Researcher Defends Violent Video Games

April 29, 2013 -

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.


Comments

Re: Researcher Defends Violent Video Games

"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."

And again, I'm still surprised that at this point politicians still want to harp on violent video games when it's pretty clear by now that the real problem is mental healthcare.  I don't even know anymore if the problem is gun control.  But it seems to me that we have plenty of mentally ill people running around unchecked either because our system in its current state is either unwilling or unable to give them the treatment they need.

Why do politicians and the media continue to ignore this issue?  Is it because they see the problem as too big?  Or because there's not enough there to turn it into a political football?  I'd say there's plenty of reason to do so, and link it into the larger issue of healthcare reform, especially seeing as how Republicans have cut funding for mental healthcare going all the way back to the 1980's.

We really need to start the dialogue of improving the mental healthcare system in this country.  I'd say in some ways it's even more important than gun control.  Because if we were able to get to these people in time, chances are they would have never been able to have gotten their hands on a gun in the first place.

Re: Researcher Defends Violent Video Games

There's probably a combination of issues.  Mental health care is complex, requires taxes, and has no evident "bad guy."

Video games are something most older adults don't value, getting rid of them seems like an "easy fix" and has a bad guy (the "shadow industry" of media companies).

Gun control also has a "bad guy" (the gun industry and/or NRA).

So I think it's easier to make a fuss over gun control or media violence, than to roll up the sleeves and get to the hard and expensive work of mental health reform.  I tend to agree with you...it's the thing we should *really* focus on, more so than even gun control perhaps, and certainly more than video games/media.

Re: Researcher Defends Violent Video Games

Because acknowledging the mental health issue would mean admitting that anyone is capable of evil acts.

But I think the more important reason is that it would require actual hard work to address, and most politicians these days are more concerned with keeping their jobs rather than actually doing them. The mentality of looking like you're working while actually doing nothing.

 
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