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New research raises questions about sexist attitudes in the gaming world


April 25, 2022

New research by psychologists at Edge Hill University suggests that gendered violence in video games does not increase sexist attitudes in male gamers.

The researchers, Dr Gray Atherton, Dr Liam Cross and Dr Linda Kaye found that exposure to violent or gender-stereotyped content did not result in an increase in negative gender-related attitudes.

Participants in the United Kingdom and Malaysia took part in three experiments, in which the enemies’ gender, clothing and the degree of character agency were varied.

One experiment in the study even showed that participants who played a first-person shooter with female enemies actually had a drop in endorsement of benevolent sexist attitudes, such as thinking women need to be protected

Dr Liam Cross profile
Dr Liam Cross

Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Liam Cross said: “The findings in our experiment really surprised us and showed that having female enemies in games might actually present men with strong female characters, reducing some sexist attitudes as a result.”

The researchers found minimal evidence overall that exposure to gender-stereotyped content resulted in different gender-related implicit associations, hostile sexism, or rape myth acceptance.

Dr Gray Atherton profile image. She's smiling.
Dr Gray Atherton

Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Gray Atherton said: “Overall, we found that sexist attitudes were mostly unchanged whether the player was shooting men or women, or whether the female characters were sexualised or not. Our research opens the door to asking why it is that female gamers often face sexism and whether more female characters in video games across the board could help reduce these problems.”

The project sought to expand on the vast body of research in this area and improve on previous studies by stripping the experiments back and focusing on more realistic game scenarios and gaming habits.

The full study and results can be found in the New Media & Society Research Journal.

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April 25, 2022