Researcher Disputes Reported Link Between Violent Games, Aggression

Texas A&M prof Christopher Ferguson has sent GamePolitics a copy of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games.

The work represents Ferguson’s latest meta-review on the effects of video game violence. GamePolitics covered an earlier publication by Ferguson in February.

Ferguson’s review disputes findings by other researchers that link violent games to agression. Ferguson writes:

Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games may increase the risk of aggression in players…

[Ferguson’s] results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition. Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression. However playing violent video games remained related to higher visuospatial cognition.

At the time that this article is being written the mass-homicide at Virginia Tech… is but a few months old. Not surprisingly… news media have indulged in speculation that video game playing may be involved in the etiology of this shooting although information about the shooter has thus far not supported a substantial link.

Ferguson notes that video game play is ubiquitous among modern youth while school shooting incidents are rare:

It is not hard to ‘‘link’’ video game playing with violent acts if one wishes to do so, as one video game playing prevalence study indicated that 98.7% of adolescents play video games to some degree with boys playing more hours and more violent games than girls.

However is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e. video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e. school shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?

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