• It’s not the video games – ctd.

    More data from Christopher Ferguson:

    As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth. Our research lab recently published new prospective results with teens in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence indicating that exposure to video game violence neither increased aggressive behaviors, nor decreased prosocial behaviors. Whitney Gunter and Kevin Daly recently published a large study of children in Computers in Human Behavior which found video game violence effects to be inconsequential with other factors controlled. And as for the notion of that violent media “desensitizes” users, recent results published by my student Raul Ramos found that exposure to violence on screen had no influence on viewer empathy for victims of real violence. (A study published by Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol in Applied Cognitive Psychology similarly found no evidence for a desensitization effect for video games.) Finally, a review of the literature by the Swedish government in 2012 has joined the U.S. Supreme Court and the Australian government in concluding that video game research is inconsistent at best and riddled with methodological flaws.

    In fact, during the years in which video games soared in popularity, youth violence has declined to 40-year lows. And while it’s natural, in such an emotional time, for people to search desperately for answers, that often results in misinformation. In 2007, after the Virginia Tech Massacre, pundits such as Dr. Phil immediately blamed video games. Only later did the official investigation reveal that the perpetrator was not a violent game player after all. In the Sandy Hook case, after the shooter was misidentified as Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan, the Facebook page of the video game Mass Effect (which Ryan “liked” on his own Facebook page) was attacked by angry hordes.

    Read the whole thing. My prior post here.



    • It seems fairly persuasive that there’s currently no link between video games in violence in kids of normal mental health. However, I think it’s worth asking whether people with mental illness (like a lot of these mass shooters) could potentially be affected differently by violent video games or other form of violent media. A sort of heterogeneity of treatment effect, if you will. Not sure if I buy it, but it’s at least plausible.

      Obviously we’d need data to support this. We likely don’t have it due to smaller sample sizes, and presumably an observational study would be horribly confounded. If there is a differential effect, it’s hard to justify tighter regulations or other broad policies, but it could impact the decisions that parents of children with mental illness make.

      • Exactly!

        If someone is deficit in empathy capability how can you measure whether violent games impair their empathy for real victims?

    • The views of Drs. Carroll and Ferguson are inconsistent with theory and research in social psychology. It’s not surprising that researchers will sometimes fail to replicate the effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior (and that media corporations will publicize these failures to replicate). However, meta-analyses show that the relationship is reliable.

      Before making up your mind, you might want to consult:


    • Not sure that the nearly 10 year old APA link is definitive, citing its own author’s work almost exclusively. Take the issue of youth violent crime which the author states as of 2003 was not declining. The link posted by Ferguson above to youth violence decline is data assembled by the FBI, and in 2003 clearly showed a marked decline , which has continued.

    • I don’t agree with Dr. Phil immediately blaming video games for violence with the Virginia Tech Massacre.