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Empathy-putting oneself in another's shoes-has been described as the "social glue" that holds society together. This study investigates how exposure to sexist video games can decrease empathy for female violence victims. We hypothesized that playing violent-sexist video games would increase endorsement of masculine beliefs, especially among participants who highly identify with dominant and aggressive male game characters. We also hypothesized that the endorsement of masculine beliefs would reduce empathy toward female violence victims. Participants (N = 154) were randomly assigned to play a violent-sexist game, a violent-only game, or a non-violent game. After gameplay, measures of identification with the game character, traditional masculine beliefs, and empathy for female violence victims were assessed. We found that participants' gender and their identification with the violent male video game character moderated the effects of the exposure to sexist-violent video games on masculine beliefs. Our results supported the prediction that playing violent-sexist video games increases masculine beliefs, which occurred for male (but not female) participants who were highly identified with the game character. Masculine beliefs, in turn, negatively predicted empathic feelings for female violence victims. Overall, our study shows who is most affected by the exposure to sexist-violent video games, and why the effects occur. (200 words).
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Acting Like a Tough Guy: Violent-Sexist Video Games, Identification With Game Characters, 2"
Masculine Beliefs, & Empathy for Female Violence Victims 3"
Alessandro Gabbiadini1, Paolo Riva1, Luca Andrighetto2, Chiara Volpato1 and Brad J. Bushman3, 4 7"
1University of Milano Bicocca, Italy 8"
2University of Genova, Italy 9"
3The Ohio State University, USA & 4VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands 10"
Word c o u n t : 4620 14"
Abstract word count: 201 15"
Author Notes 17"
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to 18"
Alessandro Gabbiadini, 19"
University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Psychology, 20"
Piazza Ateneo Nuovo, 1, 20126 Milano, Italy. 21"
E-mail: 22"
Phone number : ++39 348.0010477 23"
Fax number : ++39 02.64483716 24"
Abstract 26"
Empathy—putting oneself in another’s shoes—has been described as the “social glue” that 27"
holds society together. This study investigates how exposure to sexist video games can decrease 28"
empathy for female violence victims. We hypothesized that playing violent-sexist video games 29"
would increase endorsement of masculine beliefs, especially among participants who highly 30"
identify with dominant and aggressive male game characters. We also hypothesized that the 31"
endorsement of masculine beliefs would reduce empathy toward female violence victims. 32"
Participants (N=154) were randomly assigned to play a violent-sexist game, a violent-only game, or 33"
a non-violent game. After gameplay, measures of identification with the game character, traditional 34"
masculine beliefs, and empathy for female violence victims were assessed. We found that 35"
participants’ gender and their identification with the violent male video game character moderated 36"
the effects of the exposure to sexist-violent video games on masculine beliefs. Our results supported 37"
the prediction that playing violent-sexist video games increases masculine beliefs, which occurred 38"
for male (but not female) participants who were highly identified with the game character. 39"
Masculine beliefs, in turn, negatively predicted empathic feelings for female violence victims. 40"
Overall, our study shows who is most affected by the exposure to sexist-violent video games, and 41"
why the effects occur. (200 words) 42"
Introduction 44"
“Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing 45"
with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the 46"
world a better place.” 47"
— Daniel H. Pink, author 48"
Empathy is an emotional response that corresponds to the feelings of another person, such as 49"
feeling distress when seeing another person in distress. Empathy does indeed make the world “a 50"
better place” to live and it is one of the best predictors of prosocial behavior [1,2,3]. Numerous 51"
studies have shown that playing violent video games reduces feelings of empathy and makes people 52"
numb to the pain and suffering of others (for a meta-analytic review see [4]). 53"
People feel empathy for other individuals, not for objects. In some video games, such as the very 54"
popular Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games, female characters are treated as sex objects rather than as 55"
individuals worthy of respect. GTA main male characters are always depicted as hyper-masculine, 56"
dominant, and aggressive men. In contrast, the female characters are portrayed as sexual objects—57"
usually prostitutes or pole-dancers—who are peripheral to the game narrative and whose sole 58"
purpose is to entertain the main male characters [5]. For example, after paying a prostitute for sex, 59"
players can kill her and get their money back. Rather than being punished for such behaviors, 60"
players are often rewarded (e.g., through points, extra health to their character, etc.). 61"
Although sex-typed video game characters in the virtual world might affect perceptions of men and 62"
women in the real world, there is a dearth of research on this topic. In one study, male college 63"
students who saw photos of sex-typed male and female video game characters (vs. professional men 64"
and women) were more tolerant of sexual harassment against a female college student by a male 65"
professor [6,7] In another study, female college students who embodied sexualized video game 66"
characters (vs. non-sexualized game characters) were more likely to view themselves as a sexual 67"
object, which in turn increased their acceptance of rape myths [5]. In a third study, both male and 68"
female participants were more aggressive after playing a violent game as male character than as a 69"
female character [8]. Yet, none of these studies assessed the role of individual differences (i.e., 70"
moderators) and/or underlying mechanisms (i.e., mediators) of the obtained effects. The present 71"
research fills these important gaps in the literature by testing a moderator variable (i.e., 72"
identification with the violent-sexist video game character and gender), and a mediator variable 73"
(i.e., masculine beliefs) of the effects of exposure to violent sexist video games on empathy for 74"
female violence victims 75"
Who is Most Affected: The Moderating Role of Identification 76"
With the Game Character 77"
Previous research has largely ignored moderators of the effects of violent-sexist video 78"
games on players. The notion of identification with a virtual avatar, as an online self-representation, 79"
has been investigated in past research [9,10,11]. In particular, some works have shown that when 80"
experiencing a virtual world, players are likely to establish a connection between themselves and 81"
their game character, and even imagine themselves to be that character [12,13,11]. For example, 82"
participants in one study [13] played either a first-person shooter war game or a racing game and 83"
then completed a measure of automatic attitudes using the Implicit Association Test [14]. The 84"
researchers found that participants who played a war game had stronger associations between 85"
military-related concepts and the self, whereas participants who played a racing game had stronger 86"
