Games can Condition Children for Violent Behavior
Brian LaBonte, Duncannon Record Staff Writer -- As
printed in Duncannon Record March 16, 2000
looked like the usual suburban teen-agers on the outside:
young faces, pleasing smiles, upscale clothes. Yeah,
they look like regular kids. On the inside, however, they
were as hard as Marine drill instructors.
the Marines, however, they had no concept of right or wrong,
they just killed.
Carneal, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and the others who
killed for the sake of killing; a bunch of no-name nobodies
until they massacred their fellow students and gained cheap
and sleazy celebrity.
have raised a generation of barbarians who have learned
to associate violence with pleasure, like the Romans cheering
and snacking as the Christians were slaughtered in the Colosseum,"
said Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in a speech at Bethel College
is a former infantry officer, Ranger and psychology professor
at the United States Military Academy. His book "On
Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War
and Society" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in
has advised military units and police departments, and directs
the Warrior Science Group in Jonesboro, Ark. He has also
been an expert witness in numerous court cases, including
United States v. [Timothy] McVeigh, et al, the Oklahoma
City bombing case.
says that violence in the media is to blame for much of
the actual violence perpetuated by juveniles. His theory
that violent films, television shows and interactive "shoot-'em-up"
video games use the same psychological conditioning techniques
used by the military.
this to what psychologists call enabling factors (factors
beyond one's control, such as poverty and dysfunctional
family lives) and you get kids who kill without remorse.
difference between kids who use violence and the military
use of violence is that military tempers the violence with
discipline and a deep sense of duty and tradition. That
is, the military teaches that killing is a necessary evil
for survival and victory on the battlefield. The kids don't
get this message in the media.
video games are particularly dangerous, Grossman said, because
they have a psychological effect called operant conditioning
on the kids' minds.
conditioning is a form of psychological conditioning that
involves voluntary actions (such as firing a weapon) reinforced
by events that make a person respond automatically, in a
prescribed way, even under stress.
go through this type of conditioning in simulators. They're
exposed to every conceivable problem that can occur in space.
something goes wrong for real, they react reflexively, not
allowing fear to stand in their way. Marksmanship training
in the military is also a form of operant conditioning.
video games do the same thing: the enemy comes on the screen,
the player must kill the enemy or get killed himself. Over
and over the skill is reinforced.
games also offer classical conditioning. Classical conditioning
causes a permanent change in an individual by making the
person associate a certain behavior with an experience or
example, in video games, when you kill the enemy you are
rewarded with points or the opportunity to move on to the
next level. The player learns to associate killing with
victory or happiness.
military rarely uses classical conditioning because it's
considered barbaric and the effects are difficult to reverse.
says that killing is the learned skill, that the willingness
to kill members of one's own species is something that's
not natural. It must be taught and ingrained in a person's
mind. Violent movies, video games and television teach kids
that killing is associated with victory or pleasure.
the military, there are no safeguards built into the system.
For kids, killing equals power; killing equals justice;
killing equals fame. These are the messages kids get from
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