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The lone gamer: Social exclusion predicts violent video game preferences and fuels aggressive inclinations in adolescent players


Aggressive Behavior

Published online on


Violent video game playing has been linked to a wide range of negative outcomes, especially in adolescents. In the present research, we focused on a potential determinant of adolescents’ willingness to play violent video games: social exclusion. We also tested whether exclusion can predict increased aggressiveness following violent video game playing. In two experiments, we predicted that exclusion could increase adolescents’ preferences for violent video games and interact with violent game playing fostering adolescents’ aggressive inclinations. In Study 1, 121 adolescents (aged 10–18 years) were randomly assigned to a manipulation of social exclusion. Then, they evaluated the violent content of nine different video games (violent, nonviolent, or prosocial) and reported their willingness to play each presented video game. The results showed that excluded participants expressed a greater willingness to play violent games than nonviolent or prosocial games. No such effect was found for included participants. In Study 2, both inclusionary status and video game contents were manipulated. After a manipulation of inclusionary status, 113 adolescents (aged 11–16 years) were randomly assigned to play either a violent or a nonviolent video game. Then, they were given an opportunity to express their aggressive inclinations toward the excluders. Results showed that excluded participants who played a violent game displayed the highest level of aggressive inclinations than participants who were assigned to the other experimental conditions. Overall, these findings suggest that exclusion increases preferences for violent games and that the combination of exclusion and violent game playing fuels aggressive inclinations.