Does the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology moderate the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression?
Abstract: Previous research has found a link between exposure to violent videogames and aggression. The current study investigated whether the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology moderates this relationship in college men. The sample, 168 men, filled out a demographic questionnaire, the Male Role Norms Inventory-Revised, an adaptation of the Exposure to Violent Videogames Measure, and the Aggression Questionnaire. Exposure to violent videogames was, as expected, correlated with aggression. Endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology was also correlated with aggression. The endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology was found to moderate the relationship between exposure to violent videogames and aggression. High endorsement increased the positive linear relationship between exposure and aggression, whereas low endorsement removed this relationship.

Keywords: traditional masculinity ideology, aggression, exposure to violent videogames, moderation
Article Type: Report
Subject: Masculinity (Psychological aspects)
Masculinity (Social aspects)
Aggressiveness (Psychology) (Social aspects)
Violence (Psychological aspects)
Violence (Social aspects)
Video games (Social aspects)
Video games (Psychological aspects)
Authors: Thomas, Kimberly D.
Levant, Ronald F.
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265
Issue: Date: Wntr, 2012 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Product: Product Code: 3651920 Electronic Games NAICS Code: 339932 Game, Toy, and Children's Vehicle Manufacturing SIC Code: 3944 Games, toys, and children's vehicles; 7372 Prepackaged software
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 283455187
Full Text: School shootings, such as the infamous event at Columbine High School, have stimulated interest in research on the violence of boys and men (Feder, Levant, & Dean, 2007). One focus, the effects of violent videogames on aggression, has begun to yield some empirical results (Anderson et al., 2010). Videogames have only been in existence for over 30 years, beginning with simple and comparatively harmless games such as "Pong," which was brought out by Atari in the 1970s. "Pac-man," a popular game in the 1980s in which yellow faces moved around the screen eating ghosts, was viewed by many parents as a violent game, which they did not want their children to play. Yet, over the succeeding years games became increasingly violent. In 1993, the most popular game was "Mortal Kombat" (Anderson et al., 2010), in which two players fight each other to the death by kicking, hitting, or shooting their opponent. More recently "Doom" came on the scene, a first-person shooter game, which has been used to train military personnel to kill (Anderson et al., 2010).

Today, videogames are highly engaging and interactive (Gentile & Anderson, 2003), putting players in a first-person perspective, where they must make a decision to perform a violent act prior to performing the act. Further, games on the market today appear to reward violent and other anti-social behavior (Gentile & Anderson). For example, in "Grand Theft Auto," players steal cars, visit strip clubs, and murder people. Committing crimes results in players receiving more opportunities to commit further crimes, none of which are realistically punished (Fleming & Rickwood, 2001). Such videogames appear to have adverse effects on players (Anderson & Dill, 2000), with some players more predisposed to adverse effects than others. For example, individuals high in neuroticism and low in agreeableness and conscientiousness were found to be more predisposed to the adverse effects of violent videogames (Markey & Markey, 2010).

Video game exposure has both short-term and long-term effects (Anderson et al., 2010). Effects of short-term exposure (e.g., playing a violent game for 15 minutes) include increases in aggressive thoughts and emotions, an increase in arousal, and sometimes direct imitation of aggressive behaviors. Effects of long-term exposure (repeated playing of videogames) include personality change, beliefs that aggression is an acceptable way to handle a problem, increase in the availability of aggressive behavior scripts, and reduction in access to nonaggressive behavior scripts.

Boys tend to play more videogames than girls, and their videogame choices tend to be more violent (Moiler & Krahe, 2009). Violence in videogames was found to desensitize boys to violence, while making girls more sensitive to violence (Deselms & Altman, 2003). No differences were found between boys and girls in the amount of aggression experienced and expressed, although differences were found the way in which aggression was expressed, with males more physically aggressive, and females more relationally aggressive (Moller& Krahe, 2009).

Traditional masculine norms have included a central emphasis on violence, going back to the earliest formulation, in which "Give 'em Hell," was one of four masculine norms (Brannon & Juni, 1984). More recently, the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology using the MRNI (which has an Aggression subscale) has been found to be associated in men with holding attitudes conducive to sexual harassment and self reports of sexual aggression (Levant & Richmond, 2007). Hence, it is possible that the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression in boys and young men might be moderated by their endorsements of traditional masculinity ideology. The investigation of the role of traditional masculinity ideology as a moderator of this relationship in college men is the focus of the present study.

