Exposure to Gun Violence in Video Games Increases Interest in Real Guns

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The Ohio State University




Psychology, Social
Adolescent Behavior


Behavioral: Video games and violence

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


More American children die by accidental gun use than children in other developed countries. One factor that can influence children's interest in guns is exposure to media containing guns. The objective of this study is to test whether children who play a video game containing guns will handle a real gun longer, will pull the trigger more times, and pull the trigger while pointing the gun at themselves or another than children who see the same movie without guns.

Full description

The design will be a 2 (player vs. observer) x 3 (nonviolent, violent with sword, violent with gun) between-subjects study. Participants will randomly be assigned to conditions. Participants will be tested in pairs. The participant in the player condition will play a video game while the participant in the watcher condition will watch. The participants will be in the same room, seated next to each other. Video games will be chosen for the three conditions which have no violent content (nonviolent condition), violent content with a sword as a weapon for the player (violent with sword condition), and violent content with a gun as a weapon (violent with gun condition). All games chosen will be age appropriate (rated E) and have a consistent perspective (i.e., 1st person or 3rd person) between conditions. Participants will be asked how familiar they are with the video game used to control for experience with the stimulus. Gameplay will last for 20 minutes. The measures for experiment 3 will include the media habits, aggressive behavior, attitude toward guns, and guns in the home measures listed for experiment 1. In addition, parents will be asked if their children have taken a gun safety course and a behavioral measure will be whether or not children handle a real (but non-firing) gun and whether they pull the trigger. Participants will be tested in pairs, with a sibling or friend. Participants will be placed in a room containing toys, with a camera on the wall. Participants will be told that they can play with any of the toys in the room for the next 20 minutes. The toys will be placed will be placed in drawers inside a cabinet. Inside the room, two brightly colored plastic Nerf dart guns and two handguns will be placed in separate drawers, as in previous research. The handguns will be modified so they cannot fire. Inside the magazine, the handguns contain no bullets. They do, however, contain a sensor that counts the number of times the trigger is depressed with sufficient force to discharge the weapon. This allows us to distinguish reliably the children who pull the trigger from those who only handle the gun. Parents will be asked to predict whether their child will handle the real gun and pull the trigger. The researcher and the parents will be able to watch the session via a monitor in a control room. A thorough debriefing will follow (see attachment). The investigators also have received letters of support from the Director of the School of Communication and from the Chief of Police (see attachments). The investigators predict the highest levels of playing with guns and firing them among participants who see a violent clip containing guns.


250 patients




8 to 12 years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

Age 8-12yrs, had not participated in study prior, was able to schedule participation with a known peer (8-12yo).

Exclusion criteria

Younger than 8yo, older than 12yo, had participated in study prior, could not schedule participation with a known peer (8-12yo)

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Factorial Assignment


Single Blind

250 participants in 3 patient groups

Experimental: Violence with guns
Experimental group
Participants in this condition will play a video game with violent content which includes guns.
Behavioral: Video games and violence
Experimental: Violence without guns
Experimental group
Participants in this condition will play a video game with violent content which does not include guns. Instead, the violence will include weapons such as swords.
Behavioral: Video games and violence
Control: No violence
Other group
Participants in this condition will play a video game which contains no violent content or weapons.
Behavioral: Video games and violence

Trial documents

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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