Alex Newhouse (Deputy Director, Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey), discusses the unique relationship between video games and psychological vulnerabilities to political radicalization at #AskTheExperts webinar “Taken to Extremes: Online Radicalism, Polarization, and Youth” on March 15, 2023.
[Alex Newhouse]: So first we have some initial psychological studies that suggest that video games might have a uniquely strong impact on certain psychological vulnerabilities to radicalization. This is relative to other types of social media. So the reason we think this is happening is because games can actually invert the ways that social relationships are created. So if you think about it, you’re in a game, a multiplayer game, for instance, you’re sort of put into this this situation where you have to trust your teammate before you know them. So you end up having this sort of like implicit trust relationship created before you have any other types of relationship built on top of it. And that’s inverted from the normal of – you meet someone, you get to know them and then you trust them later. And what we found statistically is that actually playing games more often throughout a week – so, increasing the amount of hours played per week – can have an impact with a bunch of different sort of vulnerability indicators to radicalization, including expressions of authoritarianism, white nationalism, Machiavellianism, something called “identity fusion,” which is basically subsuming your own individual identity into the group. So like you fully associate yourself with the group that you’re interacting with. So this is really, this is really important to note, and it’s also important to note that really the relationship we’re looking at here is the amount of time someone is playing games, not the type of game, but the amount of time they’re engaging with it.
View the full webinar
How do extremists target youth? How does digital media impact polarization, and what steps can we take to limit the features of digital media that contribute to extremism in youth?
Brian Hughes, PhD
Paul Barrett, JD
Deputy Director and Senior Research Scholar
Head of Climate Research and Policy; Head of Civic Action and Education