Researcher Disputes Reported Link Between Violent Games, Aggression

November 19, 2007 -
Texas A&M prof Christopher Ferguson has sent GamePolitics a copy of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games.

The work represents Ferguson's latest meta-review on the effects of video game violence. GamePolitics covered an earlier publication by Ferguson in February.

Ferguson's review disputes findings by other researchers that link violent games to agression. Ferguson writes:
Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games may increase the risk of aggression in players...

[Ferguson's] results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition. Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression. However playing violent video games remained related to higher visuospatial cognition.

At the time that this article is being written the mass-homicide at Virginia Tech... is but a few months old. Not surprisingly... news media have indulged in speculation that video game playing may be involved in the etiology of this shooting although information about the shooter has thus far not supported a substantial link.

Ferguson notes that video game play is ubiquitous among modern youth while school shooting incidents are rare:
It is not hard to ‘‘link’’ video game playing with violent acts if one wishes to do so, as one video game playing prevalence study indicated that 98.7% of adolescents play video games to some degree with boys playing more hours and more violent games than girls.

However is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e. video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e. school shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?

Comments

Re: Researcher Disputes Reported Link Between Violent Games,

Look the guy is right. END OF STORY!!! video games have been around longer then I have. so why is it that when I get to be about 12 i start to hear about how video games lead to violent crimes. because its a new topic no matter what you say thats all there is right now everyone is looking at video games because like anyother contraverse its new and so everyone just has to get there two cents in. but this guy is someone i'll more then listen to. he is calm and has no predispositon to blame video games while at the same time is not likely to be bias in there favor.

Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?


Perhaps the best statement evar! No really, Ferguson has boiled it down perfectly into such a simple question.

and skirting around a ban won't do wonders either.

“Can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?”

From a mathematical/statistical/econometric standpoint, a nearly universal behavior can only be helpful in a prediction model if those few who do not participate in that universal behavior almost-across-the-board fail to demonstrate the rare behavior. That is to say, in order to predict that video game playing increases aggression, you would really need to prove that people who do not play video games almost never display aggression.

I simply do not believe that to be the case; I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that the correlation between violent video games and actual, measurable aggression (or violence) is due to anything other than a sorting effect.

as of this day, i shall never tell another Aggie joke again.

kudos, Prof. Ferguson. Kudos.

Hmmm....

This person bears following. Still not quite Human v3.0, but getting there. Yes, getting there.

He's reasonable, rational, and thought provoking. Must read more when I have time. Yes, yes. Must read more when I have time.

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

"Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?"

True. 100% of all school shooters wore shoes. Obviously we must ban them.

I think it's so biased and based on misinformation from people who disapprove of violent media. Why doesn't Simcity get blamed for people becoming town planners? Why don't Madden or the Pro Evolution soccer get blamed for kids becoming athletes? Why don't the Trauma Center or Phoenix Wright games get blamed for kids growing up to be surgeons or lawyers?

Answer: Because, just as in violent video games, there is no bearing on real life whatsoever. Violent video games can no more instill the desire to kill in someone, than they can train them to use a gun.

"Can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?"

Why can't everyone else see it this way...

"However is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e. video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e. school shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?"



the shear fact that there are millions of gamers out there who play or have played violent games should be (and is) enough proof to put this game violence issue out of commission. if violent games are able to influence behavior in people to the extent of making them act out in real life violent acts so easily, you would be seeing millions of school shootings or whatever other things people try to link games to, rather than the handful that you see occuring now.

the total amout of gamers that exist that dont act out in violence compared to the total amount of gamers who do act out in real life violence sums it up quite nicely. unfortunatly the only people who seem to realize this are us gamers and the very few percentage of adults who still have some sort of common sense and good understanding of logic left in their heads.

Whoa, I would want to read his journal articles, but don't have time to comment. But judging from the present excerpts, he hits where it counts.

Both this article and an earlier article on GP imply that aggression is a bad and dangerous behavior. Agression is not a bad thing in and of itself. Good CEO's are agressive. Agression can cause someone to tackle their homework more vigorously to understand. An aggressive lawyer can be a great lawyer.

I'd love to know the effects of violent games, but none of these studies are measuring the correct variables. Increased aggression does not equal increased violence. Becoming desensitized to violence does not mean increased violence. The truth is, if you are not measuring violent behavior as a result of a stimulus, you cannot make a correlation to increased violence.

@Robb, exactly.

Jack Thompson has an aggressive stance on Rockstar and their products, does that mean he is ready and willing to use violence against them?

I want a copy of this book.

2 GoodRobotUs

that was probably not the best of examples, reason being, the answer could well be yes.

I want to have this article's children.

Why is an article like this, where someone with a brain actually uses logic, so rare? Are those with intelligence too afraid to come forward, for fear of being harassed by fanatical zealots?

I believe that is precisely the case.

A fine point. Video games are not constant or stable variable across seperate instances of school shootings. There are several variables that are far more likely to tigger violent behavior:

1. Glorification of easily avaliable firearms.

2. Bullying and social outcasting.

3. Poor or ignorant parenting.

4. Lack of mental help.

@Peter Goudie

LOL Probably true, however, that in and of itself would prove his own arguments wrong ;)

I...uh...actually agree with Pandralisk...

