Research Proposal: Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial

Research Proposal:
Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial

Hannah Huff

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Appalachian State














Part 1 – Article
Summary and Evaluation

This article seeks to
examine the effect of prosocial videogame-play on prosocial behavior. More
specifically, the authors conducted a pilot study in addition to 4 experiments
that aimed to examine the influence of prosocial games on spontaneous,
unrequested helping behavior, assistance in a future study, helping a harassed
female researcher, and the accessibility of prosocial thoughts.

The pilot study aimed to
affirm that the prosocial, violent, and neutral video games that were going to
be used in each main experiment differed in their perceived content, as well as
to compare the games on dimensions of affect and arousal.

Experiment 1 compared the
effects of prosocial, neutral, and violent video games on spontaneous helping.
Each participant was randomly assigned to a different game condition and played
for about 8 minutes. After the experimenter told the participant that the study
was over, as they reached for a questionnaire they knocked over a cup of
pencils. Whether the participant helped pick up the pencils was recorded and
after the pencils were picked up, the participants completed the PANAS,
measuring their liking of the video game they played. The results showed that
the participants who played a prosocial video game (67%) were more likely to
help pick up the pencils than the participants who played a neutral (33%) or
violent game (28%). However, there was no significant effect for mood on either the positive affect scale or the
negative affect scale. Although participants seemed to enjoy the prosocial game
the more than the aggressive game, their liking did not differ between the
prosocial and neutral game.

Experiment 2 differed
from experiment 1 in that they conducted a double-blind experiment and they did
not include a violent video game condition. After about 10 minutes of playing
the games, the participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their liking.
Additionally, at the end of this experiment,
the experimenter introduced a confederate who needed participants for her
master’s thesis and asked them if they would be willing to participate in a
future experiment.  The results showed
that 100% of the participants who played the prosocial game were willing to
participate in a future study and willing to devote more time, while only 68%
of those who played a neutral game were.
Similarly, to experiment 1, there was no difference in the liking scale for the
prosocial and neutral games.

Like experiment 2,
participants in experiment 3 played a prosocial and a neutral game, however,
the prosocial game that was played was more complex than the one used in the
previous experiments. This was done to test whether a complex game would impact
making a complex decision with high potential costs. While the participant was
playing the game they were assigned to, a confederate came into the lab and
posed as the experimenter’s angry ex-boyfriend and began to harass her. Whether
the participant intervened was recorded. The participant then continued to play
the game for a couple minutes then filled out the PANAS questionnaire, rating
their liking. The results indicated the promotion of helping behavior not only
in low-stakes situations but also in high-stakes situations. 56% of the
participants playing the prosocial game intervened while 22% of those playing
the neutral game did. There was no recorded difference on the liking scale
between the prosocial and the neutral games. The main point to pay attention to
in this study is that not only does prosocial gaming promote low-cost helping
behavior, it also promotes high-cost helping behavior.

Lastly, experiment 4
sought to explain the reasons why
playing prosocial games can promote helping prosocial behavior. After the
participants finished playing either their prosocial or neutral game, they were
asked to write down all the thoughts and ideas that they were thinking about
while playing the game. Additionally, just like in experiment 1, a second
researcher knocked over a cup of pencils and recorded whether the participants
helped pick them up.  Results showed that
participants who played the prosocial game reported having more prosocial
thoughts than those who played the neutral game as well as being more likely to
help pick up the pencils (63%) than the neutral game participants (22%).

The research conducted in
these experiments depict that playing prosocial video games is positively
correlated with various types of prosocial, helping behavior. The various types
of prosocial behavior included helping to pick up pencils, agreeing to
participate in a future study, and intervening in an altercation in which the
female researcher was being harassed. This proves that prosocial games can
influence helping behavior that is both requested and unrequested as well as
low-cost and high-cost. These findings are related to the extensive research
that has been done about violent video games and media that promote aggressive
behavior. As a result of there being such an extensive amount of research on
violent games and aggressive behavior, the authors of this study wanted to
extend the research to the more limited realm of prosocial gaming and prosocial

