Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do violent video games lead to real violence?

I have the impression that playing a (violent) video game has similar effects on real life as reading a violent book (or even the bible), a comics or watching a movie. After a tragedy in Brazil many people were quick to blame violent games (I was reminded of this), so I decided to refresh my memory about blog posts I have read (although I lost my RSS memory after google reader died), together with some commentaries new for me.

First are some blog posts at least marginally relevant.

Human-like opponents lead to more aggression in video game players | ScienceBlog.com

“The Perception of Human Appearance in Video Games: Toward an Understanding of the Effects of Player Perceptions of Game Features,” published in the May 2013 issue of Mass Communication and Society, comes as lawmakers and the public are freshly debating the possible risks that violent games may pose to impressionable players. “

It’s important to think in terms of risk factors,” says Kirstie Farrar, associate professor of communication at UConn and the lead researcher on the study. “The research clearly suggests that, among other risk factors, exposure to violent video games can lead to aggression and other potentially harmful effects.” (...)

Participants who battled what they perceived as human-looking characters in the game were more likely to have aggressive thoughts and words than those who had shot down monstrous nonhuman characters.

Is the internet dangerous? Taking a closer look at Baroness Greenfield’s concerns — Risk Science Blog

People – including children and teens – are pretty sophisticated when it comes to distinguishing between fiction and reality.  I admit I worry still about the moral outlook that some games potentially instill in my teens.  But I have similar worries about many other influences.  When I was a kid, shooting each other with toy guns, or even sticks or our fingers, was all the rage.  Morally questionable?  Probably.  But did we all grow up thinking that there there are no consequences to our actions?  I don’t think so.  The relationship between video/gaming environments and personal/social interactions is an area of active research.  But to my knowledge those relationships are complex, and evidence for clear cause and effect when it comes to antisocial behavior is far from obvious. (...)

My two teens indulge in everything from complex puzzles to social simulation games to role playing to sports games to good old fashion shoot’em’ups.  And in many cases, these are social games.  My son will talk with friends in real time as he plays on his XBox.  He has friends over for tournaments, or arranges on-line competitions.  Gaming is part of his social community. Both my teens have rich social interactions around the on-line games they play.  Far from being socially isolating, they are socially enriching.

Guns don't kill people, video game players do | Martin Robbins | Science | theguardian.com

My point is so tediously obvious that I can scarcely be bothered to write it, but here I go anyway: if parents don't want their prepubescent progeny playing 18-rated video games, they shouldn't buy them 18-rated video games. (That many still do suggests Britain's breeders aren't quite as worried as the Daily Mail would like them to be.) Not that the 'research' cited says anything about violent video games to begin with. BAAM conducted a survey of 204 parents of children aged nine to eighteen, asking about their use of computer games: anything from Tetris to GTA IV via SimCity. This produced the following results:

"Forty-six per cent said their sons or daughters had become 'less co-operative' since they started playing video games. Forty-four per cent said they were more 'rude or intolerant towards others', 40 per cent said they were more impatient, 36 per cent reported an increase in 'aggressive behaviour', 29 per cent cited more mood swings and 26 per cent said their offspring had become more reclusive."

26% of parents thought their teen offspring had become more reclusive in the years since they started playing video games. No doubt pedantic nay-sayers will whine on about the other SEVENTY-BLOODY-FOUR PER CENT of kids who either didn't become more reclusive or became less reclusive, or ask how 'reclusive' is even defined or measured in the first place; but if that incredible correlation doesn't persuade you, well then by golly-gosh I don't know what will. Even the most 'persuasive' of those figures stands at just 46%. That, astonishingly, is the proportion of parents who think their teenaged children are becoming less cooperative with time.

Violent video games alter brain function in young men

A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play on the brain has found changes in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of game play. The results of the study were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The controversy over whether or not violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many years, making it as far as the Supreme Court in 2010. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that the games have a prolonged negative neurological effect. "For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home," said Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior."

Sandy Hook Shooting: Video Game Violence Isn't to Blame | TIME.com

As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth. Our research lab recently published new prospective results with teens in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence indicating that exposure to video game violence neither increased aggressive behaviors, nor decreased prosocial behaviors. (...)

At this point, we don’t know much about Adam Lanza’s media use history. Given that, as researchers Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner note in their book Grand Theft Childhood, almost all young males play violent video games at least occasionally, it’s playing the odds to say Lanza did too.