associations between racing-related concepts and the self. These results suggest an automatic shift 87"
in players’ implicit self-perceptions. Identification with violent video game characters can also 88"
influence behavior. For example, one study found that the more boys identified with violent game 89"
characters, the more aggressive they were after the game was turned off [11]. 90"
Building on these previous findings, in the present work we tested whether the identification with 91"
the game character would interact with exposure to violent sexist games in predicting a reduction in 92"
empathic feelings toward female violence victims. More specifically, we expected that players who 93"
highly identified with violent sexist game character would display a greater endorsement of 94"
masculine beliefs. Furthermore, we expected that the interactive effects of exposure to violent sexist 95"
games and identification with the game character on masculine beliefs would be stronger for male 96"
(compared to female) players. Drawing from this theoretical framework, we propose that 97"
identification with the game character and participants’ gender could play a key-moderating role in 98"
the effects of violent-sexist games on empathy for female violence victims. 99"
Why the Effect Might Occur: The Mediating Role of 100"
Masculine Beliefs 101"
Previous research has largely ignored mediators of the effects of violent-sexist video games 102"
on players. One scholar notes that the video game culture assumes that the default player is male, 103"
which can lead to the maintenance of masculinity in the virtual world [15]. Another scholar 104"
proposed that adolescent and young adult males often use video game spaces to explore their 105"
masculine identity [16]. Masculinity refers to normative beliefs about how men are expected to 106"
think, feel, and behave [17]. Traditionally, men are considered to be aggressive, dominant, 107"
competitive, strong, powerful, and independent [17,18]. Theories of hegemonic masculinity assert 108"
that modern media convey myths about male dominance and female submission in order to support 109"
a patriarchal social structure [19]. In other words, media stereotypes construct a stylized view of 110 "
masculinity and femininity that influences the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those who 111"
consume these media. In the mediated world, men are expected to control their feelings in order to 112"
be less vulnerable and more powerful. Emotions such as fear and empathy are prohibited because 113"
“real men” are not supposed to express these feelings [20,18]. However, not all emotions are 114"
prohibited. Feelings of anger and rage are encouraged in “real men” because they are associated 115"
with high status and power. 116"
The portrayal of men in the media as socially powerful and physically violent reinforces 117"
assumptions about how men and boys should act in society, as well as how they should treat women 118"
and girls [21]. Exposure to sex-typed media characters can have real world consequence. For 119"
example, one study found that television programs that depict women as sex objects increased the 120"
likelihood of sexual harrassment [22]. A meta-analytic review found that masculine beliefs were 121"
positively associated with aggression against women [23]. In general, males are more likely than 122"
females to agree with myths and beliefs supportive of violence against women, show less empathy 123"
for female violence victims, and consider violence against females to be a less serious problem (see 124"
[24]). We propose that the exposure to violent and sexist video games could reinforce masculine 125"
beliefs, hampering the ability for players to feel empathy for female violence victims. Because 126"
masculine norms are strongly reinforced in GTA video games, we propose that GTA gameplay will 127"
increase masculine beliefs. Masculine beliefs, in turn, are expected to be negatively related to 128"
empathy for female violence victims. 129"
Overview 130"
The present study investigates the short-term effects of playing violent-sexist video games 131"
on empathy for female violence victims. We consider identification with the game character as one 132"
possible moderator, expecting larger effects of the game content for participants who strongly 133"
identify with the hyper-masculine, violent, male game character in GTA. Further, we proposed 134"
participants’ gender as second possible moderator, assuming that the effects of the game content 135"
would be stronger for male participants than for female participants. As a possible mediator, we 136"
propose that violent-sexist games reduce empathy for female violence victims by increasing 137"
masculine beliefs. Combining these hypotheses, we propose a conditional process model ([25]; see 138 "
Fig 1). In this model, we predict that violent-sexist video games will increase masculine beliefs, 139"
which in turn will be negatively related to empathic feelings for female violence victims, especially 140"
among male participants who display higher levels of identification with the violent male game 141"
character. To test whether these effects are specific to violent-sexist video games, we also included 142"
violent-only video games in our design, as well as nonviolent (control) video games. 143"
--- Insert Figure 1 about here --- 145"
Fig 1. Conditional process moderated mediation model (Model 11 in PROCESS [24]) 147"
Materials and Method 148"
Participants 149"
Participants were 154 Italian high school student volunteers (43.4% male, 15 to 20 years old, 150"
(M = 16.82, SD = 1.24). The study was reviewed and approved by University of Milano-Bicocca 151"
ethics committee (Prot. N. 0024403/12) before the study began. Both the high school and the 152"
university review board gave their written consent for the study; parents' consent was collected 153"
through an official written communication sent by the office school management before the 154"
beginning of the data collection. Parental informed consent and participant written assent rates were 155"
both 100%. 156"
Procedure 157"
Participants were told that investigators were testing cognitive abilities in order to develop a 158"
new video game that would be distributed in the near future. After providing basic demographic 159"
information (age, nationality, gender), participants were randomly assigned to play a violent-sexist 160"
video game (i.e., GTA San Andreas or GTA Vice City; both rated 18+ for violent and sexual 161"
content), a violent-only video game (i.e., Half Life 1 or Half Life 2; both rated 16+ for violent 162"
action, but no sexual content or violence toward women), or a non-violent video game (i.e., Dream 163"
Pinball 3D or Q.U.B.E. 2; both rated 10+ with no violent or sexual content). 164"
Half-Life is a first-person shooter video game where the player has the same visual perspective as 165"
the character. In both games used in this study (Half Life 1, Half Life 2), players fight in a post-166"
apocalyptic future. Although there is a female co-protagonist (Alyx), she is portrayed in a non-167"
sexual manner. In contrast, all female characters in GTA are portrayed in a sexual manner. By 168"
selecting video games that use different representation of women, it is possible to differentiate 169"
between sexual violence exposure (i.e., GTA ) and exposure to violent games not involving sexism 170"
exposure (i.e. , Half Life). 171"
Dream Pinball 3D is a classic pinball simulation game featuring different tables to play on, while 172"
Q.U.B.E. 2 is a first-person puzzler in which the player has to solve an array of physics-based 173"
challenges. 174"
