Violent Video Games Increase Pain Tolerance? Okay, Hit Me.

Researchers at Keele University in England decided it would be neat if they had 40 volunteers play either a violent or non-violent video game for ten minutes and then submerge one of their hands in ice-cold water. This study into the sort of silly things researchers can make subjects do yielded fresh information on the effects of violent first-person shooters on pain tolerance.

The study found that that subjects that had played a violent video game kept their hands submerged for 65 percent longer than those that did not, leading researchers to conclude that playing visceral, first-person shooter-type games not only enhanced feelings of aggression, but also tolerance for ice-cold water, or pain.

Now I'm no fan of having my body parts submerged in frigid liquid, but I wouldn't exactly call it pain-inducing. After the initial shock I generally find my extremities numbing quite nicely, though I suppose "violent video games increase numbing-quite-nicely tolerance" wouldn't look nearly as impressive atop a study published in the journal Psychological Reports, which publishes the sort of things you'd expect. I also suppose it's tough to get test subjects willing to get punched in the teeth.

Tough, but not impossible — they really need to apply themselves.

It bears noting that the same team, led by senior lecturer in psychology Dr. Richard Stephens, is also responsible for a study that determined that swearing increases people's tolerance for pain. This is a group of people with more ice-cold water than they know what to do with.

From the good Dr. Stephens: "We assumed that swearing eases pain by sparking an emotional reaction in participants – most likely to be aggression – in turn setting off the body's fight or flight response. This latest study was a test of that assumption in which we set out to try and raise participants' aggression levels by having them play a violent video game. We then tested the effect on pain tolerance. The results confirm our predictions that playing the video game increased both feelings of aggression and pain tolerance".

So basically they have determined that aggression increases pain tolerance, and this study demonstrates another way to get aggression going. They've done swearing and now video games. Perhaps next they'll do having someone hit on your girlfriend at the pub, or having someone sit down across from you and start eating your fries without asking.

Violent video games can ease pain [Keele University]