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Study Finds That Games Change the Behavior of Psychopaths

Study Finds That Games Change the Behavior of Psychopaths

It’s universally known that video games are a great way to pass time but now, according to a study conducted by Yale psychologist Arielle Baskin-Sommers, video games can potentially be used to treat convicted psychopaths.

Psychopaths are most often marked by having “a lack of emotional affect, unrelenting deceit, and callous regard for others.” By these standards it would seem that many gamers exhibit some minor, but fleeting, form of psychopathy when they are playing video games (only look to online gamer trolls and any person playing Grand Theft Auto to see my point). So how is it that video games can help those who suffer from psychopathy on a daily basis?

The convicted psychopaths aren’t playing the same games that you can pick up from your local GameStop. They’re playing computer games that are specifically targeted to train their minds to “consider stimuli not related to their goal.” According to Baskin-Sommers, psychopaths “ignore information that is important to stop antisocial behavior.” In other words, psychopaths become so focused on their goals that they don’t perceive the consequences of their actions.

The computer games that Baskin-Sommers and her colleagues gave to convicted psychopaths to play taught them “an array of important cues.” This lead to the psychopaths being able show more emotional responses and ultimately improve their behavior.

An interesting finding by Baskin-Sommers and her colleagues is that the same methods do not work with all convicts. The study found that “when the same computer games were used with prisoners with other forms of antisocial behavior, these non-psychopathic inmates’ behaviors worsened.” From this it was concluded that this treatment method is specific to psychopathy and cannot be directly copied to treat other anti-social disorders.

Although video games can’t be used as a universal healer for anti-social disorders, it is still constructive for those who can be healed with this method. I look forward to a day where video games can help someone heal just as easily as drugs.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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  1. Nike Halifax says:

    As a psychology major, all I can say is that’s amazing. It also makes perfect sense. I did a presentation on something similar last year, basically how games can teach you without outright teaching you. I never even thought about how it’d work on the minds of psychopaths, though. That’s reallllly coooool ;w;

    • I majored in psychology.

      Word of advice: Don’t do it! In 2 years you won’t remember diddly; maybe a couple of interesting studies, and if you’re lucky enough to have a job, I can almost guarantee it won’t be psychology related. Unless you’re going for the big PhD, in which case, best of luck!

  2. Sarus Vakarian
    Sarus Vakarian says:

    Sweet article! It’s neat that video games are sort of a stepping stone to the healing process. You’d think that video games are the LAST thing a psychopath should explore, but it’s fantastic to see it doing some good in the world.


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