Evidence Lacking On Any Connection Between Video Game Violence And Real Violence

from the so-says-the-research dept

Two professors have taken the time to go through all of the various research over the years that has tried to connect violent video games to actual violence, and discovered many problems with it. They found that research that concludes some sort of connection between the two seems to not use any recognized measure of aggression (allowing for substantial fudging), and that the media attention seems to lead more researchers to study the subject and (perhaps subconsciously) push them towards sensationalizing their findings. Hurray for technopanics. Among the 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.

Of course, that won’t stop lawyers and politicians from grandstanding on the issue…

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Comments on “Evidence Lacking On Any Connection Between Video Game Violence And Real Violence”

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Rekrul says:

Why do these studies (not this, the ones it debunks) never conclude that the connection between violence and violent games goes the other way? That if a person already has violent tendancies, they’re likely to enjoy violent video games. The always pick out extreme cases, like school shooters, while ignoring the million of people who play such games every day, but who never hurt anyone.

I’d like to see a study on the connection between the rise of violence among kids and the campaign to discourage parents from using any kind of unpleasant discipline on their kids.

When I was little, I was afraid of making my parents angry. I knew I’d get slapped by my mother for using bad language, or smacked on the seat of my pants for doing something stupid. I was also afraid that my father, who liked to break things when he got mad, would lose his temper and smash my toys. Today, children are taught that if their parents touch them in any way as a form of discipline, it’s child abuse and they should report it.

I’m not advocating beating children, but it’s gotten so that many parents are afraid to discipline their kids and the kids know it. Look at all those talkshows that ran “My Kids are out of Control” episodes where the teens called their parents every name in the book and said they were going to do what they wanted.

Many kids are growing up with no respect for authority, is it any wonder that they have few inhibitions about violence?

Alan Gerow (user link) says:

Re: Re:

(I know you’re joking, but it sparked my opinion 🙂 )

Desensitization and becoming more violent due to a video game are different.

Being desensitized means that if you see violence after playing violent video games, you won’t be filled with the same level of horror and disgust than you would if you weren’t previously exposed to such things through experience. But, the same desensitization effect could be seen in movies, television news, or if you live in a violent area. It refers to a sensitive level of reaction to exposure, which lessens with experience.

The point that politicians are making is that violent video games make kids violent. It goes beyond desensitization and into nurturing violent tendencies leading to violence becoming a more frequent reaction to situations where the person would not have previously been violent.

I’m on the fence about desensitization, because from my own experiences (which are mine, and not everyone else’s), I find that I’m still as horrified at real violence. I’ve been an avid watcher of horror movies since I was 8, but seeing someone actually attacked or injured still fills me with pain. But, then again, I actually have the ability to differentiate fantasy from reality.

In terms of the idea of violent video games making kids more violent … I still hold to the belief that the statement is false, and the real answer is that violent kids play violent video games. Though I would accept that an extremely small percentage, talking less than .0000001%, actually do get more violent from playing violent video games. And I don’t mean aggressive, I mean violent.

I would equate the aggression from violent video games to road rage, and probably about as common. In the moment, the adrenaline is intoxicating, but a couple minutes later, after a cool-off period, they would return to normal. We’re creatures of chemicals, and when the adrenaline and other hormones start flowing from stress and excitement, the brain functions actually change so that they are thinking differently then they would normally. It’s the old flight or fight mechanism.

Jack (profile) says:

My gripe with these tests is that they focus on the people that perform these extremely violent crimes, say school shootings, and single out video games or Marilyn Manson. What about the violent crimes that are committed, both extreme and more common(spousal abuse, for instance), that are committed everyday by the majority of the people that do not listen to Manson and play Halo? What about the serial killer that plays monopoly and listens to Billy Joel? The only point I am trying to make is this: there has to be just as many, if not more people who commit acts of violence that perform activities that are considered “normal” by mainstream society. I LOVE violent video games and I do not hit my wife and kid, but I will blow the head off of a Nazi Zombie in Call of Duty 5. It is a great way to blow off steam.

Frosty840 says:

On the subject of the people actually doing the research

If 41% of the studies used well-validated methods, I can bet the other 59% of studies were done by Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman.
These two individuals have produced a pretty stunning portfolio of anti-gaming research over the years, with professor Anderson having started in the field of anti-film research. Bushman, on the other hand, started off his career doing real research and actually won awards for academic and research excellence back in the 1980s; he hasn’t won any more of those awards since he started his anti-gaming work.
Strange, that…

::grinds axe::

Philipp Mueller (user link) says:

a German Perspective

It was a tough week. The kid that killed 16 fellow students in Germany last week played a single-person shooter the night before the incident. Of course, this proves nothing.

