Study Indicates Gaming (and TV Viewing) Could Lead to Something

Playing videogames and watching television are linked with attention problems in kids, at least according to a study authored by Edward Swing, David Walsh, former head of the National Institute on Media and Family, and Iowa State University’s Craig Anderson and Douglas Gentile.

Television and Video Game Exposure and the Development of Attention Problems (PDF) is published in the latest edition of Pediatrics and sampled 1,323 “middle childhood participants” across a 13-month session. A second sample of 210 adolescent and early adult participants was utilized as well.

The study began by offering, “Many video games seem to share many features (eg, high excitement, rapid changes in focus) that have been identified as potentially relevant to the television association with attention problems, making a similar association between video game playing and attention problems plausible.”

The results did find a correlation between playing videogames and “greater attention problems,” and the researchers noted that the attention problems emerging from games were “similar in magnitude to the television association.”

It was also cautioned that “it is possible that certain types of television programs and video games are associated with attention problems whereas others are not.” The researchers went out of their way to note that “there is some evidence that educational television is not associated with increased attention problems,” but did not make a similar case for videogames.

The academics also threw another statement against the wall in the hopes that it would stick, stating, “… there are theoretical reasons to believe that slower paced educational, nonviolent content is less likely to cause attention problems, but more studies on this issue are especially needed.”

Given the inclusion of Gentile and Anderson, a pair whose research constantly seeks to vilify or belittle videogames, one has to wonder: if the results of this study somehow did not implicate games (or television) as a factor in later attention problems, would the study have been published at all? Were the results shaped from the beginning?

Thanks HarmlessBunny, SimonBob and Wai Yen Tang!

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  1. 0
    Avalongod says:

    I’m sorry but I’ve read Anderson and Gentile’s work very carefully.  They are quite clearly supportive of the "media effects" model and villify video games on a regular basis (this study here has nothing to do with violence, nor does Gentile’s work on "pathological gaming).  Both authors have made hard-core positition statements, have repeated refuted statements such as those linking media violence effects sizes to those for important medical effects (a statement debunked several times), and regularly fail to cite any studies which are non-supportive of their view.  They published a book chapter with a set of criteria in which they attempt to link "true experts" on media effects essentially only to those who agree with "media effects" theory.  To the extent that they support "positive" video games, to me this appears to be little more than an effort to convince people not to play violent games, nothing like the kind of cultural support for video games you see in the comments of someone like Henry Jenkins.  Anderson used to (although less so now) regularly invoke school shooting incidents in his papers, despite that reviews by the Secret Service and others have refuted any such link with video games.  In a past study of video games and "attention" Anderson’s group’s press release made references to ADHD despite that their study never measured ADHD!

    The idea that Anderson and Gentile are poor victims of a media or politicians that "misrepresent" their work is nonsense (and I mean no disrespect to you).  Gentile, Anderson and Saleem (2007) the authors clearly egg on other scientists to make more blatantly causal statements to the media.  It is they, Anderson and Gentile themselves, who misrepresent much of their own work.

  2. 0
    Soldat_Louis says:

    Given the inclusion of Gentile and Anderson, a pair whose research constantly seeks to vilify or belittle videogames

    I have to strongly disagree here. It’s true that Anderson and Gentile specialized in the negative effects of "violent" video games, but it’s not fair at all to imply that their "research constantly seeks to vilify or belittle videogames" as a whole. Gentile in particular published a lot of studies on the positive effects of some video games (e.g. games making better surgeons, "prosocial" games leading to prosocial behavior, etc…). Furthermore, he systematically warns people in his speeches and articles and letters that his purpose is NOT to say that video games are bad. It’s sometimes the first thing he reminds to his audience.

    They actually consider that video games are excellent and powerful teachers, which means they can teach good and bad things. I personnally don’t care much about their teaching potential, but we’re very far from vilification. It’s one thing to question their research, their methods, their results, etc… but it’s another thing to consider them as "anti-games" when they’re not.

    This being said, I know that most game haters cite Anderson’s studies (along with Dave Grossman’s rants), but while they parrot his and Gentile’s statements on "violent" games, they conveniently forget to mention what they have to say about video games as a whole. To me, the biggest problem isn’t Anderson’s and Gentile’s research, at least not directly. Instead, the biggest problem is the way their research is (mis-)interpreted and recycled for ideological reasons.


  3. 0
    Sai says:

     Um, there’s one major difference though: Games are interactive. You kind of have to keep your attention on them for a game to work, unlike TV.

  4. 0
    Avalongod says:

    If you actually read the study the effects are actually very weak.  For children the beta values for television and video games on attention are all less than .10.  That means video games or television use predicts less than 1% of the variance in attention.

    For adults the numbers were a little higher, but mostly less than r = .2 (so around 4% of the variance).

    Pretty weak findings that, as usual for this groups of researchers, are blown way out of proportion.

    Junk science.

  5. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I wonder how many of these ‘attention problems’ are actually older teachers who are used to slow absorbtion and singletasking not knowing what to make of kids used to a much more rapid flow of information.

    I wonder what would happen if they simply spead up the teaching?

    I can recall when I was back in HS, I would actually sit and read the textbook in class because I found the lecture frustratingly slow.. it always felt like it was taking forever to get to the point while not actually conveighing any additional information on the topic.

  6. 0
    Zerodash says:

    Exactly how are videogames fraught with rapid changes in focus?  Last time I checked, a level or action encounter in games tend to last for a good amount of time- and lets not forget strategy games.  Are they talking about minigame collections?

  7. 0
    vellocet says:

    "there are theoretical reasons to believe that slower paced educational, nonviolent content is less likely to cause attention problems"

    What are these reasons?  Because I happen to think the opposite is true… the number one cause of attention problems is boredom.

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