Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown v. EMA Ruling

July 1, 2011 -

An article penned by Iowa State University researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson tells parents around the country that the Brown v. EMA ruling on Monday shouldn't lead them to believe that there is no evidence that violent videogames have no effect on children's behavior. On the contrary they say, the evidence was there, but the defeat came about because the law was unconstitutional.

While there is some talk about the harmful effects of games, Gentile and Anderson also extol the benefits of games as teaching tools. Before they get into  all that, they say one thing that is extraordinary, showing how much they really understand about how the ESRB and retailers deal with children who want to buy games meant for adult audiences:

"This is a victory for free speech in that children are afforded the freedom to buy any games without requiring their parents to know what they have purchased."

Of course children can't just waltz in to Best Buy, GameStop, or Walmart and buy an "M" rated game without proving their age with an I.D. Instead, the ruling says that the state can't put conditions and a legal impact on retailers. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, retailers and game publishers are still bound by the industry's ratings standard and there are penalties in place to deal with companies that don't disclose the type of content their games contain.

While Gentile and Anderson bend the truth on that front, they do talk at length about how research works in the scientific community; scientists tend not to agree on methodology and results from scientific studies:

"Researchers differ about how large an effect violent games have, and how seriously to take it. But scientists love to disagree about these types of things. One of the best types of studies to resolve these arguments is called a meta-analysis, which is a study of studies. The most comprehensive meta-analysis of violent video games -- including more than 130 studies of more than 130,000 people -- found consistent evidence that violent games increase desensitization, aggressive thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behaviors, and decrease helpful behaviors. Even the few scientists who claim there is nothing to worry about find very similar results in their small-scale meta-analyses."

While the industry probably disagrees with much of what these researchers say, many can agree that  legislating controls on game sales isn't the only answer to whatever problems games might cause:

"What we are surprised about is how much time and energy we as a country keep spending on restricting access to games. This does not seem like a good use of resources. We have ignored other opportunities that are likely to be more fruitful, such as improving the media ratings to be more reliable and valid, and improving public education about why parents should use them. Although there are substantial problems with the existing media ratings, the research also shows that when parents use ratings regularly to help choose what games children may buy/play, they can be a powerful protective factor for children. Perhaps it is time to stop focusing on access restriction, and instead begin focusing on tools that could help parents make good choices concerning their children's media diet."

You can read the entire thing here.


Comments

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

shouldn't lead them to believe that there is no evidence that violent videogames have no effect on children's behavior

That would be a triple negative, James.

Seriously: PROOFREAD BEFORE YOU CLICK THE POST BUTTON.

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

"The most comprehensive meta-analysis of violent video games -- including more than 130 studies of more than 130,000 people -- found consistent evidence that violent games increase desensitization, aggressive thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behaviors, and decrease helpful behaviors."

This isn't wrong, but it's also not the same as claiming that video games with violent content cause players to commit acts of violence. Gentile and Anderson have never made that claim, and in fact, in the book they're holding up in the photo, they criticize legislators for failing to understand media violence research (e.g., aggression is emotion, not behavior.)

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

But they both signed on to Yee's brief making exactly those same claims, so I'm less sympathetic about giving them a pass.  This is something I've noticed among some of these researchers...in their academic writings they do (at least more recently...Anderson used to imply links between violent games and school shootings) tend to avoid mentioning violence, although in public they don't make any effort to correct politicians or other scholars (Huesmann, Strasburger) who do make explicit linkages to violence.

These two scholars (that is Anderson and Gentile, although also Huesmann and Strasburger) have made other extreme statements (implying the magnitude of effects is similar to smoking and lung cancer, failing to adequately cite data that doesn't fit with their views, etc.)  So I'm not sympathetic to the "these guys are just misunderstood" argument.

The California bill was possible because of statements these two researchers made (indeed much of the California and Yee briefs relied on their research).  Had these researchers felt their research was being misused by the state they had an ethical duty to speak up and say something.  Instead they signed the Yee brief, giving explicit consent to comments regarding harm/youth violence/neurological harm, etc.  That's fine for them if they believed that...but to now backpetal and claim they never supported such claims or legislation is disingenious in my opinion.  Don't support the legislation?  Then don't sign an amicus brief supportive of the legislation.

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

"130 studies of more than 130,000 people"

Really?  No, seriously.  Really?  These studies average 1000 people each?  Well, that's funny because I've been paying pretty close attention to this stuff for the last five or six years and it's rare I see a study that looks at more than a few dozen people.

I guess several studies that looked at thousands of people just slipped under my radar. 

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

That's apparently what happens when you blink in this industry, Andrew. :p

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Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

Well those 130 studies, however many are in them, aren't consistent either.  This statment falsely implies consistency where there was none, more than anything else. 

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

These two researchers are SCARED to aim their target at anything other than games. If they had a real argument instead of this "hot button" issue on games they might sound a little more credible. As it stands right now they just look like opportunists with the ear of the fundies.

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

These researchers again simply exaggerate the consistency of the research and present "their" view as truth.  this doesn't add much to the discussion.

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

They also don't mention how the Supreme Court criticized their research (including lightly dinging Anderson specifically, did they not?) 

Re: Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown ...

Just remember: IF cybernatography DOES have an effect on children, there's two things you have to remember:

1. It's not the ONLY thing that does. Movies, television, music, books, and almost every other media can also have the same effect.

2. It's not just CHILDREN that are effected. Adolescents, teens, and even adults, albeit to a lesser extent, can still be influenced by certain media. Advertising, propaganda, and yes, violence.

If the anti-gamers are not willing to accept these two, then, I cannot accept that games are any different.

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