It is clear that playing violent computer games cannot be sufficient explanation for what happened, but coupled with ready access to guns, and media glorifying Columbine as part of global youth culture, it might be a necessary condition.

It took over 50 years to prove the link between cancer and cigarette smoking, because life is never mono-causal. But really, did anybody believe smoking was good for you in the 1970s?

Does this mean we should be absolutist about gaming/smoking? Of course not.

Jim G. says:

This is a slight divergence from the topic.

I agree that the studies linking violent behavior to video games are usually bad science. However, it is very interesting listening to how we gamers talk about these studies. “Of course, I almost flunked out of college because of World of Warcraft, but the games haven’t made me violent. And I did fail Calculus that year.”

I think we should acknowledge and study the real problems that come from gaming. We dismiss the gaming-violence propaganda, but also joke about losing girlfriends, wives, and jobs. THAT is what people should be concerned about and studying. I do not want to use the word “addiction” because it’s overused and misleading. But my sense is that it’s better for a kid to play Grand Theft Auto for an hour and then have to go outside, than play “Snuggle Bear’s Math Cavalcade of Edutainment Fun” for four hours and go to bed.

Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman says:

Waow, Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman really are quacks

@Frosty, I looked up the “researchers” you reffered to, and apparently “global warming” cause violent behavior too. Do thes guys actually get paid for this (aside from bribes from the big pharma)? Amazing.

“Some of the causes of increased violence have been identified. For example, the accessibility of guns (O’Donnell 1995), global warming (Anderson et al. 1997) […]”

They continue by stating: “Recent psychological research has yielded promising new treatments […]”

source: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bbushman/02AB.pdf

Uhu, want to guess that part of the “treatment” is a pill?

becka o. says:

um well i think this.

Im doing my sophomore benchmark on this topic and im for the violence. I do not think there is a link with violece and crimes created by people who played violent games. Im sure the person was already violent. I do believe that the rating system helps it all depends on the rents. Any good parent should know what their child is playing. Im 16 and i love god of war,gears of war, halo and many others and its cool when there is a good graphic and it seems realistic when i kill one of my enemies(im a horrible speller so excuse me on this) but it does not make me violent. I have a huge imagination and im sure other children do and minors have weaker minds and still really do not know the difference of many things but it all comes down to “why was he or she allowed to buy a game not sutible for them” its all in the parenting really, and sales people who should not allow a minor to buy a game over their rating limit. We must have a way to relieve stress and video games sure do help and sometimes the violence takes it out of my system and i come out refreshed and mellow. But if they start to limit many games or ban them then people will start limiting our rights we need a way to let our imagination and im not saying like imaginning creatures and little happy worlds or something i meen we are teenagers and some video games let me pretend im a cool hip spy that needs to take down a whole organization or something and with cencorship there is a certain point it should go to and if its past that point then small rights start to be taken away and it will upset many people and start to build up.(Sorry i know its a bit confusing) All im saying is that parents are complaining but are not really doing anything like checking in on what their child is playing and giving them money and letting them get whatever game they want without checking i meen its their house shouldnt they know what their child is seeing or playing?. So dont complain take action and cencor but to a certain point dont go overboard.

lol man says:

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Henry Valdez says:

Videogamer with a voice

Ill admit that many of todays games have really explicit graphics when it comes to violence, but all this evidence that video games cause violence is B.S. if it really caused people to commit violent acts then the crime rate would be sky rocketed to the point that this country would fall into a state of absolute anarchy especially if the numbers and figures the researchers come up with are accurate. but in all honesty it boils down to control. they want to control how you raise your children and how people in general enjoy their free time. if video game control laws come into effect then the amendment for freedom of speech will not be long to follow. but whats sad is that most people just act like sheep believe what their told and allow there senators and representatives in congress make decisions for them even though those decisions are based on what the senator or representative want and not what the people they are supposed to represent want. oh and on another note another thing to take a look at is what games they compare in these studies. often times these games are from completely different genres and are played completely different ways and yet the researchers fail to notice this.
its just more proof that most of the tests and experiments done that “prove” videogames = violence are rigged from the beginning.

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