The roles of selective attention and desensitization in the association between video gameplay and aggression: An ERP investigation

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Abstract

A number of studies have indicated that violent video gameplay is associated with higher levels of aggression and that desensitization and selective attention to violent content may contribute to this association. Utilizing an emotionally-charged rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) task, the current study used two event-related potentials (ERPs) – the N1 and P3 – that have been associated with selective attention and desensitization as neurocognitive mechanisms potentially underlying the connection between gameplay and higher levels of aggression. Results indicated that video game players and non-players differed in N1 and P3 activation when engaged with emotionally-charged imagery. Additionally, P3 amplitudes moderated the association between video gameplay and aggression, indicating that players who display small P3 amplitudes also showed heightened levels of aggression. Follow-up moderational analyses revealed that individuals who play games for many hours and show more negative N1 amplitudes show smaller P3 activation. Together, our results suggest that selective attention to violent content and desensitization both play key roles in the association between video gameplay and aggression.

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