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Research Credibility In the Video Game Violence Debate 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the fair-and-balanced dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two researchers who have a history of publishing studies that claim violent video games lead to violence have now published a new study claiming that they've come up with an 'objective' way to measure why violent video games lead to violence. They've taken the names of people who signed an amicus brief on the upcoming Supreme Court case on an anti-violent video game law in California, and decided that if you added up the number of publications by each side the ones who supported 'video games lead to violence' had more publications, and thus that was 'proof' that they had more credibility. Yes, quantity is more important than quality. The fact that the researchers who published this 'study' also wrote the amicus brief that supported the same claim seems to call their objectivity into question as well."
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Research Credibility In the Video Game Violence Debate

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  • ...proved quite nicely (and objectively) that violent video games incite an ~insensivity~ to violence, rather than promote violence itself. But whatever...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let's write two Slashdot articles, better even three, proving that violent video games _demote_ violence. This would close the argument, at least here on Slashdot.

      • Better yet, lets crowdsource bogus studies that prove that. "I looked under my fingernails and there was dirt, this proves that video games don't cause violence." By the metric this guy is using it is not the quality but the quantity. If we get some gamers together we could publish thousands of bogus studies and video games would cease to cause violence, saving many lives. Think of the children.
      • Let's write two Slashdot articles, better even three, proving that violent video games _demote_ violence.

        Better still: Write the same article, and then publish it three times.

    • They might desensitize people to some forms of violence (though I doubt many people would still be able to react normally in the face of such if it happened to them in real life). But what does it matter? That just means that they'd be more calm in said situation, not that they'd begin voluntarily participating in violence. I'd say it's a good thing if people react more calmly.

      Also, a lot of people claiming something is true does not make it so. [wikipedia.org] The validity of the studies must be questioned, as well as wha

    • by Alex Belits (437) * on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:04AM (#35939790) Homepage

      So it's like goatse -- you aren't shocked anymore to see a stretched anus on the screen, but you still aren't inclined to stretch your anus in front of other people or cameras?

    • Actually I can prove that video games are completely harmless. It's easy: There are far more Slashdot comments saying that video games are harmless than comments saying they are harmful. And I'm pretty sure that the number of Slashdot comments is larger than the number of studies on this subject, therefore Slashdot comments clearly take priority.

      What? Peer reviewed? Yes, we have that on Slashdot, too. It's called moderation.

    • I don't actually understand why insensitivity is so feared. Doctors are desensitized due to the way they have to essentially be biological mechanics for human beings. Hunters are desensitized by actually killing real living things and butchering them (the fact that human beings have analogous parts to such animals would be disquieting without at least some degree of desensitization). And of course, we actively encourage this in our military personnel and call them heroes rather than being terrified of th

  • The Three Stooges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:02AM (#35939352)

    As someone growing up watching The Three Stooges back in the 70's, I can't fathom why all the school kids didn't poke each others' eyeballs out, tear each others' hair out, etc, etc, etc.

    You can't canny get more violent than that.

    I guess our parents told that stuff in films . . . shouldn't be carried out in street fights . . .

    • by Xiph1980 (944189)
      There is a very real difference between an observed media type like TV, and a immersive media type like computer games. With one you're only looking at a scene. In the other, you're actually participating, and that's psychologically a completely different ballgame.
      I wouldn't go as far as pointing to video games as a direct cause of turning someone in a murderer, but I can imagine, given an already unstable personality, that a video game could tip him (or her for that matter) over the edge while a TV show w
      • by tbannist (230135)

        There is a very real difference between a temporary media type like movies and an immersive media type like TV...
        There is a very real difference between a written media type like novels and an immersive media type like movies...
        There is a very real difference between a factual media type like non-fiction and an immersive media type like novels...

        There let it be shown that novels, movies, TV and video games are all responsible for plunging our society into the 30 year violence lows that we are currently expe

        • by Xiph1980 (944189)
          Yes, there are a lot of different media types, and I could've listed them all in the order I think they scale, but that is out of the scope of the post I'm replying to. The articles is talking about games. PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) [slashdot.org] was talking about a particular TV show. If someone asks you how to boil an egg, would you start by explaining how to take care of fowl?

          I never said that media types are responsible for plunging our society into the 30 year violence lows as you so enthusiastically start your
          • by Zerth (26112)

            Before video games, those phobia treatments were performed with movies.

            Before movies, they were performed with props, and before that they were done with the imagination alone.

            Perhaps it is the therapy, and not the tools?

  • by CTU (1844100)

    /. could get it's members to write a lot of publications about how video games are not responsible for violence. If their logic is true, then they would have to admit defeat and admit they are wrong, but I am sure something "new" would show up allowing them to remain on their moral high horse.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      Of course they wouldn't admit defeat. They're not looking for truth, they're looking for support for their beliefs. Any facts that don't support them will be ignored and declared irrelevant. It's a very bad but surprisingly popular way to do "science".

