Prof. Christopher Ferguson (left) of Texas A&M International University dropped GamePolitics a line to mention that he and Prof. John Kilburn have a new meta-analysis in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Ferguson and Kilburn examined the issue of media violence, including both TV and video games. The researchers looked at studies which reported a link between media and aggressive behavior. Their findings are pretty interesting and will certainly be well-received in gaming circles.
- 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.
Why, in the view of Ferguson and Kilburn, is media violence research so tainted? From their conclusion:
The concern remains that media violence effects research may continue to be driven primarily by ideological or political beliefs rather than objectivity. Media violence has a long history of being driven by ideology. Why the belief of media violence effects persists despite the inherent weaknesses of the research is somewhat of an open question. There may be a “perfect storm” of political opportunism, a union of far-right and far-left social agendas, and scientific dogmatism that has impaired the scientific community’s ability to critically examine this research field.
Ultimately, data from this study do not support the conclusion that media violence research is a significant public health concern. If it is the goal of society to reduce violence, scientific, political, and economic efforts would likely bear more fruit in other realms.