2014. Vol.5, No.1, 27-31
Published Online Janu ary 201 4 in Sci R es (
Are Boys More Aggressive than Girls after Playing Violent
Computer Games Online? An Insight into an Emotional
Stroop Task
Jingjin Tian1*, Zhang Qi an1,2,3*#
1School of Applied Technology, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
2Department of Psychology, Southwest Univer s ity, Chongqing, China
3Center for the Study of Mental Health Education, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
Received November 9th, 2013; revised December 8th, 2013; accepted January 4th, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Jingjin Tian, Zh ang Qian. This is an o pen access article distributed u nder the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is prop erly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attributio n License all Copy-
rights © 2014 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Jingjin Tian, Zhang Qian. All
Copyright © 2014 a re guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
The study was to examine the gender differences in aggression among Chinese children after playing vio-
lent computer games by using emotional STROOP task. 98 children participated in this study, with 49 as-
signed to violent computer game group and the other 49 assigned to nonviolent computer game group.
The results demonstrated that there were significant differences in main affect of game type, and signifi-
cant Game Type × Gender interaction as well. In particular, boys’ aggression was significantly impacted
by violent games, whereas girls’ aggression was not significantly impacted by violent games. The impli-
cation of this research is that, the significant difference in aggression to gender is activated, and that boys
were more aggressive and sensitive to violent games than girls.
Keywords: Boys; Girls; Violent Computer Games; Children
Considerable researches reported that media violence influ-
enced aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, aggressive
thoughts, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior (An-
derson, 1997; Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Bushman, 2013;
Geen & O’Neal, 1969; Huesmann, 1986; Huesmann, Eron,
Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1973; Huesmann, Moise, Podolski, &
Eron, 2003). Some researchers asserted that aggression was a
type of explicit behavior intended to harm another individual
who was motivated to avoid that harm, and it was not an un-
clear affect, emotion or thought (Anderson & Bushman, 2002).
Other experts, however, argued that human aggression was a
kind of attacking cognition, affect and behavior directed toward
another individual (Baron & Richardson, 1994; Geen, 2001). In
our point of view, we tend to consider aggression as an inten-
tional behavior to harm others based on aggressive cognition,
affect and thought.
As for the association between violent computer games and
subsequent aggression, former researchers held the view that
playing violent video games would increase aggressive behav-
ior through meta-analysis (Anderson et al., 2010; Ferguson,
2007; Anderson, Gentile, & Buckley, 2007). For instance, it
was suggested rewarding violent video games playing increases
aggressive behavior by aggressive thinking (Carnagey &
Anderson, 2005; Uhlmann & Swanson, 2004; Barlett, Anderson,
& Swing, 2009; Zhen, Xie, Zhang, Wang, & Li, 2011). Addi-
tionally, effects of reward and punishment given to video game
violence are significant among college males (Ballard & Line-
berger, 1999). Experts also examined reward and punishment
behavior among males following video game playing, it was
showed that females were punished significantly more strin-
gently as game violence increased, but this finding should be
interpreted with caution (Ballard & Robert, 1999). What’s more,
it did reveal that exposure to violent video games increases
physiological arousal and hostile feelings and decreases pro-
social behavior (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Some research-
ers examined the cause-effect relationship between exposure to
firearm violence and subsequent perpetration of serious vio-
lence, and it was indicated that exposure to firearm violence
approximately doubled the probability that an adolescent will
perpetrate serious violence over the subsequent 2 years (Bin-
genheimer, Brennan, & Earls, 2005). There was a significant
association between the time spent watching television and the
likelihood of subsequent aggressive acts by controlling previ-
ous aggressive behavior, childhood neglect, family income,
neighborhood violence, parental education and psychiatric dis-
orders (Johnson, Cohen, Smailes, Kasen, & Brook, 2002). Evi-
dence was steadily accumulating that prolonged exposure to
violent TV programming during childhood is associated with
subsequent aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Zhang,
Zhang, & Wang, 2013; Zhang, Zhong, & Zhang, 2013). The
evidence strongly suggested that exposure to violent video
The authors (Dr. Qian Zhang & Jingjin Tian)
contributed equally to the
manuscrip t , so they are both the first author
#Correspo nding author.
games was a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behav-
ior, cognition and affect and for decreased empathy and pro-
social behavior (Anderson et al., 2010). Other researchers, how-
ever, argued although preference for violent media was corre-
lated with aggressive behavior, no evidence indicated viewing
violence in natural settings caused an increase in subsequent
aggressiveness and some other factors (status hierarchy, trait
aggressiveness, higher academic level) required to be investi-
gated (Freedman, 1984, 1986, 2003; Garandeau, Ahn, & Rod-
kin, 2011; Bushman, 1995).
