The article, the psychophysiology of James Bond: Phasic emotional responses to violent video game events is a peer-reviewed journal authored by Niklas Ravaja, Marko Turpeinen, Timo Saari, Sampsa Puttonen and Liisa Keltikangas-Jarvinen in 2008. The article publishes the findings of a research they conducted to investigate the emotional valence-related and arousal-related phasic psychophysiological responses to various violent events among three dozen young adults playing James Bond 007: NightFire - a shooter video game. This research focused on emotions elicited by violent video games events. The study involved recording event-related changes in the electromyographic (EMG) activity of three facial muscles - orbicularis oculi, zygomaticus major and the corrugator supercilii and the skin conductance level (SCL). They also rated the participants' emotions and trait psychoticism using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. They found out that when a player wounded and killed the opponent in the game, they exhibited a decrease in the EMG activity of the zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi and an increase in SCL. This decrease in the EMG activity was lower in participants who scored high in the Psychoticism trait than those who scored posted low scores. Conversely, participants exhibited an increase in the EMG activity of the zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi and the SCL activity and a decrease in the activity of the corrugator supercilii. Wounding and killing of the opponent rather than eliciting joy in the participant because of success and victory resulted in anxiety - a high-arousal negative affect. Though counterintuitive, when the participants own character (James Bond) was wounded and killed, there was an increase in some aspect of positive emotion.
The first hypothesis is that wounding and killing the opponent character (enemy) would trigger the player to elicit positive arousal and emotions as evidenced by activity of the facial activity since this would be a victory and success in the game. However, deeply ensconced moral conviction teaches us that inflicting harm or killing someone else is wrong and the symbolic violence enacted by the participant may elicit negative arousal - anxiety. Thus, the alternative hypothesis would be that injuring and killing the opponent would cause the participant to be negatively aroused (anxiety) which would be evidenced by a decrease in the orbicularis oculi and zygomaticus major EMG activity and an increase in the activity of the corrugator supercilii and the EDA. Another hypothesis is that since injuring or killing of the player's character represents a threatening event and a failure in the game, such events would be expected to make the player exhibit negative emotions, which would be evidenced by a decrease in the activity of the orbicularis oculi and zygomaticus major and increase in EMG activity of the corrugator supercilii. The alternative hypothesis would be that injuring or killing of the participant's character would elicit positive high-arousal emotions, which would be evidenced by a decreased activity of the corrugator supercilii and an increase in the EDA and the activity of zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi.
The population of the study was thirty-six Finnish undergraduate students, 11 females and 25 males, aged between twenty and thirty years. The video games used were James Bond 007: NightFire and Super Monkey Ball 2 as the non-violent control. The data was collected using electrodes attached to the participant as they played the game seated in a comfortable armchair in a dimly lit room. Each participant played four different video games lasting five minutes per session in random order. The data was collected by asking the each participant to answer questions after the preceding game and filling the revised, short form psychoticism scale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. The physiological data and the skin conductance level were collected using silver/silver chloride electors attached to the facial area and the middle phalanges of the small and ring fingers respectively. Psylab model amplifiers EEG8 and SC5 24 were used for these procedures. Video recording of the game was also done. The data were analyzed using SPSS by the linear mixed-models procedure.
The results indicate that the skin conductance level increased when the participant wounded or killed the opponent with the peak increase being recorded four seconds after the onset of the event. The wounding or killing of the opponent triggered a marked decrease in the EMG activity of the zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi. In both events, there was no significant effect of the EMG activity of the corrugator supercilii. The decrease in the EMG activity of the orbicularis oculi and zygomaticus major were less pronounced among participants with high scores in the Psychoticism trait than among the low Psychoticism scorers. When the player's character (Bond) was wounded or killed, the participant exhibited an increase in the SCL, an increase in the EMG activity of the orbicularis oculi and zygomaticus major and a decrease in the EMG activity of the corrugator supercilii. Repeated exposure to participant's character being killed resulted in more pronounced increase in SCL but other physiological responses remained unchanged. Participants that had high psychoticism scores experienced less negative arousal in response to wounding or killing of their (Bond) character compared to low psychoticism scorers.
There are a few aspects of the way the research was conducted that may affect the results, its validity and generalizability. One potential problem is the Hawthorne effect. The knowledge of being included in the study could potentially affect the participants' behavior, thereby obscuring the effect of the variable of interest. The fact that the students are video recorded and their facial muscle activity measured during the game play may have been intrusive and altered the behavior and reactions of the participants - they may behave response differently in the study due to the stress of being observed. Another problem is the issue of construct validity. This refers to whether a test truly measures some construct. Questions about construct validity relating to this study could be whether the games chosen by the researchers are the best choices to contrast violent with nonviolent video games and whether the operational definitions and measures of negative/positive arousal used are the best ones that could be chosen. Issues of external validity also come up because the participants are all of one culture - Finnish. The researchers ought to be careful about generalizing results from one culture to another. The study is also subject to influence from dependent variables. The participants could be affected by other confounding factors which may cause them to respond in a certain way when playing the video game. Moreover, the study's settings may not be a good representation of the participant's typical response behavior.
One of the future research ideas inspired by the article is whether the relationship of psychoticism with aggression and violent behavior and desensitization is mediated by phasic emotional responses to violent game events. The second one is the role of the positive emotional responses to injuring and killing of the player's own character in increasing subsequent aggressive behavior, and whether repeated exposure to violent video game events is useful in the desensitization of emotional responses. Lastly, the third research idea is whether phasic emotional reactions to violent game events mediate the potential harmful effects such as aggressive behavior of video games. This research adds to other various research studies on violent video games and antisocial, aggressive and violent behavior in real life. These research findings clearly indicate that the causal link between violent video games and aggressive, belligerent behavior is adequate to necessitate appropriate and proximate counteractive measures. The fact that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior immediately after game play shows that there ought to be an age-limit for individuals who should play such games. A potential impact of the research findings in the real life of everyday people is that they point out that children and adolescents should be protected from violent video games to protect them from the cumulative effects of exposure to such violence. The link between increased reported cases of violent, sometimes fatal, actions by students/ youth, such as mass shooting in schools and increase in homicides and juvenile delinquency, should be studied to identify any causal relationship with excessive exposure to violent video games. The research findings can also be applied in development of appropriate public education materials and systems to address the potential effects and risk factors associated with violent video games.