Last week the National Institute on Media and the Family along with Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile released a study which claimed that 8.5% of 8-18 year-olds displayed signs of video game addiction.
The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, was quickly challenged, most notably by Harvard’s Dr. Cheryl Olson (co-author of Grand Theft Childhood) and ABC News polling director Gary Langer.
Citing Langer’s report on the study’s flawed research methodology, game publishers’ lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association yesterday sent a letter to the editor of Psychological Science, Purdue University Prof. Robert Kail. ESA CEO Mike Gallagher questioned the validity of the NIMF/Gentile findings and complained that their alarming assertions regarding video game addiction received wide coverage in the mainstream media.
It is safe to say that the sole reason the [Gentile] study generated the kind of media attention it did was due to the inclusion of specific numbers that would appear to have been based on scientific research. In fact, the numbers reflected no such thing. Because of the composition of the group studied, neither the overall figure, nor the cited sampling error is supported by the data Dr. Gentile presented.
We accept Dr. Gentile’s [subsequent] admission of [sampling interpretation] error at face value, although it is hard to understand how a researcher would base a scientific study upon an assumption about the nature of the group he was studying. It is not that Dr. Gentile did not have time to make sure that the group was a truly national representative sample: the data was collected in January, 2007…
Gallagher concluded by asking Kail to advise Psychological Science readers of the discrepancy between the sampling reported by Gentile and that upon which the study was actually based. For a detailed explanation of the sampling issue, see Gary Langer’s ABC News post.