BYU Profs Attempt to Clarify Study Results… Sort of.

Late last week GamePolitics reported on a Brigham Young University research study which linked video game play to a variety of negative behaviors in college students (see: BYU Study: Video Games Are Bad For You in So Many Ways).

The research, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found gamers more likely to drink and use drugs and to have poor family and friend relationships. Among women, game play was linked to reduced self-esteem.

While Edge Online and Kotaku are reporting somewhat conciliatory comments by the study’s authors, their research findings remain unchanged. For example, Edge spoke with BYU’s Dr. Larry Nelson, who stressed that the study found correlation between gaming and negative behaviors, not causation:

The study absolutely does not find that videogames cause this behavior. We’ve repeatedly tried to emphasize that in the study itself. It was all correlation…


One factor [of increased substance use] could be the experimentation that goes on with [drugs and alcohol]… If we had done a study specifically on videogaming … I’m sure [benefits] are there. There’s no doubt they’re there. We’re not saying there is nothing at all positive about videogames.

Nuclear Geek details an exchange with BYU’s Laura Walker. The professor, who previously told the Deseret News, "Everything we found associated with video games came out negative," attempted to clarify her remarks and indulged in a bit of the media blame game:

One study does not claim to be representative of all gamers, and we were in no way making that claim. We are not even claiming generalizability to the 18-25 age group, this is just what we found in our sample.


Media has a way of really spinning these stories that are not always accurate. However, in our study, we did find that video game use was related to only negative behaviors for students this age. Does that mean this applies to all gamers? No. Does that mean video game use causes these outcomes? Certainly not. It is possible that video game use could be positive in a number of ways, but given the variables we measured in our study, it was related to only negative outcomes…

GP: To be perfectly honest, I don’t see the BYU authors backpedaling, as Kotaku reported. Nor do Dr. Nelson’s comments to Edge explaining that the research team found correlation vs. causation change anything.

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  1. Andrew Eisen says:

    "The fact that GP still instists on floating some conservative conspiracy theory is a little frightening."

    What on Earth are you talking about?  Your whole argument seems to be the entire point of GP’s article.


    Andrew Eisen

  2. MrFalcon says:

    "BYU Profs Attempt to Clarify Study Results… Sort of."

    Sort of?!  The comments they gave Kotaku are a veritable treatise on the limitations and intensions of their study.  How much more could they possibly explain?

    "While Edge Online and Kotaku are reporting somewhat conciliatory comments by the study’s authors, their research findings remain unchanged."

    Are you seriously implying that they should change the results of their study to appease gamers?  Should they edit the surveys they received with some whiteout?  Or just throw out the ones where gamers reported drug use or relationship problems?  Because either of those would get them kicked out of the University and ruin their careers. 

    Saying that a study is correlational is not an apology.  Correlational studies are perfectly valid, common, and useful.  They often guide future (possibly causational) research.  It might be that videogames are merely a symtom of these problems, but symptoms are useful.  They help us diagnose things.  In this case, for instance, if a teacher noticed that a child was obsessed with videogames, it might prompt him to ask (not assume) how things are going at home.

    "To be perfectly honest, I don’t see the BYU authors backpedaling, as Kotaku reported. Nor do Dr. Nelson’s comments to Edge explaining that the research team found correlation vs. causation change anything."

    You’re right about this, actually.  They are not back-pedaling.  They are saying the exact same things they said in the study, the press release and the mainstream articles.   They’re just saying it really slowly for those who just don’t get it.  From the BYU press release:

    "It may be that young adults remove themselves from important social settings to play video games, or that people who already struggle with relationships are trying to find other ways to spend their time,” Walker said. “My guess is that it’s some of both and becomes circular.”

    "Jensen had hoped to find some positive results as justification for playing Madden NFL."

