Researcher: Puzzle Test Not a Valid Measure of Aggressive or Helpful Behavior

On Wednesday GamePolitics reported on a study which linked players of violent games with aggressive behavior while claiming that those who played games with prosocial themes were more likely to be helpful. Prof. Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State were among the study’s more recognizable authors.

Yesterday we reported on Texas A&M Prof. Chris Ferguson’s reaction to the Bushman-Gentile study. Ferguson slammed the research methodology involved, including a somewhat academic foray into concepts like multicollinearity, which made our brain hurt just a bit.

So, in the interest of keeping things simple, we went back to Ferguson with a follow-up question concerning the methodology used in one portion of the Bushman-Gentile research. 161 U.S. college students served as test subjects:

After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles. Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners.  And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the hardest puzzles.

Given the uniqueness of the methodology, GamePolitics asked Ferguson whether, in his opinion, the "puzzle test" was a valid measure of aggression or a reasonable predictor of violent behavior. Ferguson quickly said that it was not:

No, not even remotely.  It is worlds apart from any real world aggressive or helping behavior on many levels.  Unfortunately this is a typical ad hoc outcome with no validity.

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