February 04, 2008
Males Get Greater Pleasure In Territory Capture Video Games

The ladies just don't get as much of a thrill out of capturing territory in a video game. File under "no surprise here".

STANFORD, Calif. - Allan Reiss, MD, and his colleagues have a pretty good idea why your husband or boyfriend can't put down the Halo 3. In a first-of-its-kind imaging study, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video-game play.

"These gender differences may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become 'hooked' on video games than females," the researchers wrote in their paper, which was recently published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

More than 230 million video and computer games were sold in 2005, and polls show that 40 percent of Americans play games on a computer or a console. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey, young males are two to three times more likely than females to feel addicted to video games, such as the Halo series so popular in recent years.

The ladies can capture the territory. Doing that just doesn't turn up the mesocorticolimbic center of their brains as much as it does for guys.

"The females 'got' the game, and they moved the wall in the direction you would expect," said Reiss, who is director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research. "They appeared motivated to succeed at the game. The males were just a lot more motivated to succeed."

After analyzing the imaging data for the entire group, the researchers found that the participants showed activation in the brain's mesocorticolimbic center, the region typically associated with reward and addiction. Male brains, however, showed much greater activation, and the amount of activation was correlated with how much territory they gained. (This wasn't the case with women.) Three structures within the reward circuit - the nucleus accumbens, amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex - were also shown to influence each other much more in men than in women. And the better connected this circuit was, the better males performed in the game.

The findings indicate, the researchers said, that successfully acquiring territory in a computer game format is more rewarding for men than for women. And Reiss, for one, isn't surprised. "I think it's fair to say that males tend to be more intrinsically territorial," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out who historically are the conquerors and tyrants of our species-they're the males."

So then when offspring genetic engineering becomes possible will prospective parents choose to give their sons or daughters brains that get more or less thrill out of territory capture than the average boy or girl born today? Will genetically engineered boys be more or less territorial than they are today? What about for the girls? Parents might choose to give girls some of the cognitive characteristics that make them more likely to strive to succeed and rise above in competitions at work. Think that likely?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 February 04 10:10 PM  Brain Sexuality

c23 said at February 5, 2008 4:58 AM:

I would think that the kind of people who would hack their daughters to have a more competitive attitude are the same kinds of people who work long hours, call their dogs their kids, and maybe squeeze out one baby at 39 - maybe. So I wouldn't expect too much of this kind of thing to go on.

Natural selection disfavored that level of competitiveness (and would therefore disfavor those who purposely give their daughters maladaptive traits), and I see no reason to think that has changed.

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