If you experience low empathy for women in pain, you may be playing too much Grand Theft Auto.
(Or you could just be a psychopath.)
According to a new study published in the journal Plos One, people who play violent and sexist video games are more likely to have sexist feelings in real life.
For the study, 154 Italian high school students played different video games. Some played nonviolent puzzle games, some played the violent—but allegedly not sexist—Half-Life games, and others played what the scientists considered the most violent and sexist video game series of all: Grand Theft Auto.
After they’d finished playing, players of all three categories were shown photos of a woman who they were told had been physically abused. Then researchers asked them how much empathy they felt for her.
The results were disturbing. Of all three categories, the Grand Theft Auto players expressed the lowest levels of empathy, while empathy levels in the other participants showed no change.
Both genders were represented equally in all three categories. Interestingly, female players of the sexist video games did not show low empathy for the photographed woman, which may indicate that the games affect boys differently from girls.
The same research group has previously found a link between virtual and real-life violence. So, in general, it may be good to avoid people who play Grand Theft Auto.