For all the three video game conditions, participants first watched the introductory video of the 175"
game for about one minute, in order to familiarize themselves with the game. Next, they practiced 176"
by playing a preselected scene for 5 minutes. During the practice session, participants were taught 177"
how to control their character and how to interact with the game world. When the practice session 178"
ended, participants played the game alone for 25 minutes 179"
For all the three games, participants were asked to pursue a specific goal or mission. We attempted 180"
to keep the mission as similar as possible for the violent-sexist and the violent-only games. For 181"
violent-sexist games (both GTA San Andreas and GTA Vice City), the mission was to destroy a rival 182"
criminal gang. Both missions started in a private-club, and then move through the streets of the city. 183"
During the gameplay, players were frequently exposed to female prostitutes and lap dancers; 184"
indeed, those are common elements in all the episodes of the GTA saga. For the violent-only games 185"
(both Half Life 1 and Half Life 2), players were asked to complete a mission whose goal was to 186 "
destroy a group of enemies. The game’s action in both Half life 1 and Half life 2, takes place in a 187"
suburban area of the city, and then moves to a few abandoned buildings. For the neutral control 188"
games (both Dream Pinball 3D and Q.U.B.E. 2), the mission was simply to accumulate as many 189"
points as possible. 190"
All games in all conditions were played at an intermediate level to avoid boredom (from the game 191 "
being too easy) and frustration (from the game being too difficult). 192"
After gameplay, participants completed some video game manipulation checks. They were 193"
first asked to report the title of the video game they played, rated how violent, involving, and 194"
exciting they thought the game was (1=not at all to 7=extremely), and rated how sexualized the 195"
female figures in the game were (1=not at all to 7=extremely). Given the popularity of the GTA 196"
series among young people, we also measured how frequently they played the video game they 197"
were randomly assigned to play in this experiment (0=never played before to 7=every day). 198"
One moderator was participant gender. As a possible second moderator, we measured how much 199"
participants identified with their video game character using the 6-item (e.g., “When I am playing, it 200"
feels as if I am my character” and “My character is an extension of myself”; 1=completely disagree 201"
to 7=completely agree) of the Player Identification Scale [26] (Cronbach α=.92). 202"
As a possible mediator, we measured masculine beliefs. We used 12 items (e.g., “Boys should be 203"
encouraged to find a means of demonstrating physical prowess” and “It is OK for a guy to use any 204"
and all means to ‘convince’ a girl to have sex”; 1=completely disagree to 7=completely agree) from 205"
the revised Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI-R; Cronbach α=.78) [27] Levant, Rankin, 206"
Williams, Hasan, & Smalley, 2010). 207"
The dependent variable was how much empathy participants felt toward female violence victims. 208"
When people become desensitized to violence, they become numb to the pain and suffering of 209"
violence victims [28]. Participants were shown one of two photos (randomly determined) of an 210"
adolescent girl who had been physically beaten by an adolescent boy (see S1 Appendix). 211"
Participants rated whether they felt sympathetic, moved, compassionate, tender, warm, softhearted, 212"
disregarded (reverse-coded) and indifferent (reverse-coded) [see 29] for her (1=not at all to 7=very 213"
much; Cronbach α=.83). 214"
About 2 weeks later, following the completion of the study, all participants were fully debriefed. No 215"
participants expressed suspicion about the true purpose of the study. In particular, none of the 216"
participants reported a link between video games and gender-based violence or sexism. The 217"
experimenter then disclosed the purpose of the study, and discussed the potentially harmful short-218"
terms effects of violent and sexist video games on players. A group discussion followed. 219"
Results 220"
Preliminary Results 221"
Stimulus sampling. 222"
To increase the generalizability of our findings, we used two video games of each type and 223"
two photos of interpersonal violence [30]. Independent-sample t-tests found no significant 224"
differences between the two different violent-sexist games, between the two different violent-only 225"
games, or between the two nonviolent games on identification with the main video game character, 226"
masculine beliefs, or empathy for female violence victims (ps>.12). Thus, the two violent-sexist 227"
games were combined, the two violent-only games were combined, and the two nonviolent games 228"
were combined for subsequent analyses. 229"
There were no significant differences between the two photos of the adolescent boy beating the 230"
adolescent girl on how much empathy participants felt for her (ps>.10). Thus, the data from two 231"
photos were combined for subsequent analyses. 232"
Video game manipulation check items. 233"
Five items were included to assess whether the video game manipulation was successful. 234"
First, we checked the name of the game reported by each participant. All participants correctly 235"
named the video game they played. We then tested whether the violent video games were rated to 236"
be more violent than the nonviolent games. A one-way between subjects ANOVA found a 237"
significant difference in violence ratings for the video games, F(2,150)=182.16, p<.001, η2=.70. 238"
Post-hoc comparisons using Tukey’s Honestly Significant Difference (HSD) test indicated that the 239"
violent-sexist games (M=5.11, SD=1.23) and the violent-only games (M=4.09, SD=1.25) had 240"
significantly higher violence ratings than the nonviolent games (M=1.20, SD=.53), ds=4.13 and 241"
3.01, respectively. However, the violent-sexist games also had higher violence ratings than the 242"
violence-only games (M=5.11, SD=1.23; d=.82). Then, we checked ratings of familiarity. A one-243"
way between-subjects ANOVA found a significant difference in frequency of play for the video 244"
games, F(2,152)=4.28, p=.015, η2=.053. Post-hoc test revealed significantly that violent-sexist 245"
games had higher frequency of play (M=2.10, SD=1.54; p=.013) than both violent-only (M=1.36, 246"
SD=1.31) and neutral games (M=1.58, SD=1.03). Thus, violence ratings and frequency of play were 247"
included as covariates in all analyses. No statistically significant differences between violent-sexist 248"
(M=4.18, SD=1.56), violent-only (M=3.94, SD=1.42), and neutral games (M=3.82, SD=1.76) were 249"
found for game involvement, F(2,151)=0.70, p>.49. Moreover, no significant differences between 250"
violent-sexist (M=3.71, SD=1.55), violent-only games (M=3.65, SD=1.68), and neutral games 251"
(M=3.18, SD=1.58) were found of game excitement, F(2,151)=1.67, p>.19. Finally, we tested 252"
whether female characters were rated as more sexualized in the violent-sexist video games than in 253"
the violent-only games. As expected, female characters in the GTA games were rated to be more 254"
sexualized (M=5.88, SD=1.43) than female characters in the Half Life games (M=2.16, SD=1.31), 255"
t(101)= 13.67, p<.001, d=2.72. Taken together, these results suggest that the video game 256"
manipulation was successful. 257"
Primary Results 258"
Since playing violent video games that are not necessarily sexist have been already shown to 259"
reduce feelings of empathy, we contrast coded the type of video game as follow: +1=violent-sexist 260"