    "For now [Jensen] holds out hope that future research will exonerate consoles or games designed for multiple players."

    and finally, from the study itself (which is, contrary to Kotaku, freely available online):

    "Despite the contributions of this study, it is not without limitations. Foremost, the correlational nature of the data precludes causal inferences. While our discussion of the findings often took a causal tone, it was done simply to present possible interpretations and to underscore the need for future work to examine these possibilities. Next, caution is needed regarding the generalizability of our findings given that our sample consisted of college students from a mostly white, middle class background….  Another limitation was the use of single items to assess video game and violent video game use. While assessing frequency is appropriate as a first step in understanding video game use, future research should examine video game use in more detail by assessing specific games played, as well as other contextual factors such as with whom, and at what time of day individuals are playing. Finally, the findings from this study are exploratory and modest in magnitude. Hence, there needs to be caution against overstating the impact of video games and internet use on the development of young people based on the current findings."

    That is pretty thourough and is not fine print.  It is in a section called "Limitations and Conclusions" and is placed before the conclusion, so anyone who read the conclusion would have to have come across it.

    In fact, ALL SEVEN of the mainstream stories that the press release links to (including the Deseret story that gamepolitics linked to) quote the researchers as saying that this is a correlational study and cannot be used to prove causation.  They are also chock full of comments characterising them as avid gamers who were genuinely dissapointed at the results they got.  As near as I can tell, the only journalists who ommited these quotes were game journalists, including gamepolitics.  The gaming press have, more than anyone, chosen to portray this study as an "anti-gaming" study.   

    The gaming blogs are the yellow journalists, people!

    Kotaku has at least come around after their typically horrible initital coverage.  Even the commenters , who used to tear this stuff apart like rabid wolves, have actually started reading the research and articles and making sensible observations about it.  The fact that GP still instists on floating some conservative conspiracy theory is a little frightening.  You might want to consider listening to your readers, Dennis.

  3. Kenny says:


    The Study gets spun twice.

    First the study gets spun by the media relation’s person who releases the press release, and second the ‘reporters’ that pick up on the story spin it again.

    At least the people that performed the study tried to clarify their conclusions, a rarity in these days.


  4. Zevorick says:

    Okay, people, for the love of all that is holy Listen Up!!!

    Quit harping on the sample on this study! Like practically EVERY study that comes from a major university they used undergraduate students as subjects for this experiment. They offered extra credit (probably for psych 101) for students to participate in this study! That is why there are 90% of students living away from home (dorms)! That is why there are so many women in the study (more women taking psychology than men)! That is why most of them are white (college diversity in Utah?)!

    The only problems I’ve seen with this study is the psychometric instruments they used to measure certain things. They are too brief to get the big picture.

    If you’re going to hate on a study do it for the right reasons.

  5. MrFalcon says:

    For the record, the LDS church (aka Mormons) were one of the first church’s to have a significatn Internet presence and were pioneers in using computers for geneology.  They are hardly a bunch of Luddites.  Out of all the (many) under-30 mormons I’ve met, almost all of them enjoy playing videogames.  In fact, I would say that they play games more than non-mormons.

    They also have no problem washing their hands.

  6. sortableturnip says:

    I love how they take a narrow field of people (Average Age (20), European American (79%), unmarried (100%) and living outside their parents’ home (90%)) and turn it into a connection between young adults’ use of video games and poorer relationships with friends and family.

  7. reverandspaniel says:

    I’m impressed that Jack can afford to pay for the study, after that $46,000 payment of court costs/fines etc.

    Mind you, if he did pay, he should have asked for it to be a bit more reliable…and peer reviewed…and accurate…and based on a representative sample of the population demographic…

  8. DavCube says:

    Your hypocrisy knows no bound, Mr. Thompson. Get a life, you anonymous coward.

    David "DavCube" Gagnon, Mature Human Being, and You’re Not.

    PS: You should be proud of Blagojevich, by the way. He seems to be following directly in your footsteps, what the all the comparisons to founding fathers and cries of conspiracy by every Tom Dick and Harry he ever came in contact with. There’s only one thing different: He actually succeeded in something.

  9. PHX Corp says:

    Would someone remove the Moronic Man in miami’s email address(harassing him proves that we would stoop to his level)

  10. saulytarsus says:

    I believe Jack Thompson paid for this study.  Why doesn’t someone ask him.  His email address is ****

    AE: Do not post contact information.  Thank you.

