8-Year-Old Boy Murders Elderly Woman, "Grand Theft Auto IV" Takes Flak
August 26, 2013 1:55 PM
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The boy shot his caregiver in the head
An 8-year-old Louisiana boy has shot and killed his caregiver, and the video game
"Grand Theft Auto IV"
is being blamed for his actions.
The incident took place in a mobile home park near Slaughter, Louisiana, and the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office has ruled it a homicide.
The boy, whose name has not been released, reportedly took a gun and shot his elderly caregiver -- identified as Marie Smothers, a woman of about 87-90 years old (her age hasn't been confirmed yet) -- in the head. The gun is believed to be Smothers'.
The boy said it was an accident, but officers believe it was intentional. The theory is that the boy took the gun and shot Smothers in the head while she was watching TV.
According to reports, officers noted that the boy was playing "Grand Theft Auto IV" right before the murder occurred. The child's motivation for the murder hasn't been confirmed as violence learned from the video game, but reports are leaning in that direction. They seem to be just assumptions with no real evidence.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Reports also note that the child had a normal and loving relationship with Smothers.
The child has been released into the custody of his parents and likely won't be charged for the crime considering his age, according to
Whether or not video games lead to violent behavior has been a question under review for some time now. Many conflicting studies have been conducted on the subject, but none provide definitive evidence for or against the claim.
For instance, a 2011 study by researchers at the
University of Missouri (MU)
found that the brain becomes less responsive to violence after excessive and short exposure -- meaning that video game violence leads to an increase in aggression as the line between appropriate behavior and
National Rifle Association
blamed violent video games
for violent crimes earlier this year after the tragic massacre at
Sandy Hook Elementary
in Newtown, Connecticut.
However, a 2007 study by Texas A&M International University researchers in Laredo, Texas found
no real link
between violent video games and aggressive behavior.
"Grand Theft Auto"
is a video game series that allows gamers to engage in motor vehicle theft within the game. It has strong adult themes, such as the use of weapons and even sexual content, and it is rated "M" for mature.
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What psychological research can tell us
8/26/2013 6:00:19 PM
People have a lot of "common sense" notions about human psychology that are flawed or simply false.
For those who think the influence of violent media is irrelevant, consider Bandura's Bobo Doll experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment.
The Bobo Doll shows the power of impressionability and also the importance of behavioral rehearsal. Further research has affirmed that one of the problems with seeing violence, and participating in it, is that the person is more likely to see violence as being the solution to problems in the future.
Sleep is actually primarily composed of a mental obstacle course, a training ground where people are placed in difficult situations. The human brain is always training, looking to adapt. When people see violence and engage in it, they are more likely to adapt to new situations in a manner that employs violence, or at least one that is more tolerant of it.
This brings us to another point, that of desensitization. Research has shown that exposure to violence desensitizes people to more of it. This increases their tolerance of it and generally enables more violence to occur, because there is less resistance/repudiation.
The Stanford Prison Experiment shows that impressionability, role-playing as rehearsal, and the like are hardly restricted to juveniles. Furthermore, the Brown Eyes Blue Eyes experiment has been replicated in adults. People are far more impressionable and malleable than "common sense" would suggest.
I realize that comfortable "gut" feelings about this issue are going to dominate, but always ask yourself to what degree your reasoning is based in your perceived convenience rather than in faithfulness to reality. Just because you like various forms of violent media doesn't necessarily mean they're beneficial.
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