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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  1. 0
    gamegod25 says:

    I’d say the best study as to whether games make people more violent is real life! If games really did make people violent then the world would be in complete chaos right now. Instead we have federal records that show crime is at an all time low.

    The simple fact is that while little kids shouldn’t be playing violent games, doing so isn’t going to turn them into rabid serial killers or rapists. If we really want to solve societies problems we need to stop looking for scapegoats or an easy quick fix.

  2. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    I thought puzzle tests were for IQ grading and perhaps gaugeing anger/frustration of an indevedaul……


    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..

  3. 0
    ryagor says:

    Don’t forget the part about how it only measures short term effects and completely ignores the fact that long term effects will be much different

  4. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    That was my assessment too. The study seemed nice and diverse, but the final conclusion, violent games lead to least helpful, seemed too contrived. They just felt more competitive.

    It’s like assuming kids that play non-violent games grow up to be pre-school teachers while those that play violent games grow up to be drill instructors.

  5. 0
    MartyB says:

     I would say the study shows ppl that played violent video games were more competitive, and wanted a challenge.  

    "Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles."  So… you mean that they had to do all 3 puzzle anyways, no it only a strategic choice of the participants if they want to start hard or easy, if you can’t do the hard one, why waste your time doing the easy ones.

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