New Study: Violent Video Games Do Not Lower Empathy

A new study suggests that long-term exposure to violent video games has no impact on empathy. Published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal, the German study examined fMRI scans of the brain and determined there were no differences between men who played violent first-person shooters such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, and Battlefield for at least four years and for at least two hours a day and a control group.

The researchers showed participants drawings, some of which displayed negative scenes such as a woman setting herself on fire and a man’s head being forcefully dunked in a tank of water while his hands are tied behind his back, and asked them to imagine how they would feel in that situation. While the respondents were shown the drawings, their brains were being scanned by an fMRI – a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine which measures brain activities.

Images shown to participants while undergoing an MRI.

“There were no significant differences between VVG (violent video game) users and controls,” wrote the researchers. “In fact, the responses of both groups were very similar and no group differences were observed even at relaxed statistical thresholds.” They would go on to conclude, “The lack of group differences in our fMRI data does not suggest that excessive VVG use leads to long term emotional desensitization and a blunting of neural responses related to empathy.”

The study looked at 15 users of violent video games against a control group of 13 non-users, all of whom were males.


  • The sample is definitely too small for my liking, but this is an important aspect of the discussion that should be examined more often.