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Professor, ECA Dispute Video Game Aggression Study 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the correlation-is-not-something-something dept.
Earlier this week, we discussed research which linked aggression in children with video games. The Entertainment Consumer Association responded with a statement criticizing the research, as did Christopher Ferguson, a professor at Texas A&M. PCWorld sat down with Ferguson for a more in-depth discussion of the flaws with the study. In addition to bringing up the correlation vs. causation fallacy, he notes: "Even if you took it at face value, which I don't, video game violence overlaps somewhere between, based on their own statistics, a half a percent to two percent, with a variance in aggression. If you woke up tomorrow and you were half a percent more aggressive than you were today, would you notice that? It's just not much of an effect. If the author said look, there's a little effect here, maybe video games increase aggression a tiny bit, but it's not going to make anyone into a serial murderer, yeah, alright, we may argue a little bit over the methodology, though I'd still say they should've controlled for other stuff. "
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Professor, ECA Dispute Video Game Aggression Study

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  • I can't say any more than that. About god-damned time.
    • Have you read what it says ? He *clearly* states that there *is* indeed violence resulting from video games.

      It's just "not that much". Between a half a percent and 2 percent of gamers actually get involved in violence due to playing games (and this is causation people, not correlation). That doesn't mean they don't all become more "predisposed" towards violence.

      And yes, perhaps there are bigger factors. However this guy states plainly that there is indeed violence resulting from playing violent games.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I am not seeing 'violence' resulting from video games in these articles but 'aggression'. Aggression and violence are different things. Violence can be caused using aggression but aggression can be as little as giving the middle finger in traffic with no violent result.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423)

        have you read what it says?

        from Part 1 of the interview:

        CF: Sure, some of my own research that I've done, I've found that controlling for family violence exposure pretty much wipes out any relationship between violent games and aggression, so the correlation is essentially zero once you control for family violence. They didn't do that in this study, which is a significant concern for me.

        all he plainly states is that this study found a correlation in their data. that is an indisputable mathematical observati

  • by Aphoxema (1088507) * on Thursday November 06, 2008 @12:54AM (#25656697) Homepage Journal

    Of course violent video games cause violence. I played GTA the other day, then I went out and stole a car, then I ran some people over, then I did some missions, got a rocket launcher and blew some stuff up, then I had 4 stars above my head and I knew I had some problems. The police came and killed me even though I totally loaded up an armor and life and all the weapons.

    Fortunately I came back to life and appeared in front of the hospital, yet my sins felt strangely unforgiven.

    • LOL @ the mod who completely missed the joke.
      • by Aphoxema (1088507) *

        I'm used to it. Or am I? I suddenly want to find out who did it and shoot them with the BFG9000.

    • by RuBLed (995686) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:25AM (#25656949)
      I think you missed some very important stuff. While you are thinking about it, I gonna get myself some coffee...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by philspear (1142299)

      Of course violent video games cause violence. I played GTA the other day, then I went out and stole a car, then I ran some people over, then I did some missions, got a rocket launcher and blew some stuff up, then I had 4 stars above my head and I knew I had some problems.

      Ah, but I have to point out everyone's favorite logical fallacy: correlation does not equal causation!!! Maybe you were going to do that anyway? Have not enough stories been tagged with it? I mean, any story in which two things happen gets tagged "correlationisnotcausation."

  • While I'm thankful that a professor can dispute the whole magic theory of someone going GTA on their city after playing the game, I can't help but wonder why the thread is trolled so badly.

    Meanwhile, nice to have something easy and solid to point to in order to show people the whole "Correlation is not causation" thing, since many don't get it.

    • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:50AM (#25657501)

      As with so many correlation is not causation issues, people who jump to use that line don't seem to understand it.

      Correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Correlation DOES mean there is a link, though it may not be direct.

      For example, playing violent games may not increase violent tendencies. People with violent tendencies may play violent games more by choice. Fine. That's a very reasonable alternative. But, either way, if little Johnny likes beating up virtual hookers sixteen hours a day, his parents might be wise to keep a close eye on him.

      • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

        by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @03:42AM (#25657809)

        Correlation DOES mean there is a link

        Not necessarily true.

        Correlation merely means correlation.

