Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent Games With Aggressive Behavior in Children

March 25, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

New research from Craig Anderson, a psychologist and professor at Iowa State University who is known for his anti-game research is making the rounds this week, but it is not going unchallenged. Anderson's latest research suggests that children who play violent video games "may experience" an increase in aggressive thoughts, which "could" lead to aggressive behavior. In the study, children ages 8 to 17 who played a lot of violent video games showed an increase in aggressive behavior (such as hitting, shoving and pushing) three years later, compared to their behavior at the study's start. The study goes on to conclude that those who reduced the amount of time playing video games saw a decrease in aggressive behavior.

They were also more likely to see aggressive behavior as an appropriate way to respond to provocation, according to Anderson.

"Children and adolescents who play a lot of [violent] games change over time, they start to see aggressive solutions as being more reasonable" ways to respond to conflict or frustration, Anderson told Live Science.

Christopher Ferguson (pictured, left), an associate professor of psychology at Stentson University in DeLand, Fla., said that the data used in the new study has been used in the past to make connections between violent video games and aggression, and has been strongly criticized.

"Given that this data has been out there already, and that there's so many problems, I don't think that's much here for parents or policy makers to take away from it," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said that one of the flaws is the fact that the children who participated in the study are asked themselves to rate the violence of their video games, which could bias the results. He also points out that, despite an increase in violent entertainment over the last few decades, the rate of youth violence has not increased.

"If video games really did have this direct, linear affect, we would be able to see it in society, and we're not," he said.

Andrew Przybylski, a social scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, agrees with Ferguson, noting that the findings are "weakened by analytical shortcomings that make it difficult for me to assess where it fits in the debate."

Przybylski said the study does not provide an important number known as the effect size, which would describe how much violent video games account for aggressive behavior. This is important, he says, because researchers have debated whether video games really increase aggressive behavior more than other factors, such as substance abuse, having siblings, and other factors related to family situations.

Anderson thinks that, if parents are concerned about the findings of his new study, they should pay close attention to their child's media habits, and substitute violent game content with pro-social content (such as those that involve cooperation). Ferguson disagrees, noting that the decision is up to parents on what their children should and should not consume.

"I think each parent has both the right and responsibility to decide what is best for their family, and also to respect that what works for one family may be different than what works for a different family," he said. "It’s best to understand that this is a moral decision, not a public health decision."

Przybylski closed by calling on the researchers of the new study to share their data with others to help move the debate forward in a meaningful way.

"This data set is very rich, and this publication raises a lot of questions about how things are being computed," Przybylski said. If the data were shared "then everyone would be looking at the same facts, instead of just trading relatively ideologically driven opinions," he added.

The study in question was published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Live Science


Comments

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman: Prime Examples of the Definition of Insanity(Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results).

Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Pelicans. Solidarity for the Saints = No retreat, no surrender. 2013 = Saints' revenge on the NFL. Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always.

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

The disagreement doesn't matter, the backers of this will just cite it with the results they wanted to get in the first place.

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

also never mind the simple fact that commonly as a person ages and goes through puberty they tend to hit a point where aggression does temporarily increase naturally as hormones take over...

Peer pressure is also a massive factor in it among many more..

Unless they were isolated from the outside and only exposed to the games, this one doesn't seem like a very good work..

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

There are also the problems inherent to all purely-observational studies: Determining the arrow of cause-and-effect, and ruling out other explanations for the discrepency.

Maybe children predisposed toward violence are more drawn to violent video games than other children?

Maybe some other factor both causes children to get more violent and causes them to play more video games? (There's a well-known correlation between ice cream consumption and shark attacks, but no direct cause between the two. Rather, warmer weather increases both at the same time.)

Now, these problems aren't insurmountable, but they do need to be addressed in some manner before we conclude too much from any study on the matter. If it can pass the ethics boards, an experimental design would work a lot better, but there's the big issue of getting approval for any long-term study which may result in the participants becoming more violent. (Short term studies have been done, though, and they do show a definite short-term correlation between violent video games and aggression, from my understanding, but they haven't been able to say how long this aggression lasts, and if it might lead to violence down the road.)

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

TMK the short term ones showed a very temporary increase in aggression. Not really much different than a person playing competitive sports. It generally dies off shortly after the game is dropped though.

This could cause a SMALL number of people with pre-existing conditions to be problematic, but that shouldn't stop the bigger picture from being capable of moving forward.

Re: Researchers Disagree on New Study Correlating Violent ...

TMK the short term ones showed a very temporary increase in aggression. Not really much different than a person playing competitive sports.

Exactly. Society has no problem with competitive sports, which very definitely increase aggression (often even among those simply watching). So aggression alone isn't a good enough reason to ban something. I'll start taking anti-video game crusaders seriously when they at least make a token nod to "sports are problematic too" (at least then they'd be consistent, and so make their argument worth discussion). Without seeing that, I'm left to conclude it's just the change that they hate.

 
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