games, 0=violent-only games, -1=non-violent games. Data analysis revealed that the type of video 261"
game was positively associated with masculine beliefs (r=.203, p=.011). Participant gender (1=male 262"
vs. 0=female) was associated with both masculine beliefs (r=.507, p<.001) and identification with 263"
the game character (r=.241, p=.003). Mean comparison revealed that participant gender impacted 264"
the masculine beliefs such that male participants showed greater endorsement of masculine beliefs 265"
(M=3.23, SD=0.82) than female did (M=2.44, SD=0.52; t(152)=7.25; p<.001; d=1.15). Participant 266"
gender also influenced the identification with the game character such that boys identified more 267"
with the game character (M=4.63, SD=1.20) than girls (M=3.96, SD=1.45; t(152)=3.05; p=.003; 268"
d=0.50). Further, the level of identification with the game character was positively associated with 269"
masculine beliefs (r=.197, p=.014). Finally, masculine beliefs were negatively associated with 270"
empathy for female violence victims (r=-.348, p<.001; see Table 1). 271"
Table 1. Bivariate correlations 274"
1. Type of video game
2. Masculine beliefs
3. Participants' gender
4. Identification with the
game character
5. Empathy for female
violence victims
6. Violence ratings
7. Frequency of play
8. Participants' age
Note. Type of video game was coded +1=violent-sexist games, 0=violent-only games, and -1=non-violent 276"
games. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. 277"
We conducted a series of one-way between-subjects ANOVAs to test the effects of type of 279"
video game played on three dependent variables: (1) identification with the game character, (2) 280"
masculine beliefs, and (3) empathy for female violence victims. The first ANOVA found a 281"
significant effect for type of video game played on identification with the game character, 282"
F(2,152)=6.06, p=.003, η2=.073. Post-hoc comparisons using Tukey’s Honestly Significant 283"
Difference (HSD) test indicated that participants who played a violent game identified with the 284"
character more than did participants who played a neutral game (d=0.62, p=.003) or a violent-sexist 285"
game (d=0.57, p=.04). No differences were found between the neutral and the violent-sexist games 286"
(p=.67). 287"
The second ANOVA found a significant effect for type of video game played on masculine 288"
beliefs F(2,152)=3.33, p=.038, η2=.004. Post-hoc tests indicated that participants who played a 289"
violent-sexist game reported higher masculine beliefs than did participants who played a neutral 290"
game (d=0.50, p=.03). No statistically differences were found between violent-sexist games and 291"
violent-only games (p=.24) or between violent-only and neutral games (p=.57) on masculine 292"
beliefs. 293"
The third ANOVA found no significant effect for type of video game played on empathy 294"
for female violence victims (p=.31). Descriptive statistics by experimental conditions for each 295"
dependent variable are reported in Table 2. 296"
Table 2. Means and standard deviations (in parenthesis) by experimental conditions for each of the 298"
considered dependent variables. 299"
Neutral game
(males n=21; females n=29)
Violent-only game
(males n=25; females n=30)
Violent-sexist game
(males n=22; females n=26)
Identification with
the game character
3.89 (1.57)b
4.76 (1.21)a
4.12 (1.18)b
Masculine beliefs
2.62 (0.72)b
2.77 (0.73)b
3.02 (0.86)a
Empathy for
female violence
5.03 (0.95)a
5.29 (0.92)a
5.02 (1.16)a
Note. Different letters indicate means statistically differences between experimental conditions. 300"
To test our predictions, we then conducted a conditional process model by using the 302"
PROCESS macro Model 11 for SPSS with 1000 bootstrapping samples [24]. In this model, the type 303"
of video game played was entered as predictor, the identification with the game character as a 304"
moderator, masculine beliefs as the mediator, and empathy toward female violence victims as the 305"
outcome variable. We predicted that participants’ gender would moderate the effects of the 306"
identification with the game character on the relationship between the type of video game and 307"
masculinity beliefs. (see Figure 1). Participant age, video game violence rating, and frequency of 308"
video game play were also included as covariates. 309"
Considering the moderated path from the type of video game to masculine beliefs, analyses 310"
revealed that the main effects of type of video game played, identification with the game character, 311"
participant gender, participant age, and frequency of gameplay were not significant (bs<.56, 312"
ts(140)<1.47, ps>.14), whereas the main effect of violence rating was significant (b=-.10, SE=.047, 313"
t(140)=-2.07, p=.039). The two-way interaction between type of video game played and participant 314"
gender was significant (b=-1.05, SE=.45, t(140)=-2.29, p=.023), whereas the interactions between 315"
type of video game played and identification with the game character (b=.02, SE=.065, t(140)= .32, 316"
p=.74) and between participant gender and identification with the game character (b=-.03, SE=.083, 317"
t(140)=.36, p=.71) were both nonsignificant. Crucially, all these effects were qualified by our 318"
predicted 3-way interaction between type of video game played, participant gender, and 319"
identification with the game character on masculine beliefs (b=.26, SE=.10, t(140)=2.55, p=.011; 320"
see Table 3). 321"
Table 3. Regressions of type of video game (neutral, only-violent, sexist-violent) on empathy for female violence victims when masculine beliefs is the mediator 322#
and participants’ gender and identification with the game character are the moderators 323#
Masculine beliefs
Type of video game
Participants’ gender
Identification with the game character
Violence rating
Frequency of play
Type of video game X Participants’ gender
Type of video game X Identification with the game character
Participants’ gender X Identification with the game character
Type of video game X Participants’ gender X Identification with the game character
Empathy for female violence victims
Violence ratings
Frequency of play
Masculine beliefs
Note. b = unstandardized beta weight; SE = standard error; *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001. 324#
For male participants, simple slope analyses showed a significant positive relationship between 325$
identification with the game character and masculine beliefs for males who played with a violent-326$
sexist game (b=.32, SE=.12, t(62)=2.65, p=.009), but not for males who played violent-only game 327$
(b=.095, SE=.078, t(62)=1.21, p=.23) or for males who played a nonviolent game (b=-.13, SE=.97, 328$
t(62)=-1.33, p=.18; see Fig 2). For female participants, there was no significant relationship 329$
between identification with the game character and masculine beliefs in any of the three video game 330$
conditions (bs<.082, ts(76)<1.81, ps>.075). 331$
--- Insert Figure 2 about here --- 333$
Fig 2. Interactive effect of video game content and identification with the game character on 335$
masculine beliefs for male participants. The difference between violent-sexist game players 336$
and violent-only and nonviolent game players is significant for values of identification with 337$
video game characters greater than 4.2931. 338$
Then, considering the path from masculine beliefs (i.e., the mediator variable) to empathy 340$
for female violence victims (i.e., the outcome variable), analyses revealed that masculine beliefs 341$
negatively impacted the dependent variable (b=-.45, SE=.11, t(146)=-4.17, p<.001). 342$
As first support of our moderated mediational hypothesis, we found a significant indirect 343$
