Do Violent Video Games Lead to Aggression?

Psychology Alumnus Says They Can

Exposure to violent content, especially interactive content like video games, causes aggression levels to rise, says Brad Bushman, a communication and psychology professor at The Ohio State University. A 1984 psychology graduate of Weber State University, Bushman is one of the nation’s leading experts on the relationship between violent media and violent behavior. His research received much attention after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012.

Following the massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, Bushman explored the connection between the violent video games shooter Adam Lanza played and the game-like style with which he carried out the shooting, co-authoring a report titled “Youth Violence: What We Need to Know.” He also served on President Barack Obama’s committee on gun violence. He has published more than 140 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

“Violent media influence how we perceive the world,” Bushman said. “People who consume a lot of violent media view the world as a mean and hostile place. Violent media can also increase aggressive behavior. Although it probably will not turn your child into a psychopathic killer, violent media can make them more verbally and even physically aggressive. Exposure to violent media can also make people numb to the pain and suffering of others.”

Bushman visited campus in the spring of 2013 to speak in the Social & Behavioral Sciences’ Distinguished Lecture Series and receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Psychology. He recounted his feelings for Weber State and what led him to pursue his field of study.

“Some of the best years of my life were spent at Weber State,” Bushman said. “Indeed, the honors course on human aggression that I took from Dr. Hal Bertilson is what motivated me to study aggressive and violent behavior.”

Today, Bushman is ranked 13th nationally in citations in social psychology textbooks, and is the youngest of the top 30 cited experts. He is also in the top 10 percent of social psychologists, as ranked by impact (number 44 overall).

Apart from being a leading expert on the factors tied to human aggression, Bushman is a black belt in Korean martial art Tang Soo Do.