First, we expect to find, as have others, that exposure to violent videogames will be positively correlated with aggression. Second, we hypothesize that endorsement of traditional masculine norms will be positively correlated with aggression. Third, we hypothesize that the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology will moderate the relationship between exposure to violent videogames and aggression. Fourth, we hypothesize that high endorsement of traditional masculine norms will strengthen the relationship between exposure to violent videogames and aggression, and that low endorsement of traditional masculine norms will weaken the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression.

METHOD

Participants

Participants were 168 college men (age 18 or older), attending a large mid- western public research university. Participants' ages ranged from 18 to 45 (Mean = 20.93, SD = 5.30). Most participants were European American (83.9%), though 8.9% were African American. Most participants were heterosexual (91.7%), although 4.8% indicated they were gay and 3% stated they were bisexual. Most participants stated they were not currently dating anyone (39.9%), although 27.4% were exclusively dating, 20.2% were casually dating, and 11.9% were engaged or married. Most participants' highest degree was a high school diploma/G.E.D (91.1%), though 6.5% held a bachelors' degree. Most participants described themselves as middle class (49.4%), though 27.4% described themselves as lower middle class, 16.7% described themselves as upper middle class, and much smaller percentages described themselves as either lower class or upper class. Most participants were Christian (70.2%), though 19.6% described themselves as Agnostic or Atheist.

Procedure

The study was approved by the university IRB. Undergraduate students were solicited from Introduction to Psychology courses, and offered an incentive of 1 extra credit point for their participation in the study, which involved filling out a web- based survey using a commercially-available survey utility ("Survey Monkey"). Students who wished to participate provided their email address to the research assistant who had visited their classroom, and were subsequently emailed the link to the online survey site. The first page of the site reviewed the informed consent information, and participants who consented clicked "yes" and were taken to the survey, which included a brief demographic measure, the Male Role Norms Inventory-Revised, the Exposure to Violent Videogames Measure, and the Aggression Questionnaire. The Aggression Questionnaire was placed last to avoid priming effects. Upon completion of measures, participants were provided with an educational briefing on the study, including the rationale and hypotheses, and a few references in case they wanted more information on the topic. Once they clicked "done," they were then directed to the extra credit page, which asked for their name, email, course for which they wanted extra credit, and the professor of that course. The extra credit page was not linked to their answers on the survey, thus keeping their answers to the survey completely anonymous.

Measures

Demographic Questionnaire. This questionnaire inquired about gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, relationship status, highest degree earned, SES, and religion.

Male Role Norms Inventory-Revised (MRNI-R). The MRNI-R (Levant, Rankin, Williams, Hasan, & Smalley, 2010) was used to assess participants' endorsements of traditional masculinity ideology. MRNI-R items (e.g., "When the going gets tough, men should get tough") are rated on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1= strongly disagree; 7 = strongly agree), with higher scores indicating higher levels of endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology. An exploratory factor analysis identified seven factors: Avoidance of Femininity, Negativity toward Sexual Minorities, Self Reliance through Mechanic Skills, Toughness, Dominance, Importance of Sex, and Restrictive Emotionality (Levant et al., 2010). A total MRNI-R score is obtained through the averaging of scores on all 53 items. Adequate coefficient alpha reliabilities were found for the MRNI-R total score and its subscales, ranging from .76 to .95. Results indicate support for convergent and discriminant validity (Levant et al., 2010). The alpha for the total score for the present study was .97.

The Exposure to Violent Videogames Measure (EVVM). The EVVM (Moller & Krahe, 2009) asks participants how often they play each of 40 violent videogames using a 5 point scale, ranging from 0 (never play) to 4 (play very often). Content validity of the EVVM was assessed by first asking experts to rate the violent content of each game and then by asking six male communication majors to evaluate the level of violence of each game. Coefficient alpha was .90 (Moiler & Krahe, 2009). The EVVM was developed for a study with German adolescents, and thus included forty games available in Germany, some of which were not available in the United States. A colleague who was very familiar with videogames identified the 8 games that were not available in the U. S., and they were removed, leaving a list of 32 games. Total Exposure scores were calculated by averaging the scores on the 32 items. Higher scores indicate higher levels of exposure. In the present study, coefficient alpha for Total Exposure was .90.

