Repeated Play Reduces Video Games’ Ability to Elicit Guilt: Evidence from a Longitudinal Experiment

Matthew Grizzard, Ron Tamborini, John L. Sherry, René Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Statements supported mostly by correlational and cross-sectional studies suggest that playing violent video games can cause emotional desensitization. A longitudinal experiment examined a) whether repeated violent game play leads to emotional desensitization and b) whether desensitization generalizes to other play and real-life experiences. Participants played alternative versions of the same violent game for the first four days; on these days, the character role was varied between-subjects to be moral (United Nations soldier) or immoral (terrorist soldier). On Day 5, all participants played a novel game as a terrorist. Results indicate two things. First, habituation occurs over repeated game play: Repeated exposure decreased the ability of the original game to elicit guilt. Second, the decreased ability to elicit guilt can generalize to other game-play experiences: Guilt elicited by the novel game on Day 5 was reduced for the immoral character condition compared to the moral character condition. The current study provides causal, longitudinal evidence regarding the potential for video game play to lead to emotional desensitization with regard to future video game-play experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-290
Number of pages24
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2017

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