Long Time Video Game Critic Claims Conclusive Evidence That Violent Video Games Cause Aggression; Conclusive Except That It Isn't...

from the except-for-the-details dept

Well, the back and forth over the impact of violent video games continues. Every so often someone comes out with a research paper, claiming that violent video games are dangerous for kids, but the details never seem to support those exaggerated claims. Studies have shown that kids playing violent video games have more aggressive thoughts while playing the games (uh, duh!) and that they can become desensitized to the violent images on the screen (but not necessarily desensitized to actual violence). Then there are studies that show that kids who play violent video games tend to be emotional about those video games (again, duh). But none of that suggests the video games actually lead to increased violence or any increased risk of violence. They just suggest that kids get into video games. And, for all the claims of violent video games increasing youth violence, it seems rather damning that as violent video games have increased in popularity, incidents of youth violence have dropped. Other studies have actually suggested on-screen violence may actually decrease real violence, by acting as an outlet.

So it seems a bit ridiculous for anyone -- especially a professor who has been solidly on one side of the debate for many years, to stand up and claim that he has conclusively shown that violent video games make kids more "aggressive" (found via Slashdot). First, note the choice of words: not violent, but aggressive. Iowa State psychology professor Craig Anderson, who has already staked his reputation on saying that violent video games have a negative impact on kids, isn't about to back down. He claims that he went through 130 studies and concluded that the support is unequivocal:
"We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method -- that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal -- and regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects," said Anderson, who is also director of Iowa State's Center for the Study of Violence. "And the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior."
Of course, reality is a bit more fuzzy. The same journal that is publishing Anderson's new paper is also publishing a commentary from other researchers who disagree and suggest that Anderson has a pretty bad selection bias problem. But the biggest problem -- as we noted above, is that all of these "violent video games are bad" studies seem to show incredibly weak effects that don't appear to be significant in any meaningful way. As the commentary shows:
Psychology, too often, has lost its ability to put the weak (if any) effects found for VVGs on aggression into a proper perspective. In doing so, it does more to misinform than inform public debates on this issue.
Meanwhile, just last year, two Harvard Medical School professors also went through a whole bunch of different studies on violent video games and came to the exact opposite conclusions as Anderson did. It found little actual evidence to support Anderson's claims, and found significant problems with research suggesting there was a serious link between violent video games and actual violence. Among that report's findings:
  • In the last 10 years, video games studies have been overwhelmingly popular compared to studies on other media.
  • Less than half of studies (41%) used well validated aggression measures.
  • Poorly standardized and unreliable measures of aggression tended to produce the highest effects, possibly because their unstandardized format allows researchers to pick and choose from a range of possible outcomes.
  • The closer aggression measures got to actual violent behavior, the weaker the effects seen.
  • Experimental studies produced much higher effects than correlational or longitudinal studies. As experimental studies were most likely to use aggression measures of poor quality, this may be the reason why.
  • There was no evidence that video games produce higher effects than other media, despite their interactive nature.
  • Overall, effects were negligible, and we conclude that media violence generally has little demonstrable effect on aggressive behavior.
Which report seems more credible?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    The Quasi-Mike (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:13am

    This just in: hockey causes aggression, football causes aggression, basketball causes aggression, videogames cause aggression.

    Anyone stop to wonder if humans just become aggressive in competitive situations? Is it that hard to see that it's not the content of the videogames that matter, but the context in which they're played? I could play Teletubby Funtime Land on Xbox Live and I'd still have 10-year-olds calling me a "jew nigger faggot nazi" if I was beating them.

     

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  2.  
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    DH's love child, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:16am

    I think what needs to happen

    is for psychologists/sociologists who espouse both views to jointly conduct a study so that they can quit the arguing back and forth about methodologies.

     

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  3.  
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    Matt Bennett, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:35am

    Sooo.....Here's the thing. Most "scientific studies" are crap. See the 41% using well validated measures, above. What this guy did, Prof Anderson, was a meta study, or a study of studies. These usually involve a bunch of "weights", which are just biases that are supposedly ok cuz you put them in there on purpose. That makes your typical metastudy crap squared, or worse.

     

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  4.  
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    Overcast (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:37am

    I'LL KILL THIS GUY!!!

    Now back to playing Hello Kitty online...

    (joking BTW)

     

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  5.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:39am

    stress relief form noobs , morons and the idiots of life

    ya know TAM like people
    when i get all pent up instead puting a hole in wall or someones face
    ill play a galactic take over game wiht the cheats for power trip mode
    ill make suire i blow it rup damn hard and good
    then feeling better i return to the real world without aggression

    why are people lying?
    do they want me to punch people out and put holes in walls?

     

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  6.  
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    LumpyDog (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Product Placement

    It's pretty telling that the article shows a picture of Anderson holding up a copy of his book. There's no way he could have an incentive to be biased is there?

     

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  7.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Cue the nutjobs

    At the end of the article it talks about how this "study" will be important for setting public policy. I sure hope not. But I'm sure all the anti VVG nuts will parrot this study as if it was delivered by Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai.