  11. sortableturnip says:

    I just think we get tired of people looking to blame society’s problems on the next hot thing…

    Sex, music, television, guns, movies, video games….It’s not the devices, it’s the people…

  12. Neeneko says:

    Though on the bright side, I did see plenty of people asking for calm and pointing out such things… an effect you generally do not see on concvatives blogs.  people on GP are remarkably introspective as a group.

  13. Soldat_Louis says:

    Well, their explanations confirm that we must read the study thoroughly, then draw our own conclusions, so that we can better point out the inaccuracies in media coverage.

  14. hayabusa75 says:

    I don’t think they set out to prove anything, which is what some people here are assuming.  It seems more like information gathering to me, which is further supported by their insistence that they only found correlations.

    "There is no sin except stupidity." – Oscar Wilde

  15. Firebird says:

    Its called "Yellow Journalism", and its been around since the 1920s (correct me if I’m wrong)

    You remind me of myself, usually sticking to few individuals and had little in common with everyone else. (at least with people my age)

    My casual demeanor is inspired by the games I played (it helped me outgrow the little teenage angst I still have) and the stories and people I played around with….

  16. TBoneTony says:

    I think the study did prove something, that the mainstreem media are only focused on selling news that they will spin a story their way to scare parents about videogames and make money out of that fear.

    While the study was a little dissapointing, I think that a better analysis on the family situration of the students, perhaps missing their own families while being at school. Also looking at school bullying, the drug use in the school and other more society factors will reveal that many people had problems in their real lives in the first place.

    But that is just me looking from the outside in.

    I had problems at school, but I avoided most of them by not sticking to peer groups that I did not trust. But also at a sacrifice I had verry few friends that I trusted because I was afraid of being teased.

    I am allot more stronger person because of it and I finally met a few people in my life who I have become close friends with.

  17. Bennett Beeny says:

    "Here we have researches who from the very onset explicitly tried to make it clear no causation was being claimed and they still got ripped by people."

    Well, the problem with that is that it ignores all the subtle wording and innuendo that they used to convey the idea that videogames ’cause’ bad stuff.  If they had used neutral language no one would have seen this as anything more than a useless study of nothing much which resulted in no useful findings.  But what the researchers said about the study was full of anti-videogame spin.  Now that everyone has spotted that their emperor has no clothes, they’re trying to do as little backpedalling as possible in the hope that they can pretend innocence.

  18. PHX Corp says:

    We’re about as worse as Jackie poo and other idiots in the culture war (I’m not going negative here, but we need to start acting mature to make the other side(the social consertivites) look like morons)

    IMO Jackie-poo awalys acts like a 2 yr old

    I’m not insulting everyone on this site but injecting a little common sense into the article

  19. Neeneko says:

    I was acutally pretty unhappy with the coverage (and responses) to this study.  Here we have researches who from the very onset explicitly tried to make it clear no causation was being claimed and they still got ripped by people.

    Several people pointed out reasons (that do not reflect badly on games themselves) how they could have gotten those numbers without some concevative conspiracy twisting the data.

    That isn’t to be said that people won’t USE the study to further anti-gaming bias, but that is the fault of media outlets and politicians, not the researchers.

    To put it bluntly, many gamers responded in such a way that it made gamers look very reactionary and irrational, lashing out at anything that says anything bad about them without looking into what is actually being said.  Kinda made a lot of us look exactly the the anti-gaming peeps,.. which is not a positive thing (though who knows, maybe it would be more effective.  *shrug* works for the concevatives)

  20. Firebird says:

    "In other words, what did we prove?"

    "Absolutely nothing"

    18-25 College UNDERgraduates, I wonder why they are doing drugs to begin with?

    I don’t remember much about the scientific method, but I think a thesis, broader age/area spectrum and consistent results are the way to go.

    Where the hell did they do this study, Amsterdam?

    I dunno, maybe the whole approach is just wrong. I need a nap…

  21. Benji says:

    Not sure if the report talks at all about corellation vs. causation (I’d read it but, meh, I’d rather be playing video games).  It could be that video games cause people to do drugs and ignore their friends. An equally compelling explanation is that drug users have trouble maintaining friendships and play more videogames to fill up the time that would be spent in social activities. 

  22. Fleetfoot says:

    We took troubled young people who play games and found that all of them were troubled young people who play games. Please, send us more funding.

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