Overall, I thought this
study was very thorough and interesting. The four experiments that they
conducted varied in what they were testing and accurately related the
methodology to their hypotheses. This resulted in strong construct validity. In
addition, the manipulation checks that they added in the experiments helped to
establish strong internal validity to reduce any potential confounding
variables. However, in terms of limitations of this study, the authors
themselves address the fact that they only evaluated the short-term effects of
playing pro-social video games. The participants only played the games in each
experiment for 8-10 minutes. In reality, people tend to play video games over
longer periods of time, potentially creating different effects on behavior. They
also argue that short-term vs. long-term effects of social behavior are the result of different things. It has been
claimed by other research that short-term behavior is the effect of “priming of
existing well-encoded cognitions” whereas long-term behavior is the effect of
“learning of scripts, beliefs, and schemas.” 
These differences prove that repeated, long-term exposure to certain
types of media can have a different impact on behavior. When playing these
games for a short amount of time, individuals who have never played these games
are drawing on existing, primed experiences of what they believe they should do
during a certain situation, whereas those who have played these games
repeatedly over long periods of time have learned and internalized certain
messages from the games about how to act in real-life situations.

Part 2 – Research

For my study, I am
proposing that instead of testing either primarily just the effects of playing
prosocial games on prosocial behavior or violent games on aggressive behavior,
participants play a game in which the player is able to pick their own journey,
characterized by choosing a path of prosocial, helping behavior, or violent,
aggressive behavior. This game will be paired with a neutral game. I want to
record their mood prior to and after playing the game using a PANAS scale as
well as record their behavior that they exhibit after they finish playing the
game by putting them in a situation in which they could either exhibit
prosocial behavior or violent behavior. This task will involve the participants
delivering noise blasts to a stranger (Confederate)
and they will be able to choose how loud to set the volume. I want to run this
study to find out if people’s behavior correlates to the path they chose in the



independent-groups experiment with one post-test and one pre-test/post-test
will be measuring two dependent variables, mood
and behavior. Mood will be measured during both the pre-test and post-test
while behavior will be measured during the post-test.


individuals were recruited from Boone, North Carolina, ranging from children to
adults. 35 of these participants were female, 27 were male ranging from 10-47
years old. With the average age being about 22 years old.


            Video games. The video games that will
be used include two different games. One game will be a neutral game, such as Tetris, in which the participant will
not be presented with any type of prosocial or violent messages. The other game
will be a moral choice game in which the participant will be given the choice
to choose either the path of good or evil,
or rather, prosocial or violent. The moral choice game chosen for participants
to play is called infamous.

            Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
(PANAS). This questionnaire will be used prior to the experiment as well as
after to indicate to what extent the participant feels a certain way. The scale
consists of a number of words that describe different feelings and emotions.
The participant will rate on a 5-point scale to what extent they feel a certain
emotion. This will be used to measure mood.

            Noise.  A stranger to the participants (Confederate) will be in a room with a one-way
mirror with a set of headphones. The
participant will be in a separate room looking at the participant through a
window and deliver noise blasts to the stranger at any volume of their choice.


participants were recruited in the town of Boone. Each participant, upon
entering the lab, will be required to fill out the PANAS to measure their
baseline mood levels. After filling out the questionnaire, the participants will
be randomly assigned to play either a neutral video game such as Tetris, or a moral choice video game
such as infamous. After playing the
game for about 1 hour, the participants will be told to stop playing and be led
into a room with a noise machine and a window looking into another room with a
stranger in it wearing headphones. They will be told to fill out the
questionnaire again and then to wait for further instruction. After filling out
the PANAS, the experimenter will return and instruct them to deliver a noise
blast to the stranger in the other room at any volume they want, ranging from
0-180 decibels. Whether the participant delivers a loud or a soft noise blast will
be recorded.


expect for the participants that chose the prosocial path to rate their mood as
more positive than those that chose the violent path and the neutral game. I also
expect for the participants who picked the prosocial path to deliver the lowest
noise blast (0-10dB), the neutral video game participants to deliver a noise
blast that is equal to or slightly higher than the prosocial participants
(0-30dB), and the participants who picked the violent path to deliver the
loudest noise blast to the stranger (50-180dB). Assuming the results turn out
as expected, we would learn that when given the choice to be prosocial or
violent, the individual’s behavior would correlate
with the path that they chose.






Greitemeyer, T., & Osswald, S. (2010). Effects of
prosocial video games on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 211-221.