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entitled Boom, Headshot!?: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy, has finally been retracted by the journal Communication Research.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?


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Jan 2017 @ 12:07pm

    Of course the problem is the copies out there that will not be updated with the retracted notice, people will still cite it as a reason to make their pet project happen.

    Retraction really isn't the powerful tool it once was as the information expands outwards at a fast pace. Look at Wakefields research & the number of people who willfully ignore the retraction, explained problems, & his financial motive behind publishing it.

    Perhaps it is time they tighten up the review process so that it is no longer a system of trying to put the genie back into the bottle. Or having to carry a notification that its not been reviewed yet so shouldn't be reported as gospel.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 27 Jan 2017 @ 12:40pm

      Re:

      That. The damage is done and we know there are plenty of people who will simply make up any reason not to let go of the belief induced by the retracted papers. It's quite simple: well, he was threatened by the video game industry into retracting his awesome work.

      What's left is to have people like Tim and us game lovers to call their bullshit to those who haven't been affected by severe stupidity and keep an watchful eye to prevent the stupid that reached Government from enacting stupidity into law.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2017 @ 3:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, I'm not really a game lover, and I'd still like to see bad science retracted, and the retractions kept easy to find (to fend off those still citing the retracted papers).

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

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 27 Jan 2017 @ 12:22pm

    8 years

    It took them EIGHT YEARS to test Usain BOlt's team for drugs...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2017 @ 1:54pm

    Does anyone really think advocates will care that the study has been retracted?

    Look at the anti-vaxxers, they are still going strong citing the one study that agreed with them that was retracted ages ago.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 27 Jan 2017 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      Well, not all of them. Some people who believed in the vaccine/autism link (or at least believed it was possible) really did change their minds when the Wakefield study was retracted and his fraudulent data-gathering methods exposed. Not everybody, know, but it wasn't inconsequential either.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2017 @ 8:38am

    Re: longer-term studies

    What we are talking about here is the effects of different types of psychological conditioning. IOW, industrial abuse of citizens subconscious minds.

    For American teenagers, the damage done by sadistic marketing practices is ubiquitous and may be regarded as a cultural attribute. Americans celebrate personality disorders like they were birthdays. And the effect of this is largely complete before somebody becomes an avid game player.

    So if the question is: "are gamers fucked up" the answer is yes. If the question is: "are they more fucked up than the rest of us", the answer is probably not.

    In typical fashion, the scope of the question dictates a result that supports whoever is making the argument. And while the argument wails, the few people doing actual science on the subject, go unheard and unfunded.

    Based on the little I know about the science, I think it would be fair to say that what your looking at IS actually damage. But the window of measurement for detectable damage is already red-lined by the time most of us are about 12.

    This area is crying out for learned objective testimony. People in computational sciences tend to have a significant bias against the shrinking industry, which I attribute to the soft language they use. This bias is mutually crippling, each to the the others ability to advance.

    We are right and wrong. And our egos are injured by the idea that we are wrong, which compels us on to flog our ignorance forward. Of course, when you are right and wrong at the same time, your thesis needs to be reevaluated.

    I should be much pleased, if this long running topic on TD, stops being about the wars waged between ideologs, and starts being about the scientists advancing these subjects. I imagine these guys would be extraordinarily interesting to talk to, and the resulting enlightenment, a boon the the quality of the product here at TD.

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

  • icon
    Kay (profile), 30 Jan 2017 @ 7:19am

    Video games don't cause violence.

    There's no reasonable reason to believe that video games cause violence, but it remains entrenched in the psychology community to think so.

    Also, having seen firsthand the positive effects of video games on my son I think we should take a look at how they can affect learning and imagination.

    I think what's most important about kids playing games is to help them process what they're seeing. The various situations that come up in game narratives (drug use, for instance, which is pretty pervasive) have led to me having lots of great discussions with my son (how is drug use different from the way they're portraying it? Why is it bad to use drugs to escape from reality? etc.).

    So basically, what I'm saying is that everyone should play more videos games.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2017 @ 4:01am

    I looked into Bushman's research a bit when I was at university, and it's just shockingly garbage, filled with tremendously vague inferences and the eternally unsupportable conclusion that the generally falling level of violence and the generally rising consumption of videogames means that videogames cause violence. Dude's a complete fucking hack.

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

  • identicon
    Bob, 3 Feb 2017 @ 8:44am

    Video Games And Violence

    I've played video games for many years and blown the pixelated heads of thousands of fake-life video game characters and I've never once felt the desire to be violent later. That said violent games absolutely do lead some people to killing. A quick web search for "how the military uses video games" or something similar will bring up hundreds of articles indicating that people who play violent video games join the military and actually do kill people. Games published for by and about the military have increased enlistment tremendously. Since the practice began millions of people have been killed in military actions, many by people who were directly influenced by violent games. Games are also used for training, so they first inspire violence then they train them how to do it. I'm personally convinced that many people are compelled toward violence via video games.
    There's plenty of evidence that games lead to violence, certainly the military kind and who knows what else. The next time some U.S. congressman wants to make a name for himself and pass some sort of law because video games lead to violence all they have to do is bring up the figures relating to recruitment and military style games, the violence connection will be hard to dispute. Sadly that would probably just lead to more violence.
    It's a sick world we live in I wish it were not so but you know what they say "wish in one hand then shit in the other and see which one fills up first."

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

    • icon
      Kay (profile), 6 Feb 2017 @ 12:34pm

      Re: Video Games And Violence

      You're suffering from a serious case of correlation-does-not-equal-causation.

      Remember, increased ice cream consumption correlates directly to increased rapes. Therefore ice cream MUST cause rapes!

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


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