Using video games to understand sex differences in attentional biases for weapons

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Attentional biases for threatening stimuli of various kinds have been repeatedly demonstrated. More recently, sex differences in the strength of visual biases for weapons have been observed, with men exhibiting stronger biases than do women. In the current study we further explored this sex difference, by examining how immediate vicarious experience with weapons (via playing a violent video game compared to playing a non-violent video game) affected the visual attention for weapons. We found that the basic visual bias for weapons compared to non-weapons was replicated, as was the sex difference in the strength of this bias. We also observed that the context produced by playing a violent video game prior to the visual search task, produced some sex differences in responding that were not present after playing the nonviolent video game, providing modest evidence that men may be more prone to cognitive behavioural effects of violent video game play. Interestingly, there was some evidence that both sexes de-prioritised non-weapons during search after playing the violent, relative to the non-violent, video game. We recommend that future studies investigate the task dynamics that may have led to this effect.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0279360
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS One
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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