2012 Research Paper Linking Video Games And Violence Finally Retracted Over Massaged Data Accusation
from the boom,-headshot dept
For all of the studies that often appear almost fervent in their attempts to find any thread of a link between violent video games and real life tendencies to violence, one of the standouts in the crowd has been Brad Bushman. Bushman last graced our pages showing how some combination of candy and loud noises showed that teenagers who had played a violent video game ate more bad food and were aggressive towards others in the immediate aftermath. This was used to essentially claim that violent video games were bad for teenagers, despite longer-term studies involving more participants coming to the opposite conclusion.
More to the point for this post were accusations from Bushman’s peers that his research methods were generally flawed and that he was known to pick and choose which results from his experiments he wanted to include in the final analysis. It seems the study we discussed in that last post wasn’t the only study in which Bushman has done this, as a 2012 research paper Bushman authored, delightfully entitled Boom, Headshot!?: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy, has finally been retracted by the journal Communication Research.
Now, the stated reason for the retraction is that there were some questions from peers about the data used in the paper and that Bushman could no longer produce that data for analysis, hence the retraction. That’s a barely accurate description of what actually happened regarding the paper.
The two outside researchers mentioned in the notice are Patrick Markey, psychology professor at Villanova University and Malte Elson, a behavioral psychology postdoc at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. They began questioning the results when Markey noticed some statistical inconsistencies that suggested the data were positively skewed. Bushman has claimed that the push to retract the paper was a smear campaign. But, ultimately, he agreed with the retraction.
It stretches credulity that research done a mere few years ago and the resulting data would disappear in this way, and only after criticism of it arises. And Bushman’s agreeing to the retraction should tell you the whole story here. But what’s crazy about this is that Markey and Elson have been lodging complaints against Bushman’s paper for years. That the paper was allowed to stay in its published form for all this time doesn’t say much for Communication Research’s standards. Elson, in particular, appears to be happy, but exasperated.
I am pleased to see the paper is finally retracted almost 3 years after the authors were first notified of the concerns (and 2 years after it was first reported to the Ohio State University). The public record has now been corrected, which is the only thing Patrick and I ever wanted after we found evidence of severe errors in the data on which the now retracted paper was based.
Who knew the peer review process actually took so long?