Violent, sexist games decrease empathy for real-life female victims, says study

A team of researchers in Italy and the United States found that a group of male high schoolers in Italy who played Grand Theft Auto reported feeling less sympathy when shown photos of female victims of violence.

“One of the best predictors of aggression against girls and women is lack of empathy,” reads the study, conducted by researchers from the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy and Ohio State University in the US and published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. “The present research shows that violent-sexist video games such as GTA reduce empathy for female violence victims, at least in the short-term.”


“This reduction in empathy partly occurs because video games such as GTA increase masculine beliefs, such as beliefs that ‘real men’ are tough, dominant, and aggressive,” the study reads. “Our effects were especially pronounced among male participants who strongly identified with the misogynistic game characters.”


The young men who showed less empathy were also the ones most likely to have agreed with the statement, “When I am playing, it feels as if I am my character.”


by Michelle Starr