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Investigating causal factors of aggression: Frustration, personality, and the vicarious learning of video game violence

Furniss, Harvey Lee (2010) Investigating causal factors of aggression: Frustration, personality, and the vicarious learning of video game violence. Southampton Solent University.

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Abstract

In April 1999, the Columbine High School shootings stimulated research into the effects of video game violence on behaviour. Subsequently, violent video games have been associated to increases in aggression, emphasising the role of observational learning. An important factor often acknowledged in research is frustration, however it is generally controlled for as a confound, or tested without adhering to the theoretical guidelines stipulated by the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Following these guidelines, a 2x2 experimental design is used to assess the contributions of frustration (high and low game difficulty), and violent content levels (violent; Counter Strike / non-violent content; FIFA10) to automatic aggressive self-concept and explicit self-reported aggressive state, as measured by an implicit attitudes test and the state hostility scale, respectively. Given the considerable support for the influence of aggressive personality traits in aggressive behaviour, personality was assessed as a covariate, using the Buss and Perry Scale. It was hypothesised participants in the high frustration arousal conditions would be associated with increased aggressive states and self concepts, regardless of the video game content group they were assigned, and that a correlation would be present between aggressive personality level and aggressive automatic self concepts and states results. The results provide significant support for the hypotheses that frustration influences aggressive states and automatic self concepts, video game content had no significant influence on the results. The results also support the contribution of aggressive personality to aggression. The author discusses the limitations of the research and considers applications of the findings, such as investing in social programmes to identify and assist troubled adolescents.

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