effect of the type of video game on empathy for female violence victims via increased masculine 344$
beliefs for males [-0.1846 (95% CI=-0.3984 to -0.0410)] but not for females [-0.0406 (95% CI=-345$
0.1318 to 0.0097)] who played with a violent-sexist game. No effect was found for males [-0.0486 346$
(95% CI=-0.1733 to 0.0363)] or females [-0.0294 (95% CI=-0.0799 to 0.0041)] in the violent-only 347$
game condition. Similarly, no indirect effect of type of video game on empathy was found for males 348$
[-0.0874 (95% CI=-0.0134 to 0.3363)] or females [-0.0181 (95% CI=-0.0783 to 0.286)] in the 349$
nonviolent game condition. Further, conditional indirect effects of type of video game on empathy 350$
for female violence victims were significant only for males in the violent-sexist game condition at 351$
values of identification with the game character greater than 4.2583 [-0.1920 (95% CI=-0.4668 to -352$
0.0492] (see Fig 2). These results suggest that violent-sexist games decreased empathy for female 353$
violence victims for boys who strongly identified with the violent game character, and did so by 354$
increasing masculine beliefs. 355$
Discussion 356$
The present research is in line with previous studies showing that violent video games can 357$
desensitize individuals to real-life violence [4,31], including violence against women [6]. More 358$
important, it moves beyond the question of whether violent games are harmful per se to address the 359$
important questions of who is most likely to be harmed by violent-sexist video games, and through 360$
what mechanism does the harm occur. 361$
A possible answer to the “who” question is players that identify with the violent-sexist game 362$
character. Results support the prediction that playing violent-sexist video games increases 363$
masculine beliefs and decreases empathy for female violence victims, especially for boys and 364$
young men who highly identified with the male game character. Previous research has shown that 365$
video games are especially likely to increase aggression among players who identify with violent 366$
game characters [11], and that a reduced empathy is one of the major predictor for aggression 367$
against women [32]. Exposure to media violence is one of the many factors that can influence 368$
empathy levels [33]. Violent video games, in particular, might reduce empathy levels because 369$
players are linked to a violent character. If the video game is a first person shooter, players have the 370 $
same visual perspective as the killer. If the video game is third person, players control the actions of 371$
the violent character from a more distant visual perspective. Because they are forced to adopt the 372$
visual perspective of the perpetrator, it is difficult for players to put themselves in the shoes of the 373$
victim. In general, we argue that it is important to take individual differences into account when 374$
considering violent video game effects (see also [34]). 375$
A possible answer to the “why” question (i.e., through which mechanism) is masculine beliefs. 376$
Results showed that masculine beliefs were negatively related to empathic feelings for female 377$
violence victims. To our knowledge, the present research is the first to elucidate the underlying 378$
mechanism that links violent video games playing to desensitization of violence against women. 379$
Speaking to the specificity of our effects, it is noteworthy that type of video game played 380$
directly affected identification with the game character and masculine beliefs, whereas it did not 381$
directly affect empathy for female violence victims. However, we found an indirect conditional 382$
effect of violent-sexist games (vs. only-violent vs. neutral) on empathy, which consistently emerged 383$
through the mediation of masculine beliefs and the moderation of identification with the game 384$
character. Accordingly, the effects were statistically significant only for highly identified male 385 $
participants who played the GTA games, which are both violent and sexist. We found no significant 386$
effects for violent-only or nonviolent video games on masculine beliefs or empathic feelings. As in 387$
previous research (e.g., [8]), gender differences in identification with the game character emerged 388$
(i.e., males identified more with the male game character than females did). In addition, males had 389$
higher masculine beliefs than females did. This finding can be interpreted in light of the theoretical 390$
framework of identification with a virtual character. Video game identification has been considered 391$
as an altered experience of the self, in which players may come to perceive themselves to actually 392$
be their game character, thus assuming the character’s point of view [13]. This process has been 393$
described also as “an imaginative process” involving cognitive, emotional, and motivational 394$
dimensions ([35], p. 250). The player shares the character’s perspective (cognitive), feelings 395$
(emotional), and goals (motivational) [35,36,37]. Furthermore, identification with a virtual 396$
character has been found to be greater in video games with an articulate plot, in which the assigned 397$
role fosters a sense of ''vicarious self-perception'' [38]. This is the case with GTA, in which players 398 $
assume the role of a man who is aggressive, misogynistic, cruel, and greedy. Since that, it is not 399$
surprising that we found that male players who identified with the main video game character ended 400$
up adopting his point of view more easily than female players, as indicated by an increase in 401$
masculine beliefs and a decrease in feelings of empathy for female violence victims. 402$
This investigation of virtual representations of males and females in video games is 403$
extremely relevant, because video games have distinct features compared to other forms of media 404$
[5] and different effects on males and females. Unlike images in traditional media, game characters 405$
are designed to respond to a user’s actions [39], which can promote a powerful experience that goes 406$
beyond passive media consumption. Often these interactions mirror communication in the physical 407$
world, and users often react to virtual situations in natural and social ways [39,5]. 408$
Limitation and Future research 409$
Our study, like all studies, has limitations. Few main limitations stand out. First, we used a 410$
self-report measure of empathy. Future research should consider other measures of empathy that are 411$
less subject to demand characteristics, such as physiological measures (e.g., heart rate, skin 412$
conductance). 413$
Second, we examined only two moderators (i.e., participant gender and identification with the game 414$
character) and only one mediator (i.e., masculine beliefs). Future research should examine other 415$
possible moderators (e.g., trait aggressiveness, social dominance orientation) and mediators (e.g., 416$
dehumanization, women objectification; [see 22]). 417$
Third, our study was based on a short exposure to violent-sexist video games (i.e., about 25 418$
minutes). Although it is impressive that we were able to obtain significant effects after such a brief 419$
exposure, we do not know what the consequences would be for longer exposures. If the effects 420$
occur after only 25 minutes of play in a laboratory experiment, they are probably magnified after 421$
longer periods of play outside the lab. Indeed, individuals usually play video games for much 422$
longer periods of time (from 8 hours to 13 hours per week; [40, 41]). Previous experimental 423$