      • by PFI_Optix (936301)

        It's what happens when science becomes someone's religion. Creationist groups like the ICR work the same way: start with your conclusion and work backwards, rejecting anything that doesn't support the conclusion. More and more scientists with political motives are doing this sort of thing. It's frightening.

  • by metalmaster (1005171) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:06AM (#35939370)
    That links violent literature, film, music, and other such media to violent behavior? The earliest "videogames" came about in the late 40's depending on such a definition. Other media, and violent people, have been around much longer. Why do we blame video games now?

    Let's assume video games are to blame for all of the anger issues young people exhibit today; why aren't the shop keepers, parents and other such "guardians of merchandise" to blame for essentially enabling the behavior? A 10 year old kid shouldn't be able to walk in and buy the latest blood and gore exhibition from any reputable game store. Don't try to trash the gaming industry. Instead, throw the parents/guardians under the bus. They're responsible for letting the child play the game. They don't monitor the kid's behavior and correct them when they are out of line.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      not all people know what violence existed 40 years ago. in fact, many people think that it's a modern invention and those same people think that modern refers to some frozen space time what constitutes what they think of "today". they're idiots of course, but they gotta do something all day long, we all have to - which is why video games are so friggin great, they don't pollute much yet they offer a positive time wasting ratio - a good game wastes a lot more time from a lot more people than what it took to

      • by Inda (580031)
        Reminds me of a chat I had with my father about knife crime in the UK. He's an old retired police officer, if that makes any difference.

        His final say on the matter was full old man, get-off-my-lawn statement.

          -- We didn't have knife crime in my days... We had knuckle dusters and coshes.
    • There has been alot of research on the effects of media violence before video games were as big as they are today, and the general conclusion was that media violence was in fact a risk factor for increased agression. The reason you don't hear that much about it is because that debate is pretty much settled, but you can find plenty of the studies you are looking for by simply typing in "media violence" on google scholar.

    • by IICV (652597)

      Let's assume video games are to blame for all of the anger issues young people exhibit today; why aren't the shop keepers, parents and other such "guardians of merchandise" to blame for essentially enabling the behavior?

      What anger issues are you talking about? The ones that aren't reflected in crime rates, maybe? In the USA, at least, crime rates have either dropped or remained more or less stable over the last few decades.

      People seem to be stuck with this idea that crime is on the rise, but it's really not

      • lets not pretend that anger and violence dont exist now. I know plenty of angry kids. My nephew is 10, and I cant believe the things he does or says and gets away with. Is it because of the games he plays? Certainly not. Its because his parents let him do things without taking action. Thats not to say his parents dont let him play games like GTA orSaints Row though. If I had done or said some of the things he does I'd be sending this from the graet PC in the sky.
  • Someone else publish more papers than [these two researchers] saying that [video games don't cause violence].

    The additional quantity will disprove them.

    • Someone else publish more papers than [these two researchers] saying that [video games don't cause violence].

      The additional quantity will disprove them.

      No, no... There's a much better solution: Bring back the Colosseum. Make a spectacle of violence, nay, revel in it. Let the lions eat the criminals. Let the gladiators slay men and beasts... Who would want to play a silly violent video game when you can see / hear / smell / taste / participate in the real thing?

      Face it, we're animals. Some of us have more animosity than others. Ever since the first human fell down and the others laughed we've been entertained by violence. Today, we consume our vio

      • Is liking violence perverse? Not if the majority of people enjoy it in some form or another

        The answer to that is subjective. Whether or not a majority of people agree or disagree with something is irrelevant.

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          If you define "perverse" as "a deviation from the statistical norm", then quantitative measurements are perfectly objective.
          If you define "perverse" as "a deviation from what I say should be the norm", then it is indeed subjective.
          "The majority of people" is perfectly valid, depending on which definition you choose. So what definition are you using?

    • You seem to not have read TFA.
      The main point in the article, is how almost none of the few published papers by the people signing to "video games don't cause violence" brief were published in respectable psychological journals. So unless you can do proper science that disproves that video games are a risk factor for agression, which incidentally is very hard to find (why is that I wonder), your solution won't get you anywhere.

      • The main point in the article, is how almost none of the few published papers by the people signing to "video games don't cause violence" brief were published in respectable psychological journals.

        But did they even look at the actual studies to determine if any of them were valid? What's the point of this? The fact that they aren't published in "respectable psychological journals" does not alone prove them wrong or warrant doubting them without even seeing them.