Wow. Is it raining frogs outside?

@Pandralisk

5. Warped views of social Darwinism.

Most seem to have a strange view that "the masses" have been "sheepled" and need to be punished in order to "see the light."

It's almost religious in it's extremism...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Jabrwock:

NO! STOP! YOU'RE GOING TO GET HIM GOING!

-.-

I wonder, however, just what amount of coverage this will receive in the mainstream media, and gaming press. My bet would be little-to-none.

I think this is huge news. Especailly considering the school violence being perpetrated recently, even this past weekend, where a couple of German youths' (did you say, 'yutes'?) plot was busted. Surely if you juxtapose the amount of coverage of violent videogames with the amount of 'games aren't evil' studies, it would only be good journalism to report it to the masses.
. . Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates . .

"However is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e. video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e. school shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?"

Holy shit on sherbet Batman, I think this 'logic' stuff might be catching on!

@Pandralisk

You missed:
6. Easy access to alcohol and mind-altering drugs.
7. Social stigmas outside bullying. (outcasts, discrimination, etc.)
8. Poverty (which is more often than not the precursor for all the other causes)

@ Jabrwock

The Masses HAVE been sheeped, or at least nerfed :/ Only such a society would even bother listening to the first 5 words coming out of JT/FOX news/Bill O'Reilly/Rush Limbaugh/CHAIRMAN MAO (seriously, causing millions to starve by taking away their WOKS!?!?).

It's maddening.

I did an analysis of all of the shootings that Jack Thompson likes to quote a few weeks back, here on GP. The most significant common thread among most of the shooters was abuse - social abuse, parental abuse, and bullying. It's my opinion that any other finger-pointing at other causes is little more than a smoke-screen.

* and especially bullying.

Oh, how I long for an EDIT button...

This study only reaffirms what inteeligent people already know about the link between violent videogames and violent behavior. How many of these reports have we seen on GP?

I don't mean to bag on this guy, really I don't. But if this report is going to do any good, it needs to be on the mainstream news. Somebody get this guy an agent!

I'm not disputing his overall assertion at the relationship between playing video games (violent ones included) and the frequency of agressive behavior (most emphasis was placed on school shootings), but the most recent study presented on this site seems to indicate that for specific age groups violent video games have tendancy to lead toward increased aggressive behavior over a given time period. Based on the information presented here, it doesn't seem as if this report is aiming to refute that. I'd like more information.

We can probably all agree that the increased interaction with video games does not overall affect the frequency of school shootings, but can we say that increased interaction with violent video games doesn't affect the aggressive behavior of specific age groups?

There are still questions I'd be interested in the answers:
1. What are 'violent' games?
2. What is aggressive behavior?

Those are the most prevalent, but they all go back to 'How did you conduct your study exactly?'.

I think this is some food for thought for the all the 'WAY TO GO HOMIE' people and spark serious conversation about the effects of media on learning and development. If anything, I'm interested in the methods, samples, results, and conclusions of these studies.

Moreso, I'm interested in the conclusions and the impact on the extent of oversight that might need to be paid to the distribution of media...

@ Robb:

I don't think the earlier article implies that aggression is bad behavior at all. I think it even made the point that it wasn't the objective to create a positive or negative stigma about it... that the research conducted just implicated that violent video games teach aggression.

It didn't seem to say that aggression is bad to learn or should be avoided... I think it just said there was a relationship. How strong, I can't say I know.

Damned, no editing... I do agree with your conclusion though.

Neither of the articles are testing for violent behavior and frequency as a result of interaction with violent video games (and neither define violence as far as I can tell).

Therefore, I can't determine the overall importance of either study. However, the age based aggression report is more interesting in my opinion.

The funny thing is aggression and violence aren't the same thing. For example a particularly aggressive lawyer that we all know and laugh at. Just because a person is aggressive doen't make them violent. I know fencers who are quite the aggressor on the fencing strip, but off of it they are the most passive person you'd ever meet.

Basically, this study proves no link between violence and video games, only agression and video games.

I'm pretty sure that almost every shooter ate bread regularly. That stuff messes with your mind.


And I wonder how many of the shooters grew up in a Judeo-Christian environment. Tales of holy genocide and warfare and plagues upon your enemies and intolerance for other religions and ethnic groups in your country in addition to labeling every human drive a sin must totally mess people up.

Just kinda bothers me that a lot of people's reaction is 'PRAISE THE GAMING GODS' vs. my reaction of 'So? We (including a lot opponents) already knew this... where is the real information?"

In the alternative, only a very small percentage of politicians will use a death by video games defense to limit the distribution of media, but it's portrayed that almost all politicians do this.

Both sides of the coin. Neither is useful.

I'd be tempted to say "No [expletive deleted], Sherlok!" but sadly there won't be many people outside of gamers who will back me up on this.

So I'll say "Keep on man!" because we need him to keep on.