research has shown that the effects of violent video games can accumulate and get larger over time, 424$
at least over a three-day period [41]. 425$
Fourth, we did not measure sexist thoughts after a certain amount of time, so we cannot ascertain if 426$
and how long the observed effects last. However, previous experimental research has shown that 427$
the effects of violent video games can last at least 24 hours after gameplay if players ruminate about 428$
the content of the game [43]. 429$
Fifth, GTA is a well-known game, and the simple act of playing it could have primed masculine and 430$
sexist thoughts regardless of the actual gameplay. Indeed, media audiences often make their 431$
assessment of characters and narratives using existing schemes rather than actual on-screen 432$
action/content [44]. Thus, future studies should test whether similar effects are obtained for less 433$
well-known sexist-violent videogames than GTA. Furthermore, future studies should test whether 434$
the empathy reduction linked with violent-sexist video games is specific to female violence victims 435 $
or whether it extends to male violence victims. Future research should also examine video games 436$
with female characters that are not depicted in a sexualized manner. 437$
Sixth, we did not actually test whether feelings of empathy mediate aggression against women. As a 438 $
first step, this study focused on empathy for female violence victims. Future studies should explore 439$
whether violent-sexist video games also increase aggression against women. 440$
Conclusion 441$
One of the best predictors of aggression against girls and women is lack of empathy [32]. 442$
The present research shows that violent-sexist video games such as GTA reduce empathy for 443$
female violence victims, at least in the short-term. This reduction in empathy partly occurs because 444$
video games such as GTA increase masculine beliefs, such as beliefs that “real men” are tough, 445$
dominant, and aggressive. Our effects were especially pronounced among male participants who 446$
strongly identified with the misogynistic game characters. Daniel Pink was correct in noting that 447$
empathy makes the world a better place. Unfortunately, it appears that GTA might make the world 448$
a worse place for females. 449$
Acknowledgments 451$
The authors declare that they have no competing interests or any business relationships with 452$
the manufacturers of the video games and products cited in the text. 453$
This work is supported by PRIN (2012)-20123X2PXT_003 grant to the first and the third authors. 454$
We want to thank “G. Maironi da Ponte” high school institute, especially Prof. Mazzotti and Mr. 455$
Maffeis, for supporting us in the data collection process. 456$
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Supporting Information files 583$
S1 Fig 1 caption. Figure 1 (for illustrative purposes only) used to measure empathy toward a 584$
female victim of violence. Participants indicated how much pain they thought the girl was feeling, 585$
and how much they thought she was suffering (1=not at all to 7=very much; Cronbach α=.79). 586$
S1 Fig 2 caption. Figure 2 (for illustrative purposes only) used to measure empathy toward a 587$
female victim of violence. 588$

Supplementary resource (1)

... Negative outcomes can be reflected on players: those who used sexualized avatars reported more experiences with sexual harassment, name-calling, obscene comments (Behm-Morawitz & Schipper, 2015). Objectification of women was associated with a higher chance of negative beliefs about women's abilities (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009) and inappropriate behavior toward women in social contexts (Yao, Mahood & Linz, 2010;Gabbiadini et al., 2016). Sexist depictions may reinforce the idea that masculinity is connected to dominance, power and violence, especially towards women -fostering hostile and benevolent sexism (Ryan, 2011;Burkley, Wong & Bell, 2016), specifically through immersion and presence, which can lead to increases in aggression and hostile sexism (Nowak et al., 2008;LaCroix et al., 2018). ...
... Finally, videogames with sexist representations may reinforce the idea that masculinity is connected with imposing power and dominance over others, especially women (Levant & Richmond, 2007), reinforcing gender stereotypes (Yao, Mahood & Linz, 2010) and the idea that the male gender is (or should be) sexually and socially "dominant" in society, and the female gender should instead be "submissive" (Gerdes & Levant, 2017;Cole et al., 2019): for men, exposition to sexist representations was associated to a long-term higher belief in benevolent sexist stereotypes, such as believing women to be weak, pure, and in constant need of protection (Stermer & Burkley, 2015). Male players endorsing sexist attitudes were also more likely to show a strong identification with a male lead character in a violent and sexist game (Yao, Mahood & Linz, 2010;Gabbiadini et al., 2016). Despite these numerous results, some recent studies failed to confirm previous findings between exposition to sexualization and self-objectification (Skowronski, 2021) or between avatar sexualization, hostile sexism and self-objectification (Read et al., 2018). ...
Conference Paper
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In the last few decades, videogames have become a mass phenomenon and have progressively carved out an important space in society and culture. Today, they have growing capabilities to reproduce realistic scenarios, and are increasingly used as an artistic medium with significant narrative potential. In this context, players also need to confront with the representation of aspects of the Self, moving and interacting within video games’ parallel worlds. How these aspects are represented in media can be an important influence on a psychological, cultural and social level. Gender representation can be argued to be almost universal in media and reflects real-world beliefs and attitudes. Despite areas of progress, videogames often feature sexist, prejudiced or biased representations of men and women, both from an aesthetical and narrative point of view. This contribution will discuss the role of gender representation in videogames, aiming to summarize the main features and specificities of different portrayals. Specifically, men characters were over represented compared to women characters as a lead both in the narrative and in promotional material, although recent improvements were observed. Portrayals of womenappeared to feature lean-ideal body idealization, sexualization, objectification, as well as reduced agency. Moreover, portrayals of men appeared to feature muscular-ideal body idealization, restrictive emotionality, and the overuse of aggressiveness and assertiveness. These restrictive representations can have harmful consequences in the users’ reality, such as fostering sexist attitudes and beliefs, promoting restrictive gender roles and ideals of appearance, as well as increasing tolerance of violent behaviors. This analysis suggests that reducing stereotypical and sexist representations, promoting diverse and nuanced representations, and efforts for critical engagement with media portrayals may help reduce these negative effects.
... For example, research studies indicate that digital game-playing behavior strongly manifests through both the characters' and the players' facial expressions. Gabbiadini et al. (2016) investigated the psychophysiology of digital gameplaying, considering it the fastest form of media entertainment. Their study predicts how emotional responses are a way of communication for media psychologists in the game industry. ...
