Title page for ETD etd-09132010-120928

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Ivory, Adrienne Holz
Author's Email Address holz@vt.edu
URN etd-09132010-120928
Title The Effects of Profanity in Violent Video Game Content on Players' Hostile Expectations, Accessibility of Aggressive Thoughts, Aggressive Feelings, and Other Responses
Degree PhD
Department Human Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kaestle, Christine E. Committee Chair
Fu, Victoria R. Committee Member
Meszaros, Peggy S. Committee Member
Smith, Cynthia L. Committee Member
Tedesco, John C. Committee Member
  • Profanity
  • Aggression
  • Computer Games
  • Video Games
  • Media Effects
Date of Defense 2010-08-30
Availability unrestricted
Although the effects of violent video games on aggression in users have been researched extensively and the resulting body of research shows that violent video games can increase aggressive behaviors, aggression-related feelings and thoughts, and physiological arousal, no empirical studies to date have examined whether there are similar and parallel effects of verbal aggression (e.g., profanity) in video game content. A 2 X 2 between-subjects factorial experiment (N = 321) tested the effects of profanity used by protagonists (protagonist profanity present versus absent) and antagonists (antagonist profanity present versus absent) on users’ hostile expectations, accessibility of aggressive thoughts, aggressive feelings, perceived arousal, use of profanity, enjoyment, presence, and perceived performance while taking into account the potential moderating role of gender and controlling for several individual difference variables. The study’s factors were manipulated via the creation of four versions of an original three-dimensional “first-person shooter” video game.

Profanity used by both protagonist and antagonist characters was found to have significant effects on players’ hostile expectations, an important higher-order aggressive outcome that is the most direct precursor to aggressive behaviors in the process described by the general aggression model. There was limited evidence for effects of profanity in game content on players’ accessibility of aggressive thoughts, aggressive feelings, and perceived arousal. Additionally, profanity had little impact on how much players used profanity themselves, how much they enjoyed the game, feelings of presence, and how they rated their performance in the game. These trends were consistent across a range of demographic, personality, and video game experience dimensions that were measured, even though several of these individual difference variables were found to be related to some outcome variables and to each other. Therefore, while this study’s findings did not necessarily indicate imitative modeling of profanity, they point to the possibility of more general effects regarding aggressive outcomes. This study’s findings emphasize the need for future research investigating the effects of profanity in video games and other media.

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