The Aggression Questionnaire (AQ). The AQ (Buss & Perry, 1992) is a 29 item questionnaire. It presents participants with statements of aggressive behavior and asks them to rate on a scale from 1 (not like me at all) to 5 (extremely like me) how much they felt each statement described them. Coefficient alpha was .93 (Buss & Perry). There are four subscales derived from exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis: Physical Aggression, 9 items, e.g., "I have threatened people I know;" Verbal Aggression, 5 items, e.g., "I can't help getting into arguments when people disagree with me;" Anger, 7 items, e.g., "Sometimes I fly off the handle for no good reason;" and Hostility 8 items, e.g., "I am suspicious of overly friendly strangers." There is also a Total Aggression score. Two items are reverse scored. Subscale and Total scale scores are the average of the scores on the items composing each scale. Higher scores indicate higher levels of aggression. In the present study, coefficient alpha for Total Aggression was .93.

RESULTS

The data were screened before conducting statistical analyses to ensure the accuracy of the data file. One hundred and ninety three participants began the study and 168 completed it, for a completion rate of 87%. Descriptive statistics, including means, standard deviations, and correlations for all study variables are presented in Table 1. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 17.

Hypothesis 1

We predicted that exposure to violent videogames would be significantly correlated with aggression, as has been found in previous studies. As can be seen in Table 1, Exposure was significantly correlated with Total Aggression (r = .23; p < .01). Therefore, our hypothesis was supported. With regard to the subscales of the AQ, Exposure correlated most strongly with Physical Aggression (r = .29; p < .01), and showed a nonsignificant correlation for Verbal Aggression. Further, while Exposure was significantly correlated with Anger (r = .19; p < .05), it was not with Hostility.

Hypothesis 2

We predicted that endorsement of traditional masculine norms will be positively correlated with aggression. As can be seen in Table 1, a significant relationship was found between MRNI-R Total scores and Total Aggression (r = .42; p < .01). Therefore, our hypothesis was supported. Looking at the correlations between the subscales of MRNIR and the AQ, it can be seen that all but one (Negativity Toward Sexual Minorities with Verbal Aggression) were significant, and ranged from .20 to .49, with the highest correlation between the MRNI-R Toughness scale and the AQ Physical Aggression scale.

Hypothesis 3

We hypothesized that the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology will moderate the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression. The hypothesized moderator, a continuous variable, was tested with hierarchical multiple regression following the recommendations of Frazier, Tix, and Barron (2004), to center the variables, then enter the predictor and the moderator variables in the first step, and then enter the predictor and the moderator variables and the interaction term in the second step. As shown in Table 2, in step 1, with endorsement and exposure as predictors of aggression, endorsement was a significant predictor but exposure was not, [R.sup.2] = .19, [R.sup.2.sub.adj] = .18, [R.sup.2.sub.change] = .19, [F.sub.change] (2,164) = 19.23, p < .001. In step 2, adding the endorsement- exposure interaction to the model was a significant improvement, [R.sup.2]=.21, [R.sup.2.sub.adj] = .19, [R.sup.2.sub.change] = .02, [F.sub.change] (1,163) = 3.90, p < .05. Therefore, the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology moderated the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression.

Hypothesis 4

We hypothesized that high endorsement of traditional masculine norms will strengthen the relationship between exposure to violent video games and aggression, and that low endorsement of traditional masculine norms will weaken that relationship. Post-hoc probing using simple slopes analyses, following the procedures outlined by Aiken and West (1991, pp. 14-21), was conducted to assess the details of moderation. We plotted the regression of the predictor on the outcome at two different conditional values for the moderator to derive the simple slopes: a high value, one SD above the mean, and a low value, one SD below the mean. These are shown in Figure 1. Whereas the slope of the regression of Exposure on Aggression conditional on the high value for MRNI-R was significantly different from zero, the slope conditional on the low value of the MRNI-R was not significantly different from zero. Thus, when MRNIR scores are high, there is a positive relationship between exposure and aggression, but when MRNI-R scores are low, there is no relationship between exposure and aggression. Hence, this hypothesis was supported.

