Effects of Relaxing Video Games on Aggressive Behavior

There is evidence that video games that involve violence increase aggression and reduce social behaviors. This study attempted to examine whether relaxing video games have the reverse effect. Two experiments were conducted to test this theory. The moods of the participants after violent, neutral, or relaxing video games were analyzed. At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to help the examiners in a task. The results showed that “compared to those who played violent or neutral video games, those who played relaxing video games were less aggressive and more helpful.”

It has been seen in sociological research that media, especially video games, can contribute to the management of mood swings and stress. Most video games that are violent promote stress and aggression and lead to decrease in sociable behavior. However, there are new types of video games that promote relaxation. It is not known whether these relaxing games can help in the reduction of aggressive behavior and in the promotion of sociable behavior. This study was conducted in two parts: the first to explore sociable and the anti-aggression effects of relaxing videos, and the second to specifically test the helpful sociable behaviors induced by relaxing video games.


  • For the two experiments, a total of 150 and 116 undergraduate students were selected, respectively.
  • For the first experiment, each participant was treated to a relaxing, neutral, or a violent video game for a period of 20 minutes.
  • Thereafter, he/she was paired with a partner of the same sex and asked to compete with the latter to press a specified button faster than him/her. When the person fared better than his/her partner did, the reward was monetary, but if he/she fared badly, the reward was a blast of noise. Each partner decided the amount of award and the intensity of the noise.
  • For the second experiment also, the participants underwent the 20 minutes of gaming. At the end of the games, they were asked to help the examiner sharpen pencils.

Key findings

  • Experiment 1 showed that those who were given a violent game were more aggressive than those who played a neutral or relaxing game. Furthermore, those who played a neutral game were more aggressive toward their partners than those after a relaxing game were. Males were found to be more aggressive than females.
  • Experiment 1 also showed that those who played a relaxing game gave their partners more money as reward if they did well. Even those who played neutral games were more generous than those who played violent games. Again, males were found to be more generous than females.
  • Experiment 2 showed that those who played a relaxed game helped to sharpen more pencils than those in other groups.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agree that they did not look at the exact mechanisms by which sociable behavior and decreased aggression are linked to relaxing video games. They suggest further studies to confirm this association in larger samples and to explore the underlying mechanisms that modify behavior and mood after playing neutral, violent, or relaxing video games.

This is the first study that conducts experiments to prove that new types of games that promote relaxation instead of stress, violence, and competitiveness can serve to reduce aggression and improve helpfulness. These experiments suggest that a mood lift allows for this change in behavior after playing relaxing games. According to Colin Powell, the former U. S. Secretary of State, one must “Remain calm. Be kind.” This adage is proven true in these experiments that illustrate that a calmed mind after a relaxing video game can indeed help a person feel “connected” with other people and thus promote “a more considerate and pro-social attitude.”

For More Information:
‘‘Remain Calm. Be Kind.’’ Effects of Relaxing Video Games on Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior
Publication Journal: Social Psychological and Personality Science, May 2011
By Jodi L Whitaker; Brad J Bushman
From the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio and VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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