite sides of the war when war broke out.
    • Re:That is why... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:41AM (#29591473) Homepage Journal

      Sorry but that's just utter BS. History is filled with examples of people who knew each other going to war against each other. The US Civil War is one good example, as is almost every other Civil War in history. The American Revolution is another. Knowing someone doesn't mean you won't kill them if you are given the chance and situation to do so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How are civil wars an example for this? Do you know everyone in your country? I certainly don't. I could fight in a war against the next town and never meet an enemy soldier I knew, let alone a war against different parts of the country hundreds of miles away.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by T Murphy (1054674)
          There are many stories of soldiers on both sides of the American civil war putting down their guns on Christmas and socializing, just to go back to killing each other the next day. You don't have to know the person as an individual- if you connect culturally you already know them fairly well without having to talk to him.
          • by idontgno (624372)

            Not just the American Civil War.

            World War I, too [wikipedia.org].

            Even with a degree of shared cultural heritage (such as a common religious holiday), soldiers will eventually resume trying to slaughter each other, because that's the primary* way out of the hell of war, win or lose.

            *Yeah, "primary", not "only", regardless of what The Brass says. You could desert, but that's pretty traumatic. You could kill yourself, by your own hand or by "suicide by enemy action", but self-destruction is extreme. You could surrender, but

          • There are many stories of soldiers on both sides of the American civil war putting down their guns on Christmas and socializing, just to go back to killing each other the next day. You don't have to know the person as an individual- if you connect culturally you already know them fairly well without having to talk to him.

            World War One as well. The events of Christmas 1914 are something everyone should read about, if you'd like to know more about the nature of humans and war.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        I find it highly unlikely that every soldier in the Confederate Army knew every Union soldier personally.
        Obviously, people kill close relatives and loved ones all the time, so familiarity is not sufficient to prevent killing; but it's psychologically a lot more difficult. I've heard (though anecdotally) that in still-existing hunter-gatherer societies, when people encounter strangers, they sit down and try to figure out whether or not they're related and in what way, to decide if they're going to kill each

      • Do you live in the US? The US is a huge mix of people, who all don't really spend time mixing. Going from state to state, to a US citizen, it's often like venturing to a whole new world. Going from the suburbs to the inner cities is night and day. I live in Pennsylvania, and we have an old joke that PA is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between... it's 100% true! Socially and physically central PA is very "country." And to top it all off, we have violent and deep oppositions politically be

    • by simoncpu was here (1601629) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @08:17AM (#29591713)
      Sorry but that's just utter BS. History is filled with examples of people who knew each other going to war against each other:
      • Professor Charles Xavier vs. Magneto
      • Spiderman vs. Green Goblin
      • Superman vs. Lex Luthor
      • Batman vs. Catwoman
      • Peter Petrelli vs. Sylar
      • God vs. Lucifer

      Knowing someone doesn't mean you won't kill them if you are given the chance and situation to do so.

  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:28AM (#29591405)
    So it does the same as e.g. football. So it's the same as sports. So computer games are no more or less dangerous than sports in this aspect. So I hope anti gaming advocates don't conclude something to their advantage from this.
    • by AlpineR (32307)

      Oversensitive much? The article explains that researchers wanted to study the testosterone effect from sports. But physical activity itself raises testosterone, so they needed a sedentary form of competition and turned to videogames. The research doesn't remotely say that playing videogames makes you mean to people. It says that humans are mean to strangers and show restraint against non-strangers.

  • Partly useful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by insomnyuk (467714) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @07:52AM (#29591529) Homepage Journal

    Indeed, very often the thing about good science is that what they discover may seem obvious in retrospect; in this case the notion that in social situations or warfare men treat enemies or strangers differently than friends and family is directly correlated to testosterone levels. Certainly the concept of social cooperation and distinctions are made between different groups of people is not new. However, coming up with data to show a cause for why this is so can be very useful, it can provide a model for making predictions, and can perhaps be applied to other areas of research. I think it's interesting that the video gamer's social interactions through the digital medium were just as 'real' to their bodies as it would have been to someone in a physical setting.

  • it won't be as satisfying when i blow them to pieces?

    dead uncle chester is going to regret leaving me that 12 gauge

  • On several of the sites that I will post to, I will go nicer on a postback to ppl that I know. If somebody that I consider a friend zings me hard, I tend to assume that they are having a bad day. OTH, if a stranger hits me, OR if I decide to take time and check their history and find out that they are on the negative side, then I hit harder.

    My guess is that this is true of everybody here, if they think about it.
  • Family Kill Fest (Score:2, Interesting)

    by realsilly (186931)

    I find this to be quite different. I've watched my husband, nephews, step-sons and brother-inlaws attempt to annihilate each other just for the shits and giggles of it all. Of course the best deaths are the most funny. But they are brutal to one another.

    I guess I can chalk it up to that fact that they are a close knit set of men in one family and they are all talking on the XBox head sets when they play together. Interestingly enough though, if you watch the teenage boys who are rather skilled, the gene

  • China knows this... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GigG (887839) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @09:06AM (#29592175)
    China learned this little tidbit of human nature at Tienanmen Square. The tank unit that wouldn't roll over the guy was a unit made up of troops from Beijing. They've since fixed that by assigning units from the outer provinces to the city.
  • I don't know about you, but I used to love beating my friends at fighting games and FPS's. In fact, there were plenty of occasions we nearly got into fist fights over some cheap move in Tekken or Soul Calibur...
  • Hold on a second... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by silentcoder (1241496) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @09:56AM (#29592807) Homepage

    There's a major point hidden in there... we've seen for years politicians arguing that games cause violence and aggression.

    Why aren't we seeing those same politicians complaining against sports ? Especially the particularly violent kinds like boxing, wrestling and ice-hockey ?

    I mean, if watching a violent movie or playing a violent game is going to turn you into a killer... how is actually beating somebody unconscious better ?
    But I guess we haven't seen a lot of convicted killers trying to palm off the responsibility for their crimes on Don King, it's just easier to blame EA maybe ?

    Our society actively encourages children, particularly boys, to engage in one form of aggressive, violent and competitive behavior against their peers, and if they think about it at all, believes it a harmless way to burn off rage with fairly little risk of real harm (odd, last I checked you got a lot more sports-field injuries than gaming, and RSI is a much less damaging injury than a broken knee). While another form of harmless acted-out aggression is deemed to somehow worsen those same hormonal and societal stresses ?

    Isn't this perhaps the single best argument yet against censoring games ? If we are going to censor them for potentially leading to violence, we must surely ban anybody under 18 from doing wrestling or boxing (or watching matches on TV), and probably American Football, ice-hockey and in fact
    any other contact sport while we're at it...
    There is no argument about the one that doesn't apply to the other (sports are *more* immersive than games, you are actually DOING it, not just pretending) - so since the very procensorship crowd is the same people who lament that some of us just don't LIKE sports and never did - well it does sort of leave them without a leg to stand on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kelbear (870538)

      I remember hearing that burning off aggression with physical exertion was widely advocated. Then it was found that it formed a habit of channeling aggression into physical expression.

      Instead they advocated suppressing the aggression. Instead of building up a hidden repository of repressed anger as was expected by many, some psychologists showed their subjects were learning to eliminate their aggression instead of storing it up for later.

      But I am not a psychologist. I cannot reference the studies. I'm just p

  • of ganking.

    I knew that gankers were compensating.

  • This goes to prove the importance of 'anonymity' in the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [penny-arcade.com]

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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