     

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  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:48am

    Re: stress relief form noobs , morons and the idiots of life

    Well.... yeah. Then they can put you in prison, claim it's your fault; and even penalize you for the rest of your life as an "ex-convict" with bullshit probationary things like "mandatory classes" (which cost money) and "probation charges" (more money) also "public service" (which costs your time and sometimes your crappy job if they won't give you those days off) plus for the rest of your life they'll tell you where you can live (shit-holes only) and what kind of job you can have (low paying, dead end).

    So, yeah. No more video games for you--you need to 'support' your local government by being part of the 'system.'

    (Have a nice day.)

     

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  9.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:50am

    I remember...

    I remember the good ol' days when Rock'n'Roll was to blame for all the ills of society. *sigh* Those were to days.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Re: I remember...

    Don't forget comic books.

    And radio.

    And dancing.

     

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  11.  
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    kosmonautbruce (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:06am

    This guy's a joke

    How any serious social scientist could take this guy seriously is beyond me. This quote alone is ridiculous:

    "We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method -- that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal -- and regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects,"

    Regardless of cultures? C'mon, that is just stupid. Any undergrad sociology paper would get flunked for saying something like that.

     

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  12.  
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    Jim A, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:19am

    Must Read Series

    You all must read Enders Game (Mr. Cards) series of tales about how the Government used youngsters to train on high tech games and fight aliens. Good Sci-Fi

     

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  13.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:20am

    What ever happened to Jack Thompson? He was a much more interesting and colorful anti-game nut than Craig Anderson.

    Has Craig Anderson ever mailed gay porn to a judge? Got in childish fights with cartoonists? Been disbarred? Nope. Enough said.

     

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  14.  
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    LumpyDog (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: I remember...

    And Dungeons & Dragons.

    And Rap music.

    And Booze.

    And, of course, printed words.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:43am

    Re:

    Last time I heard about Jack Thompson, he was defending Mass Effect.

    Weird, huh?

     

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  16.  
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    Another User, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:48am

    Re: Cue the nutjobs

    Can't quote the bible. That has tons of violence. If people read it then it could lead to aggressive behavior.

     

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  17.  
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    Ridonkulus, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:53am

    Crazy talk

    Aggression is in human nature, It has existed since the beginning of time. If anything, we are in one of the least aggressive times, the last couple hundred years has been easy going compared to Ancient civilizations murdering thousands of people at a time to take over land. Video games, Music, written word all allow release of aggression in a controlled enviroment if anything.

     

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  18.  
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    Adam (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: I remember...

    And chess. And Beethoven.

    Seriously, isn't it better than say, going to a stadium to watch people slaughter each other live before thousands of screaming fans? Maybe we should go back to REAL gladiators instead of programming Objects.

     

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  19.  
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    scott, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    OK, the BEST we can ASSUME is that we don't know if violent games and interaction with them cause or contribute to violence outside of that environment. Given that, would it not make sense to err on the side of rational behavior and not submit people to this until you knew for sure or were reasonably sure? For decades we used the same backward logic with burning fossil fuels - we just don't know what the effect is. So, why don't we just continue ahead not knowing while fucking the planet in the ass. Once we "prove" burning fossil fuels is a problem then perhaps (and that's just perhaps), we might consider doing something about it (as long as no one loses their job). So, please tell me exactly why this argument about using fossil fuels is any different than exposing people to unneeded violence. Could it be perhaps the people who argue for this come from one or both of two camps: those addicted to the games and those searching for more $. Don't even talk about accepting personal responsibility for your behavior and its effects on all. Come to think of it, those would be the exact same people who argue we should continue burning fossil fuels. Any connection there? Violence in a game and violence against Eden? Naw, just kill that motherfucker on the screen and pass me the Doritos and shut the fuck up or I'll Bitch slap you.

     

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  20.  
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    Esahc (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Cue the nutjobs

    Please see Pat Robertson for proof.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    Video games or sports or whatever don't make people agressive.

    Humans are naturally agressive and that is why these games are popular.

    It's all the children's fault!! Who's going to protect the games??!!

     

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  22.  
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    Frosty840, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:26pm

    Re:

    Hilariously this is, IIRC, Anderson's third meta-study of the research, most of which is his own, most of which suffers from all kinds of biases.

    The guy's a crank.

     

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  23.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    It must be difficult to type up such a lengthy incoherent rant with your head so firmly lodged in your rectum.

     

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  24.  
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    Ryan, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    Does the asylum know you haven't been taking your medication? Should you even be on the internet?

     

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  25.  
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    Comboman (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    Given that, would it not make sense to err on the side of rational behavior and not submit people to this until you knew for sure or were reasonably sure?

    You could say that about ANYTHING. We don't know for sure if eating carrots contributes to violent behavior. We don't know for sure if wearing hats contributes to violent behavior. We don't know for sure if posting self-righteous diatribes contributes to violent behavior (although I have my own theory on that one). The bottom line is, if you wait for everything to be proven 100% safe before doing it, you may as well just kill yourself, since you won't be doing anything.

