Although people typically avoid engaging in antisocial or taboo behaviors, such as cheating and stealing, they may succumb in order to maximize their personal benefit. Moreover, they may be frustrated when the chance to commit a taboo behavior is withdrawn. The present study tested whether the desire to commit a taboo behavior, and the frustration from being denied such an opportunity, increases attraction to violent video games. Playing violent games allegedly offers an outlet for aggression prompted by frustration. In two experiments, some participants had no chance to commit a taboo behavior (cheating in Experiment 1, stealing in Experiment 2), others had a chance to commit a taboo behavior, and others had a withdrawn chance to commit a taboo behavior. Those in the latter group were most attracted to violent video games. Withdrawing the chance for participants to commit a taboo behavior increased their frustration, which in turn increased their attraction to violent video games.In two studies, then, participants who were given the opportunity to do something bad -- cheat on an exam in the first, and steal money in the second -- found violent video games more attractive, and the level of attractiveness for these games was closely related to their self-reported level of frustration. So, next time you want to rob a bank, but find yourself unable to do so, play Battlefield 3.
Amusingly, the participants in the stealing study who were given the opportunity to steal actually did steal money. Those who were given the opportunity to steal and then had the opportunity taken away managed to get an average of 35 cents before the experimenter starting watching them, while those who had the opportunity to steal throughout the whole study got away with 75 cents on average. Ah, college undergrads.