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By 28 September 2012 | Categories: news

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An interesting new study has emerged that suggests that violent video games may increase players’ pain thresholds and have a measurable impact on one’s pain perception.
 
The study, which was conducted by Keele University, monitored forty participants who played violent first person shooter games and a non-violent golf simulation game for ten minutes on separate occasions.
 
Participants then had to immerse one of their hands in ice-cold water as a means of testing their reaction to the pain. The study found that those who had played the first person shooter were able to keep their hands in the ice cold water for a whopping 65% longer than players of the non-violent game. Additionally, the first group’s heart rate also increased.
 
D#@n interesting!
 
Researchers believe that both the increased tolerance for pain and the elevated heart rate are linked to the activation of a fight or flight response to stress. This, they suggest, could “activate descending pain inhibitory pathways in the brain, thus reducing sensitivity to pain.”
 
The same Keele University team also showed that swearing increases people’s tolerance for pain.
“We assumed that swearing eases pain by sparking an emotional reaction in participants – most likely to be aggression – in turn setting off the body’s fight or flight response,” explained Dr Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University.  
 
“This latest study was a test of that assumption in which we set out to try and raise participants’ aggression levels by having them play a violent video game. We then tested the effect on pain tolerance. The results confirm our predictions that playing the video game increased both feelings of aggression and pain tolerance, ” he added.
 
Not just fun and games
 
However, the study has a serious side. Stephens explained that pain researchers have already been exploring the use of virtual reality as a way of helping people better deal with pain.
 
He cited a group in Seattle in the US who encouraged children with severe burns to explore a snowy virtual landscape while their dressings were changed.
 
“This reduced the amount of pain and discomfort they felt during this procedure,” he added.
 
To the point
 
If, like us, you were wondering just how scientifically the test was conducted, or whether it more closely resembled a rowdy college hazing than a scientific experiment,  then it is worth musing on the fact that the results have been published in the journal Psychological Reports, which specialises in empirical, theoretical, mainstream, and alternative views on issues in psychology.

Practical, and indeed, beneficial applications might just be a shot in the arm that first person shooters need, and convince the genres’ detractors that even violent games have their sweet side. 

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