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Negative Influence of Violent Video Games on Children and Adolescents: The General Aggression Model
School shootings and adolescent violence are becoming increasingly commonplace in the USA and worldwide; the cases of Michael Carneal killing three fellow students in 1997 and Mitchell Johnson killing five persons in 1998 were only the first signs of the looming danger (Gimpel, 2013). Nowadays, the number of mass shootings increases disproportionately, with ever more victims and bloodthirsty support for such aggressive attacks in the online gaming community. Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner, Eris Harris, etc. – these are only a couple of names of violent adolescent shooters who terrified the entire world with their outrage and mass murders (Fletcher, 2015). All of them were later identified as frequent players of violent video games including Mortal Combat, the Doom, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and the like. So it is genetics, environment, or the pervasive, constant impact of violent video gaming that turns adolescents into mass murderers?
There is a growing consensus about the negative contribution of violent video games on development of physical and verbal aggression in children and adolescents. In the opinion of Gimpel (2013), for instance, violent games teach players to be violence and instill the feeling that violence is acceptable, as well as increase the frequency of violent thoughts. Empirical research confirms these suggestions by showing the rise of aggression among players in the experimental conditions, which proves that video games are indeed hazardous for the vulnerable, highly perceptive adolescent psyche.
A viable explanation for the mechanism of aggression development as a result of persistent video gaming was proposed by psychologists in the form of the General Aggression Model. This model was developed by Anderson and Bushman (2002) to explain the impact of personality characteristics, especially anger and hostility, on the likelihood of aggression’s development among video gamers. In accordance with this model, repeated video game playing activates the processes of learning, rehearsal, and reinforcement of aggression-related knowledge structures. The latter cause the gradual formation of aggressive beliefs and attitudes, perceptual schemata endorsing aggression as a normal type of social conduct, aggressive expectation schemata, aggressive behavior scripts, and reduction of aggression sensitization. All these processes lead to the increase in aggressive personality features, which become pronounced and lead to physical expressions of aggression depending on personal and situational variables (Aboujaoude & Koran, 2010).
The benefit of the General Aggression Model’s use for examining adolescents’ proneness to violent video games is in the deviation from a traditional, simplistic view that playing games inevitably leads to aggression. It also expands neuroimaging research findings showing that playing violent games activates brain activity patterns associated with aggression (Vorderer & Bryant, 2012). In this model, personal predisposition to aggression, high levels of natural or socially acquired anger and hostility, and other antisocial traits make some individuals especially attracted to violent video gaming. In such a way, naturally aggressive individuals prefer aggressive video games because they facilitate expression of anger in video scenarios (Aboujaoude & Koran, 2010).