        Unless of course pirates absorb greenhouse gases [seanbonner.com]

        • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

          by philspear (1142299) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @04:12AM (#25657955)

          Unless of course pirates absorb greenhouse gases [seanbonner.com]

          ... well, that's obviously not the only interpretation to walk away with there. Another would be that some of the same changes that drove piracy down, like using internal combustion engines to power boats that would then go faster, decreasing the efficiency of hijacking a boat on the open seas, also may have been putting out more greenhouse gasses.

          Correlation does not mean DIRECT causation, but it's often hard to rule out indirect causation.

          Anyway, his point was right. People here pull out that trite bit of fortune-cookie wisdom every time two things happen, even if an argument of causation is made. Stubbornly refusing to admit the possibility that A and B are at all related just because a direct link has not been shown is not very logical either.

          In this case, people are quick to point out correlation does not mean causation maybe because they like videogames and don't want any possibility of seeing games blamed for any real problems and censored. I don't think denying the truth, if this is true, is the best way to guard against censorship. I think we need to continue to argue that the responsibility to control oneself is on the individual, if some kids become violent after playing games, the obvious solution would be to not let them play games. Barring that, lock them up or sedate them. I really don't care, but you're not taking my gaming options away just because of bad parents.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            All the research really points to is that in young formative minds, the playing of violent video games fro hours on end, games where basically the solution to most problem is aggression will tend to reinforce that idea within those young minds that aggression is a viable solution to problems. Those games also tend to define the mores for interpersonal relationships and the way people express themselves beyond the simply game play. In addition a lot of those games can create a great sense of frustration, of

        • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NonSequor (230139) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @07:40AM (#25659103) Journal

          The correlation is due to the time dependence of the data. You'll always find a correlation between any two time series that increase or decrease over time.

          In a sense, they do share an indirect causal link: the passage of time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MrHanky (141717)

          No, he's right, and you're wrong. The "correlation" of sea pirates with greenhouse gases is there only because the statistical sample is too small to be significant, and because you choose to ignore previous periods with higher concentrations of CO2 that are not linked with sea pirates. In other words, there is no correlation between pirates and greenhouse gases: the statement is fraudulent, put forth only by people with no understanding whatsoever of science or logic.

          This is the case: there is a 1:1 correl

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          Actually, there is a direct causal relationship between sea pirates and global warming. Sea piracy was made significantly less feasible by steam and later oil powered ships. A wind-driven pirate vessel made from wood could be beached anywhere with trees for repair and only had food as a requirement. Any small island could be a base of operations for pirates as long as they could send a boat ashore for food.

          With the introduction of steam ships, pirates began to have problems. They could not catch a st

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Thiez (1281866)

            > Actually, there is a direct causal relationship between sea pirates and global warming. Sea piracy was made significantly less feasible by steam and later oil powered ships. A wind-driven pirate vessel made from wood could be beached anywhere with trees for repair and only had food as a requirement. Any small island could be a base of operations for pirates as long as they could send a boat ashore for food.

            That is not a direct causal relationship. There may be a direct causal relationship between the u

          • What decline in piracy? The global warming connection was intended as a joke, and only talked about pirates from the so-called golden age of piracy. There are plenty of pirates around these days, and they prey on shipping as effectively as ever.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          You know that graph is entirely made up, right?

          There's likely a very poor correlation (ie no correlation) between pirates and global warming. However, there is a very plausible third-factor link between the two. If global warming is caused by increased C02, which is caused by increased industry. Increased industry (and increased population) means more global trade. More global trade means that the world's navies take seriously their role in blowing pirates out of the water on sight. Piracy only started

      • by plague3106 (71849)

        Correlation DOES mean there is a link, though it may not be direct.

        No, it doesn't even mean that. If it rains, and my cat dies the same day, there's no link. Otherwise I'd have cats dying all the time.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Thank you for once again demonstrating my point.

          If it rains and your cat dies, that is not a correlation. At least not a correlation that's strong enough that anyone would call the two correlated. If you record the weather for five years and every time it rains your cat dies, and your cats never die when it doesn't rain, THEN you have a correlation. Think the two might be connected somehow then?

          It's not that statistics lie, it's that everybody thinks they understand them and so few do that it's easy for

          • by plague3106 (71849)

            If it rains and your cat dies, that is not a correlation. At least not a correlation that's strong enough that anyone would call the two correlated. If you record the weather for five years and every time it rains your cat dies, and your cats never die when it doesn't rain, THEN you have a correlation. Think the two might be connected somehow then?

