Treasure Trove of Game Research in Psychology Publication

June 7, 2010 -

A special issue of the Review of General Psychology published this month turns its attention entirely to videogames.

Guest edited by Texas A&M International University researcher Christopher Ferguson, the special issue features articles by Ferguson (Blazing Angels or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games Be a Force for Good? [PDF]), Charlotte Markey from Rutgers University and Patrick Markey from Villanova University (Vulnerability to Violent Video Games: A Review and Integration of Personality Research [PDF]), Cheryl Olson (Children's Motivations for Video Game Play in the Context of Normal Development [PDF]), Pamela Kato from the University Medical Center Utrecht (Video Games in Health Care: Closing the Gap [PDF]) and Massachusetts General Hospital’s T. Attila Ceranoglu (Video Games in Psychotherapy [PDF]).

For our purposes, we will focus on the writings of Ferguson and the Markey’s, as they focus on the subject of violent videogames and aggressiveness.

The Markey’s study suggests that “that the notion that all, or even most, individuals who play violent videogames will inevitably become aggressive may be unwarranted,” instead, the authors concluded that it was “crucial” to “consider various personality traits of the person playing” the violent game when attempting to predict any adverse effects.

The researchers wrote that the “perfect storm,” in terms of FFM (Five-Factor Model of personality) traits which might make a person susceptible to violent media were high neuroticism, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness.

The Markey’s added:

Although the incidences of violence, particularly school violence, linked to video games are alarming, what should perhaps surprise us more is that there are not more VVG [violent videogame]-driven violent episodes.

Ferguson’s piece outlines the moral and social panic caused by violent videogames in the past decade or so, and includes a longer look back at media violence debates that may have begun  in the time of Plato (who cautioned that “plays and poetry might have a deleterious effect on youth") and Socrates (who “is reported to have been suspicious even of the alphabet").

Ferguson then lays out a laundry list of “methodological and theoretical” problems which limit interpretation of videogame violence and aggression research:


•  Many aggressive measures used are invalid
•  The “third variable” effect - “Univariate statistics may be overinterpreted at the expense of multivariate statistics”
•  Citation basis – “media effects scholars ignore work, even from their own results, which contradicts their hypotheses”
•  Publication bias
•  Small effect sizes
•  Absence of clinical cut-offs
•  Unstandardized use of aggression measures
•  The mismatch between violent videogames consumption and violent crimes
•  Low standards of evidence

Ferguson goes on to point out the positive effects of violent videogames, which include visuospatial cognition, social involvement and use in education, before concluding:

Particularly in light of increased video game consumption and declining youth violence, at present time, there appears to be little reason for speculation that violent video games are a significant factor in promoting youth violence. Unfortunately, by maintaining a myopic view on negative issues related to video game violence, a broader discussion of the benefits and risks of violent game playing is prohibited.

It is argued here that if psychology is serious about understanding violent video games from an objective rather than ideological view, a broader and less activist stance must be taken.


Thanks Adam!


Comments

Re: Treasure Trove of Game Research in Psychology ...

"The researchers wrote that the “perfect storm,” in terms of FFM (Five-Factor Model of personality) traits which might make a person susceptible to violent media were high neuroticism, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness. "

So basically, in order for violent video games to make a person act violently, not only does the person need to be a psycho, but he has to be an angry and paranoid psycho.

Did anyone suggest that angry paranoid psychos don't need violent games to spur them into violent action? I mean anything can set these loons off - a smile can do it, or a glance, or a friendly word. Heck, a change in the weather can do it.

So basically, violent videogames are as dangerous to society as anything else that's completely harmless.

Can we all go home now? I, as a non-angry, non-paranoid, non-psycho want to play a bunch of completely harmless Mature-rated games with my non-angry, non-paranoid, non-psycho 7 year-old daughter.

Re: Treasure Trove of Game Research in Psychology ...

The only problem I have with that report is the supposed 'link' between school violence and Video games, the 'link' was the fact that the person, usually a teen, played computer games, and that's not really a link, it's fish in a barrel phsychology, it's like saying that because they were wearing socks, socks must cause school violence. Practically everyone between a certain age in the US plays violent computer games in one form or another, so it's hardly surprising that someone who commits a school shooting also does so, it's horse before cart thinking in my opinion.

I'll readily agree that over-consumption of violent media can be dangerous, but the word 'over' is important here, simply 'plays computer games' is not really applicable, it's like with the VTech shooter, where, despite it being repeatedly re-iterated that the shooter actually played more basketball than computer games, the focus still swung round onto those games.

Other than that, it seems pretty balanced to me.

 
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