A recent article in InPsych magazine of the Australian Psychological Society (2012) concluded that in the literature there is wide disagreement about the negative effects of watching violent video games and other violence on TV. Researchers have tried forever to find a link between watching violence and subsequent aggression and it has just not been forthcoming. The results are very varied and have been so for years.
My personal view on this is one I have stated before. There is a very big difference about thinking or fantasizing about something and actually doing it. They are two quite separate things that involve two quite different psychological processes.
Fantasy is an important part of human psychology
Confusing this however is the fact that we all think about things we have done and will do again in the future. We may daydream and fantasize about going on a holiday, getting angry at the boss or even some sexual behaviors and then go and do them. This however does not make them similar psychological processes. All it means is that it is acceptable to the individual to think about doing something as well as doing it. That does not make them the same and here I will provide some examples of how they are different.
The following list was present by the Australian Psychological Society (2006). It is a violence risk assessment tool being devised based on the various research about physically violent people and the characteristics of them:
Young age at first violent incident
Substance use problems
Major mental illness
Prior supervision failure
Lack of insight
Active symptoms of major mental illness
Unresponsive to treatment
Plans lack feasibility
Exposure to destabilizers
Lack of personal thought
Noncompliance with medication attempts
Interestingly, thinking or fantasizing about violence is not included.
It may look a bit aggressive but that does not mean they will act aggressive.
Thinking is a completely personal event that has no impact on anyone else. Others will only ever find out about it if the thinker discloses their thoughts. Behaviour is a public event that can effect others directly. One may try and hide the behaviour but there is always the danger they will be found out or secretly observed by someone else.
Thinking of being aggressive to another, as I said before, has no impact at all on the other. If one behaves aggressively towards someone that has a direct impact on the other person. Thus we have a major difference in the psychological processing between the thinking and behaving.
Most people are capable of empathy.
Thinking has no impact on others so empathy is not a consideration in choosing to have the aggressive thoughts or not.
Aggressive behaviour has direct impact on others so empathy is a key consideration in choosing to behave aggressively or not.
The same applies for legal considerations and damage to reputation. As thinking is completely private the legality of what one thinks and the possible damage to their reputation are not considerations at all. Behaviour being public, the legal considerations and damage to reputation may be very significant factors.
These two diagrams show the different psychological processes involved and as one can see they are quite different.
Video games and movies are pure fantasy as any player knows so their FC can be let free to run wild. To hit (let alone shoot) another person in reality is a very different process where empathy and Adult ego state considerations will significantly curtail any expression of the Free Child want.
This is supported by the violence risk assessment measure such that it does not even include thinking violent thoughts as a risk factor in expressing violent behaviour.