Nowadays, more and more Chinese children spent plenty of
time playing violent games in computer. Some of them were
prone to solving problems resorting to aggression like the vio-
lent image within the virtual games. Consequently, imitated
aggression caused by violent computer games exerted a nega-
tive impact on mental health for Chinese children such as ag-
gression, and ultimately may even cause anti-social and crime
behavior. A developmental theory was proposed to account for
the relation between exposure to media violence and increased
aggressive behavior. It was concluded that a bidirectional cau-
sal relation between media violence and aggression, and the
findings could be generalized to real-world violence (Friedrich
& Huston, 1986). Nevertheless, a notable feature of the existing
researches was the gender difference in aggression after expo-
sure to media violence, which was unclear up till now. Some
researchers explored sex differences in processing words relat-
ing to acts of direct and indirect aggression. Males demon-
strated a perceptual bias for words relating to acts of direct
aggression, taking significantly longer to correctly color name
direct aggression words (Craig, Browne, Beech, & Stringer,
2006; Cross, & Campbell, 2012; Ramirez, Andreu, & Fujihara,
2001; Smith, & Waterman, 2005). Females were slower to cor-
rectly color name indirect aggression words. It was observed
that a high level of physical aggression was the best predictor
of bias in both males and females (Smith & Waterman, 2005).
Although fierce debates existed among scientists as to the
correlation between media violence and aggression of children,
gender difference in aggression caused by media violence (vio-
lent games) was unresolved. Thus, the present study attempted
to examine whether significant differences existed in aggres-
sion among boys and girls after exposing violent computer
games by employing emotional Stroop task. Specifically, we
sought to examine the gender differences in aggression among
Chinese children after playing violent computer games. Based
on prior researches and research rationale, we hypothesized that
boys were more aggressive than girls by playing violent com-
puter games than by playing non-violent computer games.
Parti c i pants
98 Chinese children from a primary school from Southwest
area participated in the study. Their age was ranged from 12 to
21 (M = 16.21, SD = 1.62). 49 children playing VIRTUAL
COP2 (Personal Shooting) were regarded as violent game
group, and 49 children playing FIGHT LANDLORD (Card
Game) were deemed as nonviolent game group. The study was
ethically approved by the Academic Committee from the De-
partment of Psychology at Southwest University in China. All
participants were treated according to the ethical guidelines of
the American Psychological Association (APA, 2013).
Experimental Design
Multi-factor design was used, with game type and gender as
independent variables and aggression as dependent variable. 2
(Game Type: violent vs. non-violent) × 2 (Goal Word: aggres-
sive vs. non-aggressive) × 2 (Gender: boy vs. girl) repeated
three measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted
with game type and gender as between-group factor, and goal
word as within-group factor.
Computer Games
Since some children may rarely expose to computer games,
the selection of computer games was moderate in difficulty. In
addition, we choose computer games which were not played by
participants to avoid the familiarity of computer games (Some-
one was needed to exclude if he or she once played this type of
game). Based on this, VIRTUAL COP2 (Personal Shooting)
and FIGHT LANDLORD (Card Game) were selected as the
stimuli and materials in the study. Specifically, VIRTUAL
COP2 required players to kill the gangsters by shooting with a
blooding screen (language attack and body-fighting content),
which was in line with the definition of violent video games
(Anderson & Bushman, 2001). FIGHT LANDLORD de-
manded players to strive for higher score than other players to
achieve victory without any violent scene and blooding image
(body-fighting content and language attack), which was com-
plied with the definition of nonviolent video games (Anderson
& Bushman, 2001). The playing time of each game lasted for
roughly 15 minutes.
The computer resolution rate was 1366 × 768 pixel, and the
refresh rate was 75 Hz. The distance between participants and
screen was around 60cm, the faces of participants were parallel
with the screen, and their eyes were focused on the screen cen-
Goal Words
50 aggressive and 50 nonaggressive words were randomly
matched. The words were used in NO. 72 black italics and pre-
sented in three colors (green, red, yellow) on screen centre with
a gray background. The presented order of goal words was
Emotional Stroop Task Procedure
Participants signed an inform consent before experiment,
then they were randomly distributed to play violent or nonvio-
lent games, after that they finished emotional Stroop task. They
could terminate at any time if they felt uncomfortable. The
Stroop task procedure was programmed by E-prime psychology
software. Instructions told that the experiment was to test speed
and accuracy of responses, and the goal words would be pre-
sented in different colors. If the word color was green, press “1”
on keyboard; if the word color is red, press “2”; if the word
color is yellow, press “3”. Participants should react as quickly
and accurately as possible to distinguish the word color rather
than word meaning, then the next trial began. After instructions
appeared, a sign “+” emerged on the screen center with the time
of 300 ms, then the goal words appeared on screen center for
1000 ms. The inter-stimulus-interval (ISI) was from 200 ms to
300 ms. After participants reported the word color, a blank
screen would appear for 100 ms, and the program entered into
next trial. If participants did not respond in 1000 ms, the pro-
gram also entered into the next trial automatically. Meanwhile,
accuracy rate and reaction time (RT) were recorded (Figure 1).
Practical session. 20 trials existed in practical session but did
not appear in subsequent formal session. The program returned
to practical session if the accuracy rate was below 80 percent.
The session was to familiar participants with key pressing, and
to counterbalance the distinction of the color and key pressing.