            Nope, I wouldn't. See, correlation means that two events happened around the same time. The fact that two events may happen around the same time, multiple times

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              It's a poor example, because there likely is no connection between your cat and rain. Pick a better one. Find two things that are ACTUALLY correlated, as in significantly correlated, yet have no connection. Go ahead.

              Correlation (and it's closely related statistical siblings) is the ONLY method to determine a causal relationship between two things. You can postulate all the mechanisms you want but if there's no correlation you're just making stuff up (see astrology). On the other hand, when you have a c

              • by plague3106 (71849)

                No, correlation doesn't determine anything. It merely suggests that maybe something should be looked into more. And back to the subject at hand, there are WAY too many other variables to make the claims the study does.

                • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                  You're wrong: http://janda.org/c10/Lectures/topic06/L24-significanceR.htm [janda.org]

                  Care to offer any evidence to support your claim that significant correlation does not imply a relationship?

                  • by plague3106 (71849)

                    Ok, so I guess if it does happen to rain everytime my cat dies, that means there must be a relationship?

                    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                      Yes. It's hard to accept because it DOESN'T rain every time your cat dies. Whoever first came up with that example (you?) picked a purposely ridiculous one.

                      A true correlation between two factors A and B means those two factors are related (it's in the name: co-related). It may be (1) A causes B, directly or indirectly, (2) B causes A, directly or indirectly, or (3) A and B are both caused by C, directly or indirectly.

                      Suppose there was a correlation between your cat dying and rain. Perhaps the rain someh

          • Correlation
            the state or relation of being correlated ; specifically : a relation existing between phenomena or things or between mathematical or statistical variables which tend to vary, be associated, or occur together in a way not expected on the basis of chance alone.
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              Yes... I assume you're agreeing with me?

              Perhaps you meant to rely to the guy I replied to, who thinks one pair of events is sufficient to establish correlation?

      • But, either way, if little Johnny likes beating up virtual hookers sixteen hours a day, his parents might be wise to keep a close eye on him.

        This is exactly the attitude that people need to take on video gaming. Videogaming may or may not increase violent tednencies, but it does allow a way for those who already have to them to revel in them.

        GTA is a great example, due to the fact that there is so much to do in the game, that what a player chooses to do, can reveal alot about them. I've played all GTA titles since 2, and to be honest, I've never really gone out and just killed hookers and shot random bystanders. It doesn't really amuse me

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I agree for the most part, but don't overlook the importance of (eventually) figuring out whether exposure to simulated violence does significantly increase violence. We have fairly good evidence that exposure to real violence increases violent tendencies, and we also have fairly good evidence that TV is different in it's effects than radio or books. Are games more powerful than TV? Less? Does it matter how close the characters are to looking like real people? You're absolutely right, regardless of whi

  • Lets see if that puts a stop to this nonsense... right? Right?! *rolls eyes*
  • Super Mario (Score:4, Funny)

    by coren2000 (788204) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:33AM (#25656997) Journal

    I dont like what you say... Dont make me take mushrooms and jump on your head motherF#cker!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mabhatter654 (561290)

      my opinion from anecdotal evidence with my kids is that even bejeweled will cause violence if they spend too much time at it. It's the heightened awareness and ultra-focus on twitching the buttons that causes the problems. Because any game is so much cooler than real life, it's hard to get them out to play or read. While video games burn time and get kids hyped up, they don't create the calorie burn down and "happy" hormones that running and playing for a while do.. so they are mentally tired but physical

      • by Deflagro (187160)

        That's actually an interesting point. They need to look into the biological aspect of the issue.
        Guaranteed there is adrenaline pumping and various other primal things going on.
        Now if you're just sitting there, it's not being used as designed/adapted/evolved (whatever).

        I've noticed the same thing in my daughter. She can be playing the most innocuous of games and still turn into a mean and evil child.

        The answer is just parenting though and since no one wants to admit they're bad parents, they would just rat

      • by bh_doc (930270)
        You mention reading, but then talk about positive aspects of physical activity. Is the advantage of books then that they don't "get kids hyped up"?
  • If you have a chance of becoming violent then games would just be the trigger not the cause. I've been playing games since I was two, I beat Doom one and two when I was 5 (behind my parents backs, got to love that boss key :).) and I turned out fine, I'm the least likely to try and cause a fight. Hell I learned how to read because my folks got sick and tired of reading the text in FF7, the face your kindergarten teacher gives you when you tell them you know how to read already and when they ask how you say
  • I forget who said it, but in the age of pac-man someone once said something along the lines of "If video games affected people at all then the kids would all be spending their time in dark rooms listening to repetitive music and consuming pills..."

