Prof Questions New Violence Study in PC World Interview

Earlier this week GamePolitics reported on a new study linking violent video games to aggression in young people. The study detailed research conducted in both the United States and Japan. Of the data, Dr. Craig Anderson of Iowa State University proclaimed, "We now have conclusive evidence that playing violent video games has harmful effects on children and adolescents."

GamePolitics also reported on a rebuttal of sorts by Dr. Christopher Ferguson (left), whose objections were published in a letter to Pediatrics, the same journal which published the Anderson study.

PC World’s Matt Peckham scored an interview with Ferguson, who expands on his objections to Anderson’s work:

[Something] that they attempted to do with this study, and I think it reflects some of their irritation with the criticisms or counter-arguments that they’ve encountered, is this U.S., Japan comparison. People point out all the time that Japan is saturated with violent media, probably more, if anything, than the United States. They’ve got the hentai, the sexualized violence, and all that kind of stuff, and yet they’re a very low violent crime society. So the argument is if violent media causes aggressiveness, how come it’s not doing it in Japan?


…some of my own research that I’ve done, I’ve found that controlling for family violence exposure pretty much wipes out any relationship between violent games and aggression, so the correlation is essentially zero once you control for family violence. They didn’t do that in this study, which is a significant concern for me…

I would certainly say there’s an agenda here… what Craig Anderson argues in his paper, he then goes into describing youth violence, talking about how serious a public concern youth violence is. [But] He doesn’t measure youth violence in his study. He doesn’t measure anything even close to it. The aggression measure he uses is not a behavioral measure, it doesn’t measure aggressive behaviors. It doesn’t predict youth violence. So they’re engaging in hyperbole that is not warranted by the results of their study, and that to me say there’s clearly an agenda.

Hit the link for part one (of two) of the full interview

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  1. Nekowolf says:

    I like what he says, except for one correction.

    Hentai isn’t simply "sexualized violence." I can think of numerous titles that are not violent. It’s just sexual, with sometimes, violence mixed in, or with some violence, but not like, really violent. Hentai is supposed to be sexual above anything, it’s animated porn.

    But, I get what he’s saying, I just thought I’d point that out.

  2. Rorschach says:

    I’d like to agree with Dr. Ferguson, but there’s one major flaw in his rebuttal. He writes as though there was only one agression measure across the studies, when in fact there were three different ones. The measure Dr. Anderson used for his portion of the study was the observation of violent behaviour by teachers/associates of the students (if I remember correctly). The Buss-Perry measure cited by Dr. Ferguson was used in only one of the Japanese studies.

  3. Baruch_S says:

    Well, would you look at that. Controlling family violence exposure wipes out the correlation between violent games and agression. Who would have thought that the family affected a kids behavior? *eyeroll*

    At least we have someone with evidence that games don’t cause violent behavior.

  4. Rorschach says:

    First, you’re assuming that "How do you feel right now?" is the only question asked by psychology, which is not, and has never been true. Second, you’re assuming that that is an invalid question for scientific inquiry. While it’s true that observation of thought processes is dependant on the potentially unreliable individual thinking them, it’s not impossible to gather useful data.

    If we survey 100 or so people, with similar backgrounds, income, interests, home lives, etc and ask them to rate their happiness on a 1-to-10 scale, guess what? They’ll give similar responses. We now have a baseline measure for happiness within that group and can correlate other factors with happiness by using the same survey. Yes, correlation does not equal causation, but if you apply this to enough people and find common factors, you’re damn close to figuring  what the actual causes are. If we can successfully measure something as subjective as happiness, why can’t we accurately measure "how do you feel right now?"?

    I’m not commenting on the study with this example, just your post.

    Also, I’m only an undergrad.

    Finally, I love your dig at climatologists at the end of that post. I suppose you have the four years of education and the mathematical background to understand their research? Judging them on the basis of biased and dumbed down articles by reporters who don’t understand the subject isn’t a good way to decide on the validity of their research.

  5. Aliasalpha says:

    Bloody good though mate, after the uni exams finish I’d be tempted to make that game (or something similar to avoid copyright). "First Person Shooter: The Text Adventure"…

    Also: OMG! N0 Natzees in C0d4! It’s terrawrists u n00b!

  6. mogbert says:

    Darn it, I was trying to switch to plain test to take out the extra line breaks that rich text and make it not take up so much space, but I think once you get replies it doesn’t let you edit it.

  7. Inimical says:

    That’s pretty much what I’m saying.

    However, even though it didn’t measure violent behaviour but aggressive thoughts, and just called it aggression in the study. The contention is going to be that aggression is equal to violent behaviour, so I’m saying that regardles of what you’re measuring, most kids age out of violent behaviour just due to growing up (or some other factor… no one actually knows why).

    And yes, the Japanese view death very differently than western cultures which could also be super important.

    Exposure to family violence is defintiely a huge predictor of violence in life, but there are other factors that can absolutely nullify it. And hey, some people just don’t become violent regardless of those facts.

    Regardless, there are huge amounts of variables that were not addressed in the study, clearly.

    Edit: And this study also doesn’t take the James-Lange theory into account. Physiological response to stimuli comes before emotion. They can measure physiology all they want, but it’s not going to tell you shit about emotion. This is exactly why lie detectors don’t work.

  8. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Taking bets  on JT’s return


    "Game on, brothers and sisters." -Leet Gamer Jargon

  9. turdevo says:

    I guess many ppl here is missing the point

    the point is not that is bad to play VGs per se but mostly focused around the physical stress condition that inevitably we all fall playng challenging games (violent or not).

    since here we are all gamers we should remember how many times we felt hard neck muscle soreness after many hours on very challenging games, and that’s a sign of the same kind of stress we could take working or study hard – well that kind of stress, expecially if repetitive, could damge our health, so maybe the ‘science’ men say lot of fuss but this is a fact that nobody can deny.