     

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  26.  
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    glen, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Graph

    If you need and further evidence that violent video games affect violent behavior, check out this graph from two years ago, and although the graph isn't up to date, the curve will be the same if updated:

    http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2008/04/gaming-real-vio/

     

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  27.  
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    Rob.Etler (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 1:33pm

    I started playing Mortal Kombat my whole life, and it's never had any kind of up left down down up a+c effect on my life.

     

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  28.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    "I started playing Mortal Kombat my whole life, and it's never had any kind of up left down down up a+c effect on my life."

    I bicycle kicked my brother once and then turned into a dragon and ate his torso.

    But then the mushrooms wore off....

    AAAHHH! Fungi causes violent behavior!!!!

     

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  29.  
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    Bazooka Balls, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    The evidence is in!

    And global warming is also a truth that you can't refute...even though you can...but the studies show it's true...except when they don't.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: I remember...

    We need Kevin Bacon to set these idiots straight!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Flakey, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Violent video games aren't the problem...

    Any kid that can't figure out that real life has no reset and no save, has more problems than a video game can account for.

    This sort of nonsense about some entertainment form causing violent behavior has been with us a long time.

    In my kid days, comic books were the dastardly mind destroying, behavior altering, and antisocial delivery vehicle that would make them be the terror of society when they grew up.

    That never came to pass that I know of. In the process of looking at the pictures, I wanted to know what they meant. Low and behold I learned to read.

    To this day I have no remote inclination to go rob a bank, jump over a multistory building (or off one), or go knock off a few cops for fun and giggles.

    Geeze I must be a retard compared to all these studies that came out at the time...I didn't get it.

     

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  32.  
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    The Quasi-Mike (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    That's even worse - suicide often leads to violent behavior.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Joe Perry (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Really? When was that? Last I hear he was disbarred, in 2007 I think. So that pretty much ruined his credibility and his ability to even try to get anything done.

     

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  34.  
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    Joe Perry (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 8:32pm

    Re: Global warming is a hoax. Oops, I mean violent video games don't lead to violence.

    Apparently you missed all the leaked e-mails that were confirmed to be genuine from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, a leading researcher in climate change, which showed that a lot of their data was forget and fudged.

    I especially like this quote from one of the e-mails...
    "Otherwise, however, not much is happening with global warming at the moment. The Earth’s average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year."
    Hmm...yet we continue to push for more carbon regulation. Maybe the whole thing was natural and now it's cooling down. Wait, no, that would mean the scientists were wrong. Instead they offer the option that "Our observing system is inadequate."

    So yes, global warming could very well have largely been spurred on by fake data, much like violent video games causing violent behavior. Obviously violence didn't exist before video games, after all. Not like people were savagely murdering people at the centers of large crowds and it was considered acceptable in ancient times.

     

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  35.  
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    isabel (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 12:30am

    Common Sense

    I think a lot of this is down to common sense on the part of parents. My 2 year old gets a bit upset if things get a bit hairy in Chuggington so I'm not about to play Doom 3 in front of him. The games come with age guides so you can choose whether your children should play them.

     

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  36.  
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    isabel (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 12:32am

    Adding to the above

    a friend of mine watched Eastenders in front of her 3 year old who 'copied' someone in it and tried to slap her in the face, so should we ban Eastenders? (well don't answer that).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    isabel (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 12:44am

    Adding to the above

    a friend of mine watched Eastenders in front of her 3 year old who 'copied' someone in it and tried to slap her in the face, so should we ban Eastenders? (well don't answer that).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    John Mitchell (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:22am

    Does Professor Craig Anderson cause aggression?

    As I read what professor Craig Anderson had to say, my heart started beating faster, and I felt more aggressive -- I found myself starting to clench my fists, and wanted to do something physical. I wonder if they could measure whether reading jackass reasearch studies causes aggression?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 8:42am

    Where are the parents?

    Never underestimate the role of lazy irresponsible parents. Similar studies were done with television decades ago and found similar results regarding violence. What was really interesting is that those same studies found a child's propensity for violence was completely negated when a parent took the time to talk with them about what they had viewed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    cycloneandy (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:10am

    Craig Anderson is a moron

    I'm a recent graduate of Iowa State (2006) and was part of some of his idiotic studies (Psych classes offered extra credit for participation). The studies I was a part of basically had you play a cutesy-kiddie game and then fill out a survey about how numb and bored you were, then play a mind game and fill out the survey saying how engaged you were, and then finally play a fighting game like MK and take the survey saying how ready to kill someone you were.

    All of the questions were worded differently for each part of the survey to elicit the results he was looking for. One specifically I remember was regarding your emotional state. On the first game it ranged from bored to entertained, on the mind game it was engaged to unengaged, and on the last it was bored to engaged... so basically just from the descriptions you knew exactly what you were supposed to pick. The whole time I was thinking, "these results were set in stone before the experiment even began, how is he going to spin this?" Well I think we can see he spun it into a beautiful pile of crap.

     

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  41.  
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    Alexaner, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 8:06am

    New Research for Aggression Causes

    A new research demonstrated that human very existence causes aggressive behavior.

    More than 99% of humans who were born demonstrated clearly aggressive behavior during their lives, scientists said.

    They also suggested to kill all humans as a solution to the aggression problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    so true

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    hey brandon its madison

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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