        So unless you can do proper science that disproves that video games are a risk factor for agression

        I'm not too worried about aggression, especially if it's temporary, as many of the studies seem to imply.

      • by Genrou (600910)

        The main point in the article, is how almost none of the few published papers by the people signing to "video games don't cause violence" brief were published in respectable psychological journals.

        The reasoning is flawed anyways: no matter how much people repeat something that is wrong, it doesn't become right. It just doesn't follow -- if the studies were all biased and badly conducted, no matter how many of them exist, their conclusions are wrong.

        Following their reasoning: respectable (to astrologers) astrology journals have published much much more studies on the relevance of astrology than respectable psychologists published on video game violence. Thus, according to their arguments, astrology mu

  • So granted that Slashdot is all "hey-man-don't-regulate-my-games". I mean, I'm in the same boat, video game engineering was my employment at one point, and I'd tend to not want restrictions on the source of both my paycheck and entertainment. (The "who's ox is getting gored" bias, as we'd say down on the farm.)

    But honestly, this summary/article is a pretty shitty, rambling, poorly-founded, juvenile, knee-jerk complaint. Assessing the level of expertise in differing camps is a fairly common technique nowaday

    • by digitig (1056110)

      Final line FTA: "They're starting with an established position and trying to figure out ways to present evidence to support that. That's not science." Um, actually, that's pretty damn close to the actual definition of science (hypothesis, followed by experimental design).

      No, it's the direct opposite of science. In science you start with an established position and try to figure out ways to refute it, not support it. Starting with a hypothesis and looking for support for the hypothesis is what all the pseudoscientists, snake-oil merchants and quack healers do. And they never have to "admit when the results contradict [their] starting position", because if they're not looking for evidence that contradicts their position then they'll never find it, the most that will happen i

      • by dcollins (135727)

        I teach falsifiability. But what happens in practice is that people go looking for tests to accrue additional evidence for their position. Surely you know how rarely null-hypothesis results get published.

        If anything, researchers look for ways to refute their competitor's position.

        • by digitig (1056110)

          I teach falsifiability. But what happens in practice is that people go looking for tests to accrue additional evidence for their position.

          Then what happens in practice isn't really science (although it can be a useful precursor to science, as there's not much point in putting effort into falsifying something that was never particularly plausible in the first place).

          Surely you know how rarely null-hypothesis results get published.

          If anything, researchers look for ways to refute their competitor's position.

          Then that's not science, it's marketing. Surely you know of the many meta-study techniques that are applied to identify whether the number of null-hypothesis results is statistically plausible, especially whether deviations correlate credibly with the population sample sizes used i

          • If anything, researchers look for ways to refute their competitor's position.

            Then that's not science, it's marketing.

            By that definition, science doesn't put food on a researcher's table; marketing does. So if you disagree with the mixture of science and marketing that characterizes research over the past decade at least, then how do you recommend to promote the progress of science?

            • by digitig (1056110)
              I don't necessarily "disagree with the mixture of science and marketing that characterizes research over the past decade at least", but I think it's essential to science to recognize that it is a mix of science and marketing and to know which bit is which.
          • by dcollins (135727)

            You seem to confuse the functioning of the institution of science (by logically falsifying theories) with the activities of individual scientists (who generally seek more evidence for for their favored theories). They don't have to be the same. For example, Karl Popper (popularizer of the falsification criteria) compared scientific theories to evolution. Likewise in that case you need two separate and distinct operations: mutation and natural selection. Ultimately, competition is how the institution uses in

            • by digitig (1056110)
              No, I'm not confusing them. Rather, I think you are assuming that everything scientists do is science. They're (usually) human beings too, and have lives to live. When they look for evidence in support of their theories it's aberrant behaviour as far as science is concerned (though perfectly normal as far as their humanity is concerned). Looking for support for one's pet theories is not the mutation side of Popper's scientific evolution analogy, the refinement of existing theories is. Maybe "to begin with a
        • Unfortunately very true. Science is just like every other human endeavor. We have our dogma, our prejudices and all the rest. And it will be a cold day in hell before we give them up. Only non practicing scientists go on and on about the scientific method....
    • by Alarash (746254)
      Shouldn't they take into account the fact that - maybe - there are more incentives to study the "bad effects" of video games? I can really see a lot of groups ordering reports from scientists to prove video games are bad for children. That would increase the number of papers on the topic by a not insignificant margin I think. You see much less groups ordering reports that prove video games are not bad for children / make children violent, etc.. This is not only science, politics (I would go as far as saying
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      You cannot prove the non-existance of something.
      Just like you cannot prove there is no god, you cannot prove that violent games do not cause violent behaviour.
      It's only logical there are more studies claiming violent games result in violent behaviour, therefore using a comparison of the number of studies as evidence is deeply flawed.
      It may be a reasonable technique in a field where different theories are all provable, but not in any "exists/not-exists" type scenario.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Meta analysis is bunk, even when it's "properly" done. This isn't even a well done meta-analysis, this is dick waving. "My guys are more prolific than your guys, so we must be right" isn't science. Still, might be enough to sway the Supreme Court.