We analyze the audience response to the death of narrative-driven fictitious characters with predetermined fates, whether part of a virtual or cinematic story, and specifically from video games and TV series. Our aim is to contribute to the studies of identification and empathy with fictitious characters in media, as well as to close the research gap around these studies by specifically focusing on the death of the characters. We collected 3000 online comments on the deaths of 16 characters from video games and TV series. We coded each comment according to the five stages of grief by Kübler-Ross and Kessler and performed quantitative (using LIWC2015 psycholinguistic analysis software) and qualitative analysis (using thematic analysis). Overall, we found a strong resemblance between the processes of grief for real and fictitious characters and uncovered differences of language when discussing the death of a character based on (a) their gender; (b) their role in the story; (c) their interactivity mode; and (d) the form of media. Finally, qualitative analysis revealed unique and novel themes for on-screen deaths, such as (a) the effects of aural cues; (b) nostalgia and beauty; (c) resurrection and transmedia; (d) spoilers; (e) comparisons and real-life connotations; (f) the effects on the franchise; and (g) the effects of the gender of the viewer on these discussions. We discuss our findings in detail, along with implications for future character development.
... When these alterations occur, the player can be adopting the characters' point of view, for example, masculine beliefs portrayed by the character. Similarly, a study conducted by Gabbiadini, Riva, Andrighetto, Volpato and Bushman (2016) shows that when the player identifies with the main character in a game with high sexist violence content like Grand Theft Auto (2013), they end up having reduced empathy for female victims. One of the factors used to predict violence against women is the lack of empathy towards them (Sanday, 1981in Gabbiandini et al., 2012. ...
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This thesis shines a light on tools that can be used in order to create persuasive and meaningful video games. This research was designed as an exploration of the game Behind Every Great One, with the purpose to determine if and how the game could attain a persuasive and meaningful representation of a benevolent sexist situation. To achieve this, the research took on three different approaches: an interview with the developer, a textual analysis of the game, and a qualitative survey analyzing players' reactions to, and perceptions of, the game. The findings suggest that displaying characters' emotions in ways that transmit them to the players, paired with a realistic, complex representation of the social situation portrayed, are imperative for making the game have a persuasive and meaningful impact on the players. The researcher also suggests the term persuasive meaningful play as an applicable way to refer to games that contain similar characteristics as Behind Every Great One.
... In video game settings, some studies have documented that men gamers are more adherent to hostile sexism than their women counterparts, which has been linked to the normalization of situations of harassment and sexism as harmless components of online gaming (e.g., Dill & Thill, 2007;Fox et al., 2018;Fox & Potocki, 2016). Moreover, men gamers consider violence against women to be a low-severity problem (Gabbiadini et al., 2016). With regard to age, previous research has shown a U-shaped relation with hostile sexism among men and women (Hammond et al., 2018). ...
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... Identification with the game character, that is, adopting its characteristics during play, may last after the game, but only for a limited time. Gabbiadini et al. (2016) showed that identification with game characters in a sexistviolent video game positively predicted the masculine beliefs of male participants. In turn, masculine beliefs negatively predicted empathy toward female violence victims. ...
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This review investigates theoretical explanations, predictors, and psychological outcomes of identification with game characters. Theoretical explanations depended on Cohen's conceptualization of identification with media characters, wishful identification, similarity identification, embodied presence concepts, self-perception, self-discrepancy, and social identity theories. Predictors included customizability, how the character is perceived (ideal, attractive, similar, real), narrative, immersion, presence, age, time spent playing/playing history, player's psychological characteristics, and perceived performance. Psychological outcomes included enjoyment, flow experience, addiction, problematic gaming, playing motivations, self-efficacy, competence, short-term outcomes (change in aggression, empathy), intention to continue playing, game-related spending, social identification, and in-group bias. The self-discrepancy perspective provides the most prevalent explanation, which proposes that game characters are closer to players' ideal selves, and identification with the game character reduces their self-discrepancies. However, the social identity perspective offers more overarching explanations discussing identification with game-related groups (groups created within the game and game community) and the game character together, thus pointing to a bigger picture where players develop social identities through interaction with game-related groups. Therefore, unlike other explanations discussing game character identification as a temporary experience, the social identity perspective indicates it may be a lasting experience. Regarding predictors, only two were game-related (customizability, narrative), while most were player-related (e.g., age, time spent playing, player's psychological characteristics), which might show that player characteristics deserve more attention than the game itself to understand the identification process. Concerning psychological outcomes, while two were positive (enjoyment, flow experience) and two were negative (addiction, problematic gaming), most had various aftermaths, such as a short-term outcome of an increase in aggression or empathy.
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Playing video games is associated with cognitive changes and possibly psychosocial difficulties. Problematic gaming occurs upon the loss of control over videogame playing; gaming disorder is considered a behavioral addiction in the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases. Models used to understand behavioral addictions include cognition as an essential factor in the development, maintenance, and relapse of addiction. Nevertheless, some aspects of cognition, such as social cognition, remain underexplored, despite evidence of alterations in cognitive and social function among patients with problematic gaming. This review aimed to describe the current understanding of social cognition in individuals exposed to videogames. We included all studies assessing social cognition in participants of any age with a wide range of exposure to video games (from simple use of video games (such as at least two exposures) to problematic gaming, defined according to the included study). This wide range of exposure allowed us to explore the whole process from repeated exposure to addiction. We included only studies that used neuropsychological tasks to assess social cognition. Patient-reported outcomes that could be biased by subjective self-report data were not included. The search was conducted from inception to January 2022 in three databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science). The systematic search identified 39 studies that assessed facial emotion processing, empathy, theory of mind, social decision-making, aggressive behavior, and moral competence. In general, results have been mixed, and a number of questions remain unanswered. Nevertheless, several studies showed cerebral changes when processing facial emotion that were linked with problematic gaming, while no link was obtained between nonproblematic gaming and empathy alterations. The influences of cooperation patterns, theory of mind, moral competence, and gaming frequency were highlighted. Finally, there was substantial heterogeneity in the population assessed and the methods used.
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This study aimed to develop a scale to measure the harassment experienced by women in multiplayer online games. The study sample consisted of 324 Brazilian female players aged 18 to 44 years recruited from an online survey. Item Response Theory (IRT), particularly the graded response model, was used to evaluate the performance of the items proposed to measure the cited harassment. Moreover, linear regression was used to investigate the association between some women's characteristics and the scale. The results showed that the proposed scale is a nine-item unidimensional psychometric instrument suitable for measuring and better understanding the harassment experienced by women in online gaming spaces. In addition, the association analysis evidenced a high level of harassment among women who reported playing using female nicknames and playing more than three types of games. Finally, most of those who reported a preference for playing with female players had already experienced a high level of harassment.
