This week, Nicholas Carnagey, Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman released a new study on video games and desensitization. They had over 250 college students randomly play one of 8 video games. Half of the games were violent and half were nonviolent. After they played the game for 20 minutes, they watched a 10 minute video of real-life violence, including stabbings and shootings. After comparing the students' heart rates and skin responses before, during, and after the gameplay and video, the researchers found that the students who played the violent games were less likely to have their heart beats rise as they watched the violent video, demonstrating that they became less sensitive to the violence as a result of playing the video game.
This study will likely have important implications in the ongoing debate about whether seeing and interacting with violence in the media can cause people to become desensitized over time. The full-text of the paper is available from Iowa State. You can see other studies on video game violence in the CMCH Database of Research.