Do violent video games reduce violent crime? | tvSmarter

The result would be that most people who play lots of violent video games would not have their aggression level increased to the point of committing a violent crime, but that a minority of players would indeed have their level of aggressiveness increased to the point of committing a violent crime. But is this what is actually happening? Has the enormous dedications of millions of players to violent video games actually lead to an increase in violent crime?

Apparently not. According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the homicide rate has gone down dramatically since the early 1990s. (...)

And the argument that the decrease in violent crime during the 1990s , which coincided with the introduction of violent video games, also during the 1990s, proves that violent video games do not cause real-life violence is also not proof-positive. 

Modern Technology is Making You Stupid. Sorry What? | Neurobonkers.com

I was however, (not so) shocked to discover that the review is overwhelmingly positive, here are just a few of the many findings from studies cited in the review, none of which Professor Greenfield addressed:

  1. Owners of computers are seven percent more likely to graduate school (after controlling for confounding factors such as home environment)
  2. Interactive programming on television can improve language (whilst programmes like the “tellytubbies” damage language skills) 
  3. Playing action video games is associated with a number of enhancements in vision, attention, cognition, and motor control

Emotion, autonomy and psychopaths: a cyberpsychologist's take on video games | Technology | theguardian.com

The research suggests that human beings feel alienated from people who do not emote in the top half of their face, which correlates with how much video-game players relate to the facial animation in game characters. The research also suggests that the reason this might happen is that people who display psychopathic behaviour often are expressionless in the top half of their face, which sets off warning signals in people around them. In the same manner, if game developers were to deliberately not animate the facial expression in a character, it might transmit a significant feeling of alienation and fear to a player about a character, which could be used in horror games, for example.

Does violence in video games lead to real world violence? (Video) | by @mjrobbins | Science | theguardian.com

Can violent video games cause people to be violent in the real world? Cam Robinson investigates for Gamespot's What If Machine, including interviews with Guardian Science blogger Martin Robbins and Middlesex University psychologist Dr Mark Coulson.

Could Angry Birds lead to mass murder? | Martin Robbins | Science | theguardian.com

The research literature is just as vague. MIT's Professor Henry Jenkins has been a vocal critic of flaws in early studies, that hinted at a link between gaming and violence. He points out that children in studies are often exposed to violence in highly artificial contexts, that their supposed 'aggression' is measured in unrealistic ways (there are some obvious problems with "punching rubber dolls as a marker of real-world aggression" for example), that research fails to account for the ability of humans (and other apes) to "make basic distinctions between play fighting and actual combat", and that correlations in some studies could easily be explained by violent children choosing to play violent video games rather than video games causing children to become more violent.

BBC - Future - Science & Environment - Searching for a cure to violence

Weber, himself an avid gamer, initially thought the idea of using video games to test people’s reaction to violence was crazy, but then he and his colleagues eventually jury-rigged a way to do it: they placed a screen at the back of the functional MRI scanner, which the subject views through a mirror image reflected in the front, while using a joystick to control their avatar. As the subject hunts for innocent victims to kill off, researchers measure activation of the neural pathways. “We have a condition with full violence: They drive and run over little animals and pets,” Weber says. “They kill. It’s just terrible.” Six years ago, Weber and his colleagues demonstrated that violent video games activated the same neural pathways as real violence.

Violent video games: small causal link with aggression « Mind Hacks

There have been several similar studies in recent years which have come to different conclusions, based on whether the results have been thought to have been affected by publication bias or not. In other words, while the published studies suggest there is a small reliable effect of video games on aggression some reviews have suggested this is because fewer of the studies that don’t find a link actually get published.

Christopher Ferguson: Video Games Don't Make Kids Violent | TIME.com


Our modern fears over VVGs appear to be in line with prior moral panics over media as diverse as jazz music, comic books and Harry Potter. Granted, too much passive activity, including video games, can contribute to obesity. Like anything else, gaming should be enjoyed in moderation, balanced with outdoor activity and allowing enough time for family and schoolwork. A very small number of kids, about 3%, exhibit signs of pathological gaming. But regarding concerns about aggression, it appears to be that, fairly early on, children learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and their brains don’t treat these phenomena the same. Santa Claus is a prime example.