Formal session. The experiment was divided into 3 blocks,
in which 40 trials and totally 120 trials were presented on av-
erage. 50 aggressive and 50 nonaggressive words were pre-
sented in one of three colors (green, red, yellow), and each
word appeared only once in each block. Participants had a short
rest among blocks, then the program entered into the next block.
The mean accuracy rate of the participants was from 85 to 95
percent, and the data of wrong and missing reaction was ex-
The Main Effe c t of Vi ol ent Movies on Aggression
One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was carried out to
examine the main effect of goal word on children’s aggression
(see Table 1).
Table 1 showed that a significant main effect of goal word
was found in reaction time (RT), and the RT of aggressive word
was significantly longer than that of nonaggressive word (F =
4.36, p < 0.05).
The Game Type × Gender Interaction
In this study, we thought the RT of aggressive words was
longer than that of nonaggressive words (compared to partici-
pants playing nonviolent games). Thus, we assumed each par-
ticipant had an aggressively priming score (APS), which was
RT values by subtracting nonaggressive words from aggressive
words, and examined whether significant difference of APS
found in group type (see Table 2).
Table 2 showed the average APS of experimental group (14
ms) was higher than that of control group (1 ms) by playing
violent games, Table 3 showed significant difference in main
effect of game type on aggression (F = 0.58, p < 0.05).
Multivariate analy sis of covariance (MANCOVA) was carri-
ed out to examine whether significant difference was found in
APS among independent variables. The results can be seen in
Table 3.
Table 3 showed that there was significant difference in
Game Type × Gender interaction (F = 4.89, p < 0.01). Simple
effect analysis showed the average APS of girls playing violent
and nonviolent games were 5.88 and 10.57, respectively, and
no significant difference was found (F = 2.14, p > 0.05). The
average APS of boys playing violent and nonviolent games was
8.63 and 1.24, respectively, and that the APS of boys playing
violent games was significant higher than that of boys playing
nonviolent games (F = 4.21, p < 0.05). The results can be seen
in Table 4.
The study selected Chinese children as participants, which
Figure 1.
Emotional stroop task.
Table 1.
RT differences between aggressive and nonaggressive words.
Goal Words
Aggressive Words Nonaggressive Words F
RT 548 52.95 532 52.04 4.36
Note: *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.
Table 2.
APS differences between violent game and nonviolent game group.
Group Type
Aggressive Non-aggressive APS
Violent 558 50.26 534 47.95 +14
532 54.79 531 55.03 +1
Note: APS-aggressively priming score (mean RT values of aggressive words
minus nona ggr es si ve w ord s).
Table 3.
MANCOVA for Game Type, Game Type × Gender interaction in APS.
Game Type
Movie Type × Gender
Note: *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.
Table 4.
The comparison between boys and girls in APS.
Violent Game
Nonviolen t Game
Boys 8.63 1.24 4.21*
Note: *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.
was different from prior researches (Bushman, 1995). In addi-
tion, we used emotional Stroop task to explore the gender dif-
ferences in effects of violent computer games on aggression
among children. It was showed that significant difference in
main effect of game type on aggression among children, and
that significant Game Type × Gender interaction was found,
particularly aggression was significantly activated by violent
games only among boys, but not among girls. Based on this, we
inferred that boys may play more violent games than girls, thus
leading to rapid development of their aggressively cognitive
mechanisms. This result, to some extent, was consistent with
our hypothesis that boys may be more aggressive than girls by
playing violent games rather than nonviolent games. Therefore,
boys on campus may be more prone to playing violent games
than girls. In the present study, game types, goal words and
gender were independent variables, which all significantly af-
fected children’s aggression, partly supporting Cognitive-new
Association Model (CAM) and General Aggression Model
(GAM) (Anderson, 2002; Berkowitz, 1990; Anderson, Ander-
son, & Deuser, 1996). Additionally, boys were more likely to
be activated by violent stimuli than girls, which replicated pre-
vious researches (Salmivalli & Kaukiainen, 2004; Boutwell,
Franklin, Barnes, & Beaver, 2011; Lansford et al., 2012).
Therefore, it could be assumed that repeated exposure to violent
media may form aggressively cognitive structure for boys, and
thus boys showed explicit aggressions. In conclusion, there
were significant gender differences in aggression among chil-
dren after playing violent computer games, and the boys
showed more willingness to be aggressive and susceptible to
violence than girls after viewing violent movies. Furthermore,
the mechanism (e.g., culture, neuroscience) underlying the
significant effects of violent computer games on aggression
among Chinese children required psychologists to explore fur-
Acknowledgemen ts
The research was supported by the National Youth Grant of
National Educational Science Planning Project in 2013 (CBA-
130128), and funded by a Youth Grant of Social Sciences and
Humanities from the Ministry of Education in China (13YJC-
190030) as well as the Fundamental Research Funds for the
Central Universities (SWU1409135). Writing of the paper was
also supported by a scholarship from the China Scholarship
Council (CSC) to Dr. Qian Zhang during his visit at University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (201308505040). Sincere
gratitude should be given to the anonymous reviewers for their
thoughtful feedback on this draft.
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