Young people who play video games have increased moral reasoning skills, research finds

Young people who play video games – including violent video games – had higher moral reasoning skills than those who didn’t, Bournemouth University (BU) research has found.

Moral reasoning is the thought process of determining what is right and what is wrong, and the researchers surveyed over 160 11 to 18-year-olds about their video game consumption and asked questions around subjects including crime and law, family and friends, helping others, and life.

They found that those who played more video games, and a variety of genres of video games, had higher moral reasoning scores.

Close to 69 per cent of participants listed at least one violent video game among their favourites, but researchers found that those who played video games with violent content also had higher moral reasoning.

The research, which has been published in Frontiers in Psychology, was conducted by BU’s Dr Sarah Hodge, Dr Jacqui Taylor and Dr John McAlaney.

Dr Hodge, a Lecturer in Psychology at BU, said: “There has been lots of research into violent video games and we are still not sure what the cognitive effects are of that, but this study looked at whether there was any impact on a moral reasoning level.

“We found that those who play games did have higher moral reasoning than those who didn’t so it might actually be potentially engaging morality.

“The positive impacts could have been from the types of games plays – I use the example of balanced gameplay like a balanced diet to make sure there is lots of variety within the game play, not just playing violent shoot ‘em ups.

She added: “Violence actually had a positive relationship with moral reasoning – it was more the mature content that suggested a negative relationship. So it is important for people to think about the content of the game in relation to morality, not just the violence.”