Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dominic Parrott - Chair

Second Advisor

Tracie Stewart

Third Advisor

Cynthia Hoffner

Fourth Advisor

Heather Kleider

Fifth Advisor

Eric Vanman


Research suggests that playing violent video games increases the likelihood of aggression. However, less clear is how individual characteristics influence the mechanisms that lead to aggression. Using Anderson and Bushman’s (2002) General Aggression Model as a framework, the present study examined the independent and joint effects of individual differences and situational factors on affective and physiological reactivity to playing a violent video game. One hundred thirty-three participants completed self-report measures of trait aggression and violent video game exposure. They were randomly assigned to groups instructed to play a video game using either violent or nonviolent strategies while facial electromyography, heart rate, and electrodermal activity were measured. Positive and negative affect was assessed via self-report prior to and following video game play. It was hypothesized that trait aggression and level of past exposure to violent video games would be positively related to increases in physiological arousal and negative affect among participants in a violent, relative to a nonviolent, condition. Hierarchical regression analyses failed to detect a significant relationship between trait aggression and changes in heart rate, facial electromyography, or self-reported affect as a function of game condition. However, significant positive relationships were found between trait aggression and skin conductance, but only in the nonviolent condition. Analyses revealed that past exposure to violent video games was positively related to increased skin conductance among participants in the non-violent, but not the violent video game condition. Past exposure to violent video games was also positively related to increased heart rate, but this was among participants in the violent, but not the non-violent condition. Significant relationships between past exposure to violent video games and changes in facial electromyography and self-reported affect as a function of video game condition were not found. Findings are discussed in terms of how trait aggression and past exposure to violent video games influence arousal, and potentially, the likelihood of aggressive behavior.


Included in

Psychology Commons