@Thomas

Well, unfortunately, is is the media which has been the driving force behind a lot of the anti-game rhetoric that has been seen as of late. And people will believe something if it is on the news, or a talk show, or whatever -- many people will believe it at face value. So, studies like this help debunk what is being portrayed as the "evils" of video games. Sure, the gamers already knew this. A few of the anti-game "activists" knew this as well and were not putting it forward as a legitimate argument against games. However, if the media pushes it as one, there will be a large percentage of people who will continue to think it *is* a legitimate position.

Politicians will often go with the direction their constituency appears to be going (in order to continue to get votes and continue to be in office) -- so legitimate or not, there are several politicians that will jump on this bandwagon simply because their constituency appears to be on this bandwagon -- one of the methods to determine the views of the constituency, once again, is to monitor the media -- both as a force that tends to persuade the population, and as an organization/outlet which portrays what the constituents want in a reactionary stance.

Studies like the one in this article helps to debunk these fictitious claims still prostrated by the mainstream media.

[...] Gamepolitics.com was sent a copy of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games by Texas A&M professor Christopher Ferguson.Ferguson’s review disputes findings by other researchers that link violent games to agression. Ferguson writes: “Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games may increase the risk of aggression in players… [...]

@ Xlor

Yes and no. The media perptuates the situation because it's a sensational topic. However, the debunk isn't a sensational topic, so it probably won't be reported.

Thefore, the existence of the report doesn't really help all that much in my opinion. It definitely doesn't hurt, but I just can't see the significant impact.

Shoehorn O'Plenty Says:
"True. 100% of all school shooters wore shoes. Obviously we must ban them."

Alecks Says:
"I’m pretty sure that almost every shooter ate bread regularly. That stuff messes with your mind."

No, no, no! You people are just clouding the issue. The real problem is water. Did you know that every criminal act in the history of mankind was performed by a water-drinker, or "Hydroante," as I like to call them. If we could just get everybody on the planet to stop drinking all forms of water, I gaurantee you that in a few weeks, there would be absolutely no crime.

@ Thomas, Xlorep DarkHelm

I wonder if every time JBT or one of his ilk can point that some vaguely unheard of study from 1985 says this we can get Dr. Ferguson or his kin to show proof otherwise. Print books, go on the talk show circuit and in otherways be a mirror and offset to jackie

I like this article myself. I shows in a more concrete from what many here have been saying for a longish time. Every study that "proves" so and so, there is another side that also tends to prove otherwise. Sadly without telepathy or something of that level we will never know the true effect games have on the kiddies, or any.

Besides as stated here (thank you GryphonOsiris) and stated myself in the past aggression is not violence. The whole idea is to teach the kiddies (and displaced adults) to reign in anger and violence... not point to it as the blame for the worlds ills.

Well it is a shame that this study will probably be ignored.

@Vinzent:

Shame that's not the type of fearmongering 'WHAT KINDS OF VIOLENT GAMES ARE YOUR CHILDREN PLAYING WITHOUT YOU KNOWING? STORY AT 11' headlines the public wants to watch.

@ DarkTetsuya

Don't you know that the new only shows negative things when it comes to video games. They don't want to upset the crazies.

@ Skylar

You don't see information on studies like this because it isn't as sensational, entertaining, or advertisement dollar friendly. It's the same reason the mainstream media in the US spins the "facts" like good 'ole Jack all the time.

I totally agree with you though that more unbiased, logical, philosophical studies such as this need to be done and released. However, then you'd have an educated mass of people and we can't have that now can we? Otherwise you wouldn't be able to blame your problems/issues/stupidity on something else like [insert noun here].

Kudos to GP for posting this information.

@ Loudspeaker

Good idea except...................... what if it isn't unbiased just in our favor?

@ Xlorep DarkHelm

But they are just telling people what they want to hear.

"Why can’t everyone else see it this way…"
@JB

Because humans are naturally stupid ;).

@Soul

A person is smart
People are dumb panicky animals.

Unbiased is enough. Let a thing speak for itself and be judged on it only values or lack. If it has faults address THOSE faults and problems. Those things that are good should also be acknowledged.

One cannot address a problem until a problem has been spotted and understood.. All else can be related to running around like a headless chicken.

I am much in agreement with Loudspeaker on this (sarcasm and all). If actual "facts" are allowed to be shared with the common people it tends to head off witch burning and other fear induced activity. Obviously cannot allow that. No there will always be those that need to be able to find something to point out and show as being to blame, and to make a profit from.

@icehawk

I wonder if every time JBT or one of his ilk can point that some vaguely unheard of study from 1985 says this we can get Dr. Ferguson or his kin to show proof otherwise. Print books, go on the talk show circuit and in otherways be a mirror and offset to jackie

He won't get invited. Nothing kills a talk-show fear-fest faster than a credible researcher saying "everything's fine, see? you're hyping this way out of proportion..."
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@ Jabrwock

Damn bro did you have to go and pop my ballon? Everyone needs a dream and there has to be Some common sense and decency left out there somewhere.... right?

Goes off to sulk in a corner
 
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