Date of Completion


Embargo Period



videogames, psychopathy, empathy, aggression

Major Advisor

Kirstie Farrar

Associate Advisor

David Atkin

Associate Advisor

John Christensen

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


A divide exists in the video game effects literature, such that one branch of research indicates harmful outcomes (Anderson et al., 2010), whereas other research highlights null effects (Ferguson, 2015). Clearly, video games are a heuristic topic that necessitates various methods of analysis from multiple perspectives. Using a risk factors approach, the purpose of this study is to further understand the process that is occurring when an individual plays a violent video game. Using a 2 (gender: male and female) x 2 (condition: control and violence) true experimental design, the individual difference variables of psychopathy and empathy are explored as traits that influence moral outcomes. This research begins with an exploration into social concerns related to violent video game play. Next, the contemporary research on video games will be highlighted. Next, research on the neurophysiological as well as the conceptual importance of empathy and psychopathy. Lastly, a mediated model of moral response is presented, which could explain why a small percentage of the population reacts with a serious act of violence after playing video games. This work will further explore the findings from a pilot study that was conducted to test the relationship between empathy, psychopathy and guilt and their influence on attitudes towards violence after exposure to a violent video game (Fishlock, 2015). Results suggest that post gameplay guilt mediates the link from condition to participants’ attitudes towards violence, such that violent content positively predicts post gameplay guilt, and post gameplay guilt negatively predicts attitudes towards violence. Furthermore, psychopathy emerged as an individual difference variable that is also able to positively predict both verbally aggressive and physically aggressive intentions.