Tips Offered for Better Videogame Research

A new paper penned by a pair of Widener University researchers examines the track record of psychological research used in past videogame legislation court battles and suggests new ways to create such research in the future, so that it might be more effective.

Constitutional Kombat: Psychological Evidence Used to Restrict Video-game Violence” is the work of Beth Donahue-Turner and Amiram Elwork and was published in the Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology.

The article begins by noting:

Although courts have established a clear precedent for overturning restrictive videogame legislation on constitutional grounds, proponents of these laws seem to be relying on the hope that eventually the available psychological evidence on the harmful effects of violent games will become persuasive.

The research then delves into a history of restrictive videogame legislation and the different applications of psychological studies as applied to these cases. The duo then analyze why existing research has lacked persuasiveness in these legislative battles:

Our first impression from this review is that the research results on the effects of violent video games have been inconsistent and equivocal.

Our second conclusion is that none of these studies meets the minimal research criteria that the courts have established as necessary to be probative in a legal context.

For example, there has been no research to address the question of whether violent video games are more harmful than other forms of violent media. In addition, no research has been done on whether violent video games cause long-term or short-term effects.

The pair thinks that substituting an applied minded approach to research, versus theoretical, would help:

… the primary goal of applied research is to solve a real-world problem; its contribution to theory is also incidental. For example, one might study the effects of violent video games on minors in order to answer very specific legislative questions that may or may not be important to psychological theory.

Other suggestions for researchers include: create studies that answer legally relevant questions, use conditions that are representative of real-life conditions (external validity) and to include statistical validity, so “research findings can be attributed to an actual relationship between the scores being measured, as opposed to a chance occurrence (random variability).”

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