Dr. Patrick Markey pens an editorial for US News & World Report called "In Defense of Violent Video Games" in which he explains that, despite research showing aggression after playing video games, there has been absolutely no research that violent videogames actually cause violent shootings.
Dr. Markey is associate professor of psychology at Villanova University, the director of the Interpersonal Research Laboratory, and a former president of the Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research.
Dr. Markey begins his editorial by explaining how researchers are often on the front lines of television news coverage after a horrific shooting because the media immediately seeks them out and deems them "experts," but using current research on aggressive behavior and video games can be misleading:
"Presenting our research in relation to such tragic events implies that our findings can somehow be used to better predict and prevent school shootings. However, such a dialogue is misleading as no study has examined whether or not violent video games cause real world violence. In fact, most people are surprised to learn exactly how video game research is conducted."
He then goes on to explain that the rational take-away from research on aggressive behavior and violent video games:
"Taken together, research clearly suggests that exposure to violent video games temporarily increases a person's hostility. A child or adult who plays a video game will be slightly more antagonistic and might even see his or her world as a more hostile place immediately after playing the game. However, research does not show a clear link between playing violent video games and real world violence."
But he also cautions that because a majority of youngsters are playing violent video games, singling out that fact as a motivation is problematic:
"Although researchers have often noted the preference of violent video games by many school shooters, given that 97 percent of adolescents play video games such a preference is not overly surprising. It could similarly be argued that bread consumption predicts school shootings, because most school shooters likely consumed a bread product within 24 hours before their violent attacks."
Ultimately Dr. Markey's point is that some in political circles are looking for something else to blame and avoiding real issues that might be at the root of violent crime in America:
"Researchers, like me, have been guilty of perpetuating the connection between violent video games and real world violence either implicitly or explicitly within our own research articles and in our "expert" statements given to news outlets and politicians. As humans we may like being treated as "experts" on important topics like school violence, but as scientists we must be critical of the implications drawn from research – especially, from our own research. Such implications could prove to be dangerous if it causes lawmakers and others to focus on violent video games at the expense of other more serious causes of violence."
You can read the entire article here.
Image of Dr. Markey via Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.