Videogame Violence Researchers Battle (Non-Violently)

A pair of researchers with opposite takes on interpreting and analyzing research related to violence and videogames are once again engaged in the scrutinization of each other’s work.

The latest findings of Iowa State University’s Craig Anderson and his team are the subject of an article in the Washington Post. Unfortunately, actual details from the study are scarce in the Post article, other than the research led Anderson to attribute playing violent videogames to increases in “violent thinking, attitudes and behaviors among players.”

Fortunately, another source provides some insight into the research, which will appear in the March 2010 issue of the Psychological Bulletin. Anderson and his team analyzed 130 existing research reports, comprised of over 130,000 subjects, using meta-analytic procedures, which is described as “the statistical methods used to analyze and combine results from previous, related literature.”

The research concluded that:

…violent video game effects are significant in both Eastern and Western cultures, in males and females, and in all age groups.

Anderson, who indicated that this may be his last study on the subject, because of its “definitive findings” added:

From a public policy standpoint, it’s time to get off the question of, ‘Are there real and serious effects?’ That’s been answered and answered repeatedly. It’s now time to move on to a more constructive question like, ‘How do we make it easier for parents — within the limits of culture, society and law — to provide a healthier childhood for their kids?

Well, hold your horses there Dr. Anderson. Texas A&M International University researchers Christopher Ferguson and John Kilburn issued their own research paper challenging Anderson’s findings. The paper is entitled Much Ado About Nothing: The Misestimation and Overinterpretation of Violent Video Game. Effects in Eastern and Western Nations: Comment on Anderson et al.

The paper claims that Anderson’s study “included many studies that do not relate well to serious aggression, an apparently biased sample of unpublished studies, and a ‘best practices’ analysis that appears unreliable and does not consider the impact of unstandardized aggression measures on the inflation of effect size estimates.”

“One very basic piece of information” that Anderson’s research neglected to report, according to Ferguson and Kilburn, is “as VVGs [violent videogames] have become more popular in the United States and elsewhere, violent crime rates among youths and adults in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, and most other industrialized nations have plummeted to lows not seen since the 1960s.”

Ferguson and Kilburn offer the following summation:

Psychology, too often, has lost its ability to put the weak (if any) effects found for VVGs on aggression into a proper perspective. In doing so, it does more to misinform than inform public debates on this issue.

Just a note: Anderson’s study apparently used a Ferguson and Kilburn-authored analyses to contrast their own.

Thanks Adam!

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