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New study finds gaming helps children learn 'ethical decision making'

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PlayStation 3 DualShock 3 controller (STOCK)
PlayStation 3 DualShock 3 controller (STOCK)

A new study out of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, suggests that those who spend time playing video games lay some of the ground work for socially responsible, good citizens in later life. Conducted by Dr. Kathy Sanford, the study examined children between the ages of 13 and 17 over a period of five years, and some interesting findings emerged. Sanford, who presented her findings this week, told Polygon, "I found that the participants were very concerned about ethical and moral decisions, about the nature of what they are doing in the game," something she says she "didn't expect" to find.

Specifically, she says that the children in the study saw a strong causal effect between an actions and their consequences, and thought a lot about problem solving in an active way. "They have to negotiate with team-members and understand strengths and weaknesses and working with others. Players report a lot more happening than randomly going around shooting people" Sanford said. She also told the Globe and Mail that gaming helps children to learn about leadership and ethical decision making.

This goes against some received (though hotly contested) wisdom about the harmful effects of video games which have suggested, for example that violence in video games can be harmful to children. Sanford's findings seem to suggest if not an opposite finding, at least a wholly different one: "Players talk about how it makes them feel when they do something that has negative consequences for people. It makes them feel bad and they don't like feeling bad."