  10. mogbert says:

    COD4: Adventure

    You are in an German farm house. There is a table here with old food. The shelves are all bare. There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Nazi here.

    > shoot nazi

    I don’t understand.

    The Nazi shoots you with his GUN for 10 damage.

    There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Nazi here.

    > use gun on nazi

    You shoot the Nazi with your GUN for 15 damage.

    The Nazi is dead.

    There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Dead Nazi here.

    > take bullets

    I don’t understand.

    There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Dead Nazi here.

    > examine dead nazi

    You find a GUN.

    There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Dead Nazi here.

    > examine gun

    You find BULLETS.

    There is an exit to the North and windows to the East and West.

    There is a Dead Nazi here.

    > take bullets

  11. Karsten Aaen says:

    Do any of you know what this study calls ‘aggressive games?’ I mean, are we talking about Drakensang, GTA4, COD4, or adventure games…though these games tend be leave me more frustrated than aggressive when I can’t figure out the clever and cunning puzzles in them.


  12. Thomas McKenna says:

    That’s implying that Psychology is a real science.  Sure, they got some chemistry to back them up and what not, but I find it hard to call anything a science when the root of what they’re trying to get at is the question "how do you feel right now?"

    That said, they still seem to be more dilligent and spot on more often than either economists or climatologists.

  13. Eville1 says:

    I like where this guy’s head is at. Be comprehensive in your studies people! Isn’t that what scientists are supposed to do? Cover all angles?


    Or as they put it in Half Baked, "Would a scientist just leave the forms laying around? Well, they ARE scientists after all."

  14. mogbert says:

    To tell the truth, I don’t think the original study was measuring "behavior" or "violence." I think he was mostly looking at aggressive thoughts, which everyone here has on a regular basis. HOwever, I contend that violent thought becoming violent action is more a matter of growing up in a violent environment. Even then, if the kid is strong enough he can lead a nonviolent life. My step father used to beat me, I’ve had welts from fly swatters, belts, and fresh cherry wood switches, I’ve even had a broken bone before (brother got stitches from step father). I’ve been considered elite in Quake III, I’ve watched some of the worst that Japan has to offer (even trying to learn Japanese).

    And yet I’m one of the least violent people you’ll ever meet. Last time I struck someone was 16 years ago, and it was in self defense (I was being lifted off the ground). I have a shotgun, but bought it for my wife for when I have to work late (or early, depending on how you see the graveyard shift). She keeps the gun.

    I should be a frothing lunatic by now by their estimation, but I believe that a person is who they ARE, not who they were, not where they came from, not how they were raised. I’m responsible for my own actions, and I chose not to hurt anyone around me. Also, that’s the main reason that I’ve never gotten drunk and never done any drugs, I don’t want to lose the control that I have.

    See I think that is the main difference. You grow up watching GI Joe and you get taught that no one ever get’s hurt, guns aren’t that dangerous, you watch Tom and Jerry and you learn that no matter what damage is done it fixes quickly, both of these have there complaints but are generally accpeted as safe children programming. They teach general rules, that later you find out are wrong. But the important thing they do is shield you from reality, whether that is good or bad is debateable. Personally I don’t like it because reality is a hard pill to swallow all at once.

    You watch anime, and you learn that even hitting someone too hard with your hand can kill them, and once they are dead, they don’t come back. In American cartoons, they don’t deal with death. In Japanese cartoons it’s a common theme. For example, the second and third seasons of Digimon (of all things) deals with how different people dealt with the death of their loved ones, how divorce affected the children, and other hard hitting things that Ameican cartoons wouldn’t touch without calling it a "very special episode" then moving on shortly thereafter.

    Count on your fingers the number of times in American cartoons that a character shows true, deep anguish and remorse for killing someone. In Anime, it’s almost a common theme. Shoot, Trigun is almost based around that theme. In DBZ Goku does everything he can to fight bad guys without killing them, and often they become good guys later. When he does have to kill someone, it is with deep regret, and he is moved to tears that he wasn’t able to get through to them and make them stop without resorting to killing them.

    Violence isn’t something that should be hidden, it is something to be confronted. Every person has the capacity for violence and will be tempted to use said capacity throughout their lives. If you wait until they are 18 to try and teach them this, then you may already be several years too late. Understanding it and it’s consequenses is more important then hiding it and pretending that it doesn’t happen and will help a person to control themselves .

  15. Inimical says:

    The fact is that most kids naturally age out of this kind of behaviour. There are very few who actually go on to lead violent lifestyles (something like 10%).

    Like this guy said, there are outside factors that keep kids from being violent. Another huge one is a supportive school environment if their family life is bad. School attachment is a huge predictor in kids ceasing delinquent and violent behaviour. Games have little, if anything, to do with it.

  16. ezbiker555 says:

    Ok, since I got the feeling that Jack Thompson is going to post in this article, I’ll just say my speill now.

    1. Fuck off, we don’t care what you have to say nor did we ever care

    2. Don’t waste anyone’s time with bs information that you can’t prove.

    3. Get back to work.. oh wait your a hobo now.

    Got two essays to write and one of them has actually to do with Disbarment.

  17. BearDogg-X says:

    Dr. Ferguson continues to show that Craig Anderson’s research is nothing but a fraud.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  18. Noir-Okami says:

    Nobody bothers with actually studying any of this.

    Oh, and that is true with Japan about violence. Detective Conan (which has graphic murder on a regular basis) is for kids in Japan but for adults in America. (It’s also called Case Closed in America, but I hate the dub names and the name ‘Case Closed.’)

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