The Loh Down On Science

When people are tempted to cheat, but can't

Experiment 1. Higher number indicates stronger attraction. Credit: Whitaker et al., Psych. Sci., 2013.

Do video games actually soothe the savage beast?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Studies show that people blocked from achieving POSITIVE goals get FRUSTRATED!  Other studies show that people self-soothe with media.  Like watching TV.  Or playing video games.

Psychologists at Ohio State University wondered: What about NAUGHTY goals?  Do we get frustrated when we want to, say, CHEAT, but can’t?

And if so, do video games help blow off steam?

To find out, the researchers gave male college students a mock exam.  But before starting, the researchers accidentally-on-purpose handed some students the answers!  But before people could see details, they said, Whoopsie!  Took back all papers, and started over.

Afterwards, the students took a quiz that secretly gauged their frustration.


They also read descriptions of video games and said which they'd most like to play.

Result?  Those who lost the chance to cheat were most frustrated.  And preferred the most violent games!

Conclusion?  Violent video games may soothe our frustrations.

That explains why I get so frustrated when I try to cheat at “Angry Birds!” I think.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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