The majority of chatbots are built, by default, as women. In doing so, dangerous stereotypes and behaviors are perpetuated by those responsible for designing the chatbots, and ultimately the users. It is therefore crucial that gender identity and expression are well understood by all those involved in designing the chatbots. This chapter explores this alongside a literature survey regarding feminist methodologies, anthropomorphism, and authenticity to put forward three recommendations. That those responsible for building chatbots should keep up to date with research, look to widen the diversity of their own team, and to integrate ethics in their design processes. Only in doing so will chatbots that are fit for purpose be built.
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The construction of gender identities occurs through a variety of social forces, including memes widely circulated on social media. Beyond the function of internet memes as entertainment, they also promote gender-based bonding through humor in ways that encourage performative gender roles central to self-image. Decoding memes as a form of contemporary data reveals desires and fears, both conscious and unconscious, that underlie dramaturgical performances supporting hegemonic masculinity. In the case of “car guys,” car aficionados whose passion for cars is integral to their identity, memes reflect the group's aspirational presentation of self, including cars, as a symbolic physical embodiment of hegemonic masculinity. This semiotic study of 60 car guy memes shared on social media uncovered recurrent motifs centered around cars' ability to affirm men's position in the metaphorical driver's seat. Flashy cars were often portrayed as more desirable than women, a sentiment encapsulated by the meme, “Men love women, but even more than that, men love cars.” This novel analysis of memes explores the ostensible male preference for fantasy cars over emotionally risky relationships. Two salient themes relevant to conceptions of masculinity emerged: (1) car guys' apprehensions about male–female interdependence and (2) frustration with women's discretion in meeting men's emotional and sexual needs. Memes as a cross-sectional, unfiltered data source provide insight into the need to reconcile car culture with gender equality.
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Research has indicated that many video games and virtual worlds are populated by unrealistic, hypersexualized representations of women, but the effects of using these representations remain understudied. Objectification theory suggests that women’s exposure to sexualized media representations leads to self-objectification. Further, we anticipated this process would lead to increases in rape myth acceptance (RMA). Two experiments (Study 1, N = 87; Study 2, N = 81) examined the effects of avatar features on women’s experiences of self-objectification. In both studies, college women exposed to sexualized avatars experienced higher levels of self-objectification after the virtual experience than those exposed to nonsexualized avatars. Furthermore, in Study 2, self-objectification mediated the relationship between controlling a sexualized avatar and subsequent levels of RMA. We discuss the implications of women using sexualized avatars in video games and virtual environments, which may lead to negative attitudes about the self and other women off-line due to heightened self-objectification. Additional online materials for this article are available to PWQ subscribers on PWQ's website at
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Violent video games glorify and reward immoral behaviors (e.g., murder, assault, rape, robbery, arson, motor vehicle theft). Based on the moral disengagement theory, we predicted that violent games would increase multiple immoral behaviors (i.e., lack of self-control, cheating, aggression), especially for people high in moral disengagement. High school students (N = 172) who had completed a measure of moral disengagement were randomly assigned to play one of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) violent video games, or a nonviolent game. Self-control was measured using the weight of uneaten chocolates (i.e., M&M’s) in a bowl by the computer. After gameplay, participants could cheat on a test to win raffle tickets for attractive prizes (e.g., iPad). Aggression was measured using a competitive task in which participants could give an ostensible partner unpleasant noise blasts through headphones. Results showed that violent video games decreased self-control and increased cheating and aggression, especially for people high in moral disengagement.
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Online video games are a popular leisure activity around the world; such virtual environments enable new ways for social identity to develop. This study investigated the motives affecting social identification processes in the massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW). In this video game, players interact with other players in a tridimensional virtual world through their avatar. A sample of 92 WoW players took part in a data collection Web survey. Building on the theory of social identity, we tested the predictive power of three identification motives: self-esteem enhancement, optimal distinctiveness, and uncertainty reduction. Additionally, considering previous research on MMORPGs, we added identification with the game character and membership duration as further predictors of virtual group identification. The construct of virtual group identification was analyzed at two levels: identification with the faction and guild of the character. Furthermore, the current study ...
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Previous research has shown that violent video games can increase aggression in players immediately after they play. The present research examines the effects of one subtle cue within violent video games that might moderate these effects—whether the avatar is male or female. One common stereotype is that males are more aggressive than females. Thus, playing a violent video game as a male avatar, compared to a female avatar, should be more likely to prime aggressive thoughts and inclinations in players and lead to more aggressive behavior afterwards. Male and female university students (N = 242) were randomly assigned to play a violent video game as a male or female avatar. After gameplay, participants gave an ostensible partner who hated spicy food hot sauce to eat. The amount of hot sauce given was used to measure aggression. Consistent with priming theory, results showed that both male and female participants who played a violent game as a male avatar behaved more aggressively afterwards than those who played as female avatar. The priming effects of the male avatar were somewhat stronger for male participants than for female participants, suggesting that male participants identified more with the male avatar than did the female participants. These results are particularly noteworthy because they are consistent with another recent experiment showing that playing a violent game as an avatar with a different stereotypically aggressive attribute (black skin color) stimulates more aggression than playing as an avatar without the stereotypically aggressive attribute (Yang et al., 2014, Social Psychological and Personality Science). Aggr. Behav. 9999:XX–XX, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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This study examined the effects of interactivity in violent video games on aggression and tested identification as the moderated mediating mechanism. A total of 169 male undergraduate students participated in a 2 media interactivity (enactive mediation vs. observational mediation) × 2 violence (violent vs. nonviolent) experiment. Results supported a moderated mediation model in which the effect of media interactivity on aggressive affect through identification was moderated by violence. When violence was present, interactive play resulted in higher short-term aggressive affect through higher character identification than when violence was not present. Additionally, an interaction effect between media interactivity and violence was found for automatic self-concept in which players associated themselves more with the game character's traits than video viewers.
Media and the Make-Believe Worlds of Children offers new insights into children's descriptions of their invented or "make-believe" worlds, and the role that the children's experience with media plays in creating these worlds. Based on the results of a cross-cultural study conducted in the United States, Germany, Israel, and South Korea, it offers an innovative look at media's role on children's creative lives.