DISCUSSION

Our first hypothesis was supported. Aggression was significantly and positively correlated with exposure, as found in prior research. This may indicate that exposure to violent videogames is a risk factor for aggressive behavior. However, it is also possible, given the correlational nature of this and other studies, that highly aggressive individuals actively seek out more aggressive games, or that the relationship between exposure and aggression is due to some as yet unidentified third variable. It is also of note that exposure correlated most strongly with physical aggression, and showed a nonsignificant correlation for verbal aggression. This result (based on sample of men) can perhaps best be understood with reference to prior research, in which Moller and Krahe (2009) found that males were more physically aggressive than females, whereas females were more relationally aggressive than males. Further, while exposure was significantly correlated with anger, it was not correlated with hostility. The authors of the AQ defined anger as physiological arousal and preparing oneself to act in an aggressive way, whereas hostility was defined as ill will towards another individual that is not expressed violently. This suggests that playing violent games is more strongly associated with preparing to perform violent acts than with simply having ill will.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Our second hypothesis was supported by finding that the endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology was significantly and positively correlated with aggression. It is possible that high endorsement of traditional masculine roles leads to more aggression. It is also possible that the relationship is reversed, meaning that more aggressive men may endorse traditional masculine norms. The relationship between endorsement and aggression was pretty consistent across the subscales of MRNI-R and the AQ, in that all but one was significant. Not surprisingly, the highest correlation was between those subscales that overlap the greatest, namely the MRNI-R Toughness scale and the AQ Physical Aggression scale.

Our third hypothesis was also supported. Endorsement of traditional masculine norms moderated the relationship between exposure to violent games and aggression levels. This indicates that men vary in terms of the strength of the relationship between playing violent videogames and aggression. Those who more strongly endorse traditional masculine norms have a stronger positive relationship between exposure and aggression, while those who tend to reject the norms have a weaker relationship between exposure and aggression.

Our fourth hypothesis was supported. Men with higher scores on the MRNI-R, who endorse traditional norms, are likely to be more aggressive with higher levels of exposure. On the other hand, men who score low on the MRNI-R have no relationship between exposure and aggression. That is, increasing exposure to violent videogames for such men will not affect their aggression. Such men who either played few videogames or played many videogames will have comparable aggression levels.

Our study is limited by virtue of the sample that we studied: College men who were predominantly European American, middle class, heterosexual, and Christian. Future research should attempt to replicate our findings with a sample that is more diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, religion, social class and sexual orientation. Further, the focus on young men is a limitation, in that participants would likely have been playing violent video games for many years, with the resultant effects already well-ingrained in them. Future research should study children who are just beginning to play these games, perhaps in a longitudinal design, which would allow the investigation of cause and effect relationships, and also the observation of changes over time.

Finally, the self-report nature of the surveys introduces the possibility of bias due to socially-desirable responding. A future study employing a multi-method design (including the interviewing method) would strengthen evidence for these relationships.

Video games are the next generation of violent media and their effects are still relatively unknown. The findings of this study suggest that some individuals may be more at risk for the potential negative effects. Men who highly endorse traditional masculine norms have the strongest relationship between exposure to violent videogames and aggression. Parents may wish to monitor or limit their son's play, if their sons are known to highly endorse traditional masculine norms.

DOI: 10.3149/jms.2001.47

REFERENCES

Aiken, L.S., & West, S.G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.

Anderson, C.A., & Dill, K.E. (2000). Videogames and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 772-790. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.4.772

Anderson, C.A., Ihori, N., Bushman, B.J., Rothstein, H.R., Shibuya, A., Swing, E.L., & Saleem, M. (2010). Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in eastern and western countries: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 151- 173. doi: 10.1037/a0018251

Brannon, R., & Juni, S. (1984). A scale for measuring attitudes about masculinity. Psychological Documents, 14(1). (University Microfilms No. 2612).

Buss, A.H., & Perry M. (1992). The Aggression Questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 452-459. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.3.452

Deselms, J.L., & Altman, J.D. (2003). Immediate and prolonged effects of videogame violence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology', 33, 1553-1563. doi: 10.1111/j. 1559- 1816.2003.tb01962.x

Feder, J., Levant, R.F., & Dean, J. (2007). Boys and violence: A gender informed analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 385-391. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.38.4.385

Fleming, M.J., & Rickwood, D.J. (2001). Effects of violent versus nonviolent video games on children's arousal, aggressive mood, and positive mood. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31, 2047-2071. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2001.tb00163.x

Frazier, RA., Tix, A. P., & Barron, K.E. (2004). Testing moderator and mediator effects in counseling psychology research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 115-134. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.51.1.115

Gentile, D.A. & Anderson, C.A. (2003). Violent videogames: The newest media violence hazard. In D. A. Gentile (ed.), Media Violence and Children (pp. 131-151). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing.