  • Instead of reading as "two researchers prove their point" this thing reads more like "two researchers prove their own idiocy"

  • When I hear things like that, I point out that more people claim to have been abducted (not just seen, but actually touched) by aliens than saw Jesus in the flesh after he rose. So, if pure numbers makes an argument, then there's more proof in the existence of aliens then Jesus.

    Not that I'm arguing for or against anything, just pointing out the absurdity of the arguments...
  • I just went to citeseer and searched for "spherical earth": 149 documents found.
    A search for "flat earth" gave me 231 documents, so the Earth must be flat!

    • by lxs (131946)

      I interpolated those results and concluded that the earth is an ellipsoid with an eccentricity of 0.645
      Science is awesome!

  • Studies show that sedentary activities for hours increases heart disease, even if you exercise during the week as well.

    What would kill more people, violence stimulated by video games, or heart attacks and strokes at younger ages due to lack of exercise?

  • Reminds me of this comic
    http://dresdencodak.com/2011/04/19/dark-science-09/ [dresdencodak.com]

  • The problem is that one side of the argument is clearly the obvious side to take, even though it's not necessarily true. Sort of like the climate change debate, most folks already have their mind made up. So thanks to the wonders of groupthink, studies that come down on video games get the funds and publicity, so subsequent studies are done with the same unconscious bias.
  • Having read quite a lot that these two have published, as well as literature from the opposing side, it's quite clear that these two don't really know what the hell they're talking about. They consistently create experimental conditions comparing games that aren't comparable to test for violence effects, with silliness like 'lets see if Unreal Tournament causes people to have higher arousal than those playing Farmville!'. While they -may- be experts on aggression, they clearly have no idea the mechanics o

  • I'm a first year student studying psychology, and I happened to write a paper on the subject of the effect of violent video games, and I have some opinions on this subject.
    First of all, I'd like to say RTFA. The summary above is one of the worst summaries I have seen, presenting the matter in an extremely biased fashion. First of all, what the researchers in question (Bushman, Anderson, Sacks) did is not so outrageous as the article suggests. To rephrase it in a less biased way, they looked at the people wh

    • by matunos (1587263)

      I read a study published in EGM that says there's no such link, and if disagree, I'll pop you right in your mouth.

  • The article says that the researcher's developed a "novel" method. However, I'm pretty sure the Salem Witch Trials used this first. If the majority called "Witch!" off to the fires she went.
  • ... I'd like to point out that the researchers are not claiming to have settled the issue of video game violence by counting the credentials. They're merely pointing out that there is more scientific credentials behind one of the two briefs delivered to the court.

    "The justices were presented with two briefs, arguing opposite sides, and they may think the contradictory briefs simply cancel each other out," Bushman said.

    Still, I don't think it's a very strong argument, and it can easily be misused.

    • by microbox (704317)

      Still, I don't think it's a very strong argument, and it can easily be misused

      Indeed it can. For example, an uneducated person with money may dislike Fact X, so they create a camber of echoes for Fact Not-X, using whatever scrappy nonsense they can pay people to pull together. Then the general public will think both sides are ideologues. This is precisely how public opinion is shaped [youtube.com] in a modern democracy.

  • The fact that the researchers who published this 'study' also wrote the amicus brief that supported the same claim seems to call their objectivity into question as well.

    On the contrary, it means they've corroborated their story. And the more such support they discover, the more they're going to get their findings published, and thus, the more their findings will be corroborated.

    It's called argumentum ad bootstrapum. Google it.

  • by paic (1984010)
    "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth."
  • Games for mature people. Most people is ignorant, and don't know there are games for mature people. Not all videogames are for childrens.

    The problem is... ..some people is ignorant.

    Heres the problem that need fixing.

  • And thus be the all-governing supreme authority on everything!
  • Well, since volume of work determines what's true, guess this closes the book on the whole climate change 'debate' since 100% of the peer reviewed papers are in support of it. Sucks that video games cause violence, but one must pick their battles. Eat it, warming deniers!

  • If they publish one more study putting down violence in my video games, I'm going to kick there motherfucking assholes!
  • Looks like 21st century research is reverting from scientific empiricism to medieval scholasticism.

  • Calling them researchers is an insult to all people who actually do research.

  • claiming that they've come up with an 'objective' way to measure why violent video games lead to violence.

    The moment they said "why", rather than "whether", they ceased to be objective.

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