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Speaking as someone who's imagined the people around him trapped in day-glo bubbles, daydreamed about whether it's best to keep your spaceship stationary or moving when there are asteroids about, itches to take on a star destroyer single handed again and has watched the sun rising on Monday after playing (the original) CIV all weekend... nah, video games don't effect us in the least.

      • by lupis42 (1048492)
        They might affect us though. I have yet to see the videogame that could effect a person. That would be one seriously realistic game.
  • As always, reason won't even reach those who accepted the false premise as truth. The distribution of information by "news" just doesn't work like that.

    The only solution to misinformation is educating the population on how to interpret that information a priori and reject at least the most blatant idiocies.

    Obviously the implementation of this solution won't come from the governing forces, which use the general lack of critical thinking to even more profitable means than news distributors.

  • Starting with Wolfenstein on my 386, and the usual collection of shooters from then on. I've never even broken my own nose before, let alone performed any act of aggression against any person.

    • by Thiez (1281866) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:55AM (#25660201)

      > Starting with Wolfenstein on my 386, and the usual collection of shooters from then on. I've never even broken my own nose before, let alone performed any act of aggression against any person.

      Same for me, but that is irrelevant. Maybe you feel the need to speak up because the link videogames-violence does not apply to you (thus making you think it is bullshit), and the 1000 people who turned into crazy murderers after playing tetris are to embarrassed to speak up.

      We're all biased :(

      • We're all biased

        I have to agree with you. When the first article [slashdot.org] appeared my knee-jerk was to shout that I have been playing video games since the 70' but I am not a violent person. But this is not the definitive answer as I am not all people.

      • I agree... Games like tetris are unholy and should be stopped with all their block dropping and row-making.. THIS MUST BE STOPPED!!!! :D
      • ...and the 1000 people who turned into crazy murderers after playing tetris are to embarrassed to speak up

        And where all those violent tetris players? In Afghanistan?

    • by mog007 (677810)

      That's what science would call "anecdotal evidence". Just like if you said "I played Grand Theft Auto and murdered a hooker in real life" would also be anecdotal evidence.

      However, if there's a clear correlation between crime rates caused by the major video game playing demographic, and the rise in video game sales, then perhaps the argument is valid. Except there seems to be an inverse relationship. Either the video games have no impact, or video games decrease violent crime, or video games can somehow c

  • This is something that is going to continue getting flogged at us.
    It's in the interest of the game manufacturers to show that there is no influence, as this would increase sales of both games and gaming systems.
    At the same time there are examples that make sense. My friends six year old son does in fact become more unruly, violent, and rude after playing or watching violent video games. While there is apparently no difference in behaviour for an individual whose development has progressed beyond that
  • Hume said that causation was a correlation, that of constant conjunction. So if playing video games was always correlated with an encrease in violence after playing the video games, then we wou'd say that the video games caus'd the encreased aggression. In the say way we say that hitting a billiard ball with the cue ball causes the billiard ball to move: we never perceive any force in the hitting by virtue of which the billiard ball moves, we only perceive that it does move, and that this arrangement is c

  • by tgibbs (83782) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:34AM (#25661637)

    Ferguson, particularly in part 2, does a nice job of pointing out the problems with the study. In addition to the obvious difficulties in drawing causal conclusions from correlational data, a key issue is whether the effects that they are claiming to observe have any practical (as opposed to statistical) significance. To what extent does a small increase in "aggression" translate into an increase in real-world violence? And how big an increase? This is a key issue, because it is undisputed that real-world violence rates have dropped even as games have become more violent and more realistic. Moreover, as Ferguson points out, there is no correlation between media violence and real violence when you compare different countries. None of this proves that the claimed violence-inducing effect of videogames is completely nonexistant--but it does prove that any such effect must be so small as to be overwhelmed by other social and demographic factors that influence violence.

  • Okay, I freely admit I haven't read all the relevant materials, but since it's easy to get some misinformation from the out-of-context quote, I may as well correct that.

    A half percent population effect is potentially quite a large and meaningful effect. First, while it's possible it's a half percent effect in everyone, it's also possible it's a huge effect in some people but negligible in most. A video game that created one serial killer in every city and suburb in the US would probably have a small popul

  • They're talking on the issue of child aggression on video game violence and show a screenshot of game which is rated 18+ to play, just what the fuck?!

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