Levant, R.F., Rankin, T.J., Williams, C.M., Hasan, N.T., & Smalley, K.B. (2010). Evaluation of the factor structure and construct validity of scores on the male role norms inventory-Revised (MRNI-R). Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 11, 25-37. doi: 10.1037/a0017637

Levant, R.F., & Richmond, K. (2007). A review of research on masculinity ideologies using the Male Role Norms Inventory. Journal of Men's Studies, 15, 130-146. doi: 10.3149/jms. 1502.130

Markey, EM., & Markey, C.N. (2010). Vulnerability to violent videogames: A review and integration of personality research. Review of General Psychology, 14, 82-91. doi:10.1037/a0019000

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KIMBERLY D. THOMAS * and RONALD F. LEVANT *

* The University of Akron.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to KIMBERLY D. THOMAS, 8215 Theota Ave. Parma, OH 44129. Email: Thomas.kim 16@yahoo.com
Table 1
Correlations, Means, and Standard Deviations of Study Variables

Scale                1             2             3             4

1. AvF
2. NTSM          .70 **
3. SRMS          .64 **        .45 **
4. Tough         .69 **        .56 **        .69 **
5. IoS           .58 **        .56 **        .45 **        .61 **
6. Dom           .68 **        .73 **        .50 **        .63 **
7. RE            .70 **        .62 **        .60 **        .65 **
8. MRNI-R        .88 **        .84 **        .73 **        .81 **
9. Exposure      .10           .20 **        .14           .24 **
10. P Agg        .29 **        .31 **        .22 **        .49 **
11. V Agg        .20 *         .15           .23 **        .40 **
12. Anger        .19 *         .19 *         .18 *         .35 **
13. Hostility    .20 **        .17 *         .27 **        .30 **
14. AQ Total     .28 **        .26 **        .27 **        .47 **
M               4.15          3.17          4.26          4.46
SD              1.39          1.37          1.14          1.12

Scale                5             6             7             8

1. AvF
2. NTSM
3. SRMS
4. Tough
5. IoS
6. Dom           .55 **
7. RE            .65 **        .64 **
8. MRNI-R        .76 **        .84 **        .85 **
9. Exposure      .20 **        .27 **        .27 **        .25 **
10. P Agg        .47 **        .35 **        .44 **        .44 **
11. V Agg        .28 **        .29 **        .31 **        .31 **
12. Anger        .31 **        .28 **        .29 **        .30 **
13. Hostility    .32 **        .24 **        .25 **        .30 **
14. AQ Total     .43 **        .36 **        .40 **        .42 **
M               3.27          3.31          3.17          3.66
SD              1.33          1.32          1.22          1.05

Scale                9            10            11          12

1. AvF
2. NTSM
3. SRMS
4. Tough
5. IoS
6. Dom
7. RE
8. MRNI-R
9. Exposure
10. P Agg        .29 **
11. V Agg        .14           .52 **
12. Anger        .19 *         .68 **        .55 **
13. Hostility    .10           .51 **        .49 **       .66 **
14. AQ Total     .23 **        .85 **        .74 **       .87 **
M               1.63          2.29          2.55          2.07
SD              0.48          0.82          0.91          0.79

Scale             13      14

1. AvF
2. NTSM
3. SRMS
4. Tough
5. IoS
6. Dom
7. RE
8. MRNI-R
9. Exposure
10. P Agg
11. V Agg
12. Anger
13. Hostility
14. AQ Total    .81 **
M               2.14     2.24
SD              0.79     0.68

Notes. N = 168, * p < .05; ** p < .01. AvF, Avoidance of
Femininity; NTSM, Negativity toward Sexual Minorities; SRMS, Self
Reliance through Mechanic Skills; Tough, Toughness; IoS,
Importance of Sex; Dom, Dominance; RE, Restrictive Emotionality,
MRNI-R , Male Role Norms Inventory-Revised Total Scale Score;
Exposure, Total Exposure Scale Score; P Agg, Physical Aggression;
V Agg, Verbal Aggression; Anger, Anger; Hostility, Hostility; AQ
Total, Aggression Questionnaire, Total Scale Score.

Table 2
Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis Testing of Effect of
Endorsement as a Mod erator of the Relationship between Exposure
and Aggression

                                               [R.sup.2]
Predictor              b     SE b      R        change

Step 1
  Constant            2.24   0.05
  Total Endorsement   0.25   0.05   0.38 ***
  Exposure            0.19   0.10   0.13         .19 ***
Step 2
  Constant            2.23   0.05
  Total Endorsement   0.24   0.05   0.38 ***
  Exposure            0.06   0.12   0.05
  Interaction         0.12   0.16   0.17 *       .02 *

* p < .05; *** p < .001.
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