Study: LEGOs Are Becoming More Violent

Study: LEGOs Are Becoming More Violent
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There's little doubt that popular media has grown increasingly violent of late. In television shows, movies, and video games, violence is more prevalent and more graphic. Game of Thrones, and the now yearly arrival of the latest Marvel movie, are hallmarks of this trend.

Even children's toys can't escape the trend. A new study published to PLoS ONE finds that violence is growing increasingly common in LEGO sets.

Since 1949, LEGO has granted children of all ages an outlet to express their creativity. The near 600 billion parts produced over that time have been used to craft all sorts of wondrous creations.

LEGO builders are still free to erect whatever they choose, but the tendered designs and themes, as well as the parts themselves, are becoming more violent in nature.

To discern the finding, a group of researchers from New Zealand conducted two experiments. First, they analyzed a massive database of LEGO parts and sets to uncover the proportion of parts that are weapons and the proportion of sets that contain weapons. Though the data contains a number of outliers, there seems to be a broad trend of rising weaponization. The change is particularly apparent since the turn of the century. In 2001, just 3 percent of LEGO sets sold contained weapons. In 2014, that proportion was nearly 30 percent!

In a second experiment, the research team recruited 161 volunteers to analyze the level of violence presented in LEGO catalogs since 1973. When the researchers poured through the volunteers' ratings, they found a clear trend of increasing violence.

The trend is unsurprising. LEGO does not exist a vacuum. The sets the company produces mimic the popular entertainment brands of today. And as kids are increasingly bombarded and even enthralled with violence in movies and on TV, the LEGO Company will give them the tools to build what they watch.

As a result, "The LEGO Company’s products are not as innocent as they used to be," the researchers conclude.

Source: Bartneck C, Min Ser Q, Moltchanova E, Smithies J, Harrington E (2016) Have LEGO Products Become More Violent? PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155401. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155401

(Top Image: LEGO Company)

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