Moral Disengagement Strategies in Videogame Players and Sports Players

Moral Disengagement Strategies in Videogame Players and Sports Players

Lavinia McLean (Technological University Dublin, Dublin, Ireland) and Mark D. Griffiths (International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/IJCBPL.2018100101
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Research in the area of video game play and sports psychology has suggested that specific strategies are often employed by players to justify aggressive behaviour used during gameplay. The present study investigates the relationship between game play and moral disengagement strategies in a group of 605 adults who played violent videogames or regularly played competitive sports. The results suggest that sports players were more likely than violent game players to endorse moral disengagement strategies. The video gamers were more likely to use a specific set of moral disengagement strategies (i.e., cognitive restructuring) than the other groups and this may be related to the structural characteristics of videogames. The findings add to recent research exploring the mechanisms by which individuals engage in aggressive acts both virtually and in real-life situations. The results are discussed in relation to similar relevant research in the area, along with recommendations for future research.
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There has been much research exploring the impact of violent content in videogames on young people in terms of aggressive cognition, behaviour, and affect (for reviews, see Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Anderson, Anderson, Shibuya et al., 2010; Ferguson & Kilburn, 2010; Hollingdale & Greitemeyer, 2014). Recent research has suggested that the element of competition in a game, rather than the violent content, may explain the negative effects of exposure to violent videogames (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011; Waddell & Peng, 2014). In both virtual and real-life competitive environments, there is evidence of aggression, cheating, and disrespect in in relation to sporting environments (e.g., Boardley & Kavussani, 2007; Corrion, Long, Smith & d’Arripe Lougueville, 2009; Caliskan, 2013). In violent videogame play (e.g., Bastian, Jetten & Radke, 2012; Gabbiadini, Andrighetto & Volpato, 2012, Gabbiadini, Riva, Andrighetto et al., 2014), it has been argued that players may justify any such negative behaviour, and while the levels of aggression across these two settings may not be similar in content, they can represent a violation of personal standards of acceptable behaviour, and can create a personal dilemma for players.

Recent research (e.g., Gabbiadini, Andrighetto & Volpato, 2012, 2014; Hartmann, Krakowiak & Tsay-Vogel, 2014; Richmond & Wilson, 2008; Wang et al., 2017) has explored the role that cognitive distortions (e.g., moral disengagement) may play in making media violence more acceptable to individuals. The present study is designed to build on this, and to explore if Bandura’s (1991, 2001) Theory of Moral Disengagement provides a useful framework for understanding the willingness and ability to engage in virtual aggression, whilst comparing this process with a similar process in a competitive real-life environment (i.e., with sports players). Moral disengagement (MD) may therefore be seen as a cognitive mechanism facilitating gamers to act aggressively in game settings, but may also be associated with a reduction in concern for victims of such acts. Moral disengagement and moral considerations are key elements of Bandura’s (1991) Social Cognitive Theory of Moral Thought and Action. The concept of moral disengagement refers to a set of cognitive mechanisms that are part of a self-regulatory internal process. These psychosocial processes are believed to inhibit moral standards and prevent one from engaging in behaviour that is contrary to one’s moral behaviour standards.

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