No Link Between Video Games and Violence in Autistic Patients

Aggression and video games are not linked in adults with autism, which is especially relevant to the many recent shootings and the gun control debate, according to findings of a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Aggression and video games are not linked in adults with autism, which is especially relevant to the many recent shootings and the gun control debate, according to findings of a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers from the University of Missouri Columbia exposed participants to violent or non violent video games in order to test the effects of the video games on aggression. The media speculated the link between autism spectrum disorder and aggression brought on by violent video games after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, the researchers said, but the findings are not any less relevant today with the current political climate.

“If violent video games caused adults with autism spectrum disorder to behave aggressively, we should have seen some evidence of this in our study, but we did not,” lead author Christopher Engelhardt, a postdoctoral fellow in the MU School of Health Professions and the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, explained in a press release.

More than 100 participants between the ages of 17 and 25 years played one of two video games that differed only by amount of violence. Then, the participants were tasked with completing exercises that tested their aggression — they were made to believe they were competing against another person in a trial testing reaction times. The participant had the option to “blast” the opponent with a loud noise – the length and volume were determined by the participant – if they won the round.

Half of the patients were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and half were developing typically, the researchers said. The violent video games did not affect adults with autism spectrum disorder nor the typically developing participants.

“There are some caveats to our findings,” Engelhardt continued. “For example, we only exposed participants to violent or nonviolent games for 15 minutes before measuring their willingness to behave aggressively. This study, therefore, cannot speak to the potential long term effects of violent video game exposure.”