And then some articles (some of them referred to in the posts above) -- as usual it's a very incomplete list:

1 -- Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime by Scott Cunningham, Benjamin Engelstätter, Michael R. Ward :: SSRN (alternative version here)

Video games are an increasingly popular leisure activity. As many of best-selling games contain hyper-realistic violence, many researchers and policymakers have concluded that violent games cause violent behaviors. Evidence on a causal effect of violent games on violence is usually based on laboratory experiments finding violent games increase aggression. Before drawing policy conclusions about the effect of violent games on actual behavior, these experimental studies should be subjected to tests of external validity. Our study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates.

2 -- A longitudinal study of the effects of Internet use and videogame playing on academic performance and the roles of gender, race and income in these relationships

In this research we examined the effects of Internet use and videogame playing on children’s academic performance. Gender, race, and income were also considered. Participants were 482 youth, average age 12 years old. One-third were African American and two-thirds were Caucasian American. All measures were completed twice, first in Year 1 and then one year later, Year 2. Results indicated that greater Internet use was associated with better reading skills, but only for youth initially low in reading skills. Videogame playing was associated with better visual-spatial skill but also with lower GPAs. Gender, race and income influenced Internet use, videogame playing and academic performance but not the relationships between using these technologies and academic performance. Implications of the results for increasing the benefits of technology use are discussed.

3 -- Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review

Violence in video games has come under increasing research attention over the past decade. Researchers in this area have suggested that violent video games may cause aggressive behavior among players. However, the state of the extant literature has not yet been examined for publication bias. The current meta-analysis is designed to correct for this oversight. Results indicated that publication bias does exist for experimental studies of aggressive behavior, as well as for non-experimental studies of aggressive behavior and aggressive thoughts. Research in other areas, including prosocial behavior and experimental studies of aggressive thoughts were less susceptible to publication bias. Moderator effects results also suggested that studies employing less standardized and reliable measures of aggression tended to produce larger effect sizes. Suggestions for future violent video game studies are provided.

4 -- Patents and Antitrust: Video Games and Violent Crime

Psychology studies of the effects of playing video games have found emotional responses and physical reactions associated with reinforced violent and anti-social attitudes. It is not clear, however, whether these markers are associated with increases in one's preferences for anti-social behaviors or whether virtual behaviors act to partially sate one's desire for actual antisocial behaviors. Violent or criminal behaviors in the virtual world and in the physical world could plausibly be either complements or substitutes. A finding of one versus the other would have diametrically opposing policy implications. I study the incidence of criminal activity as related to a proxy for increased gaming, the number of game stores, from a panel of US counties from 1994 to 2004. With fixed county and year effects, I can examine if changes relative increases in gaming in an area are associated with relative increases or decreases in criminal activity. For six of eight categories of crime, more game stores are associated with significant declines in crime rates. Proxies for other leisure activities, sports and movie viewing, do not have a similar effect. For confirmation, I also find that mortality rates, especially mortality rates stemming from injuries, also are negatively related to the number of game stores.

5 -- Video Games and Adolescent Fighting

Psychologists have found positive correlations between playing violent video games and violent and antisocial attitudes. However, these studies typically do not control for other covariates, particularly sex, that are known to be associated with both video game play and aggression. This study exploits the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which includes questions on video game play and fighting as well as basic demographic information. With both parametric and nonparametric estimators, as there is accounting for more demographic covariates, the video game effects become progressively weaker. The overall link between video games and fighting is modest and not statistically significant. The remaining positive association appears only for individuals who play 4 or more hours per day.

6 -- Neuron - Children, Wired: For Better and for Worse

Children encounter technology constantly at home and in school. Television, DVDs, video games, the Internet, and smart phones all play a formative role in children's development. The term “technology” subsumes a large variety of somewhat independent items, and it is no surprise that current research indicates causes for both optimism and concern depending upon the content of the technology, the context in which the technology immerses the user, and the user's developmental stage. Furthermore, because the field is still in its infancy, results can be surprising: video games designed to be reasonably mindless result in widespread enhancements of various abilities, acting, we will argue, as exemplary learning tools. Counterintuitive outcomes like these, besides being practically relevant, challenge and eventually lead to refinement of theories concerning fundamental principles of brain plasticity and learning.

7 -- Causal or spurious: Using propensity score matching to detangle the relationship between violent video games and violent behavior

Throughout the past decade, numerous states have passed legislation to prohibit the sale of violent video games to children, usually in conjunction with an argument that exposure to violent media increases violent behavior. However, the link between video games and violence is not yet fully understood. This study uses propensity score matching as a method to more adequately address the underlying issue of causality. Using a sample of 6567 8th grade students, these analyses test whether there is a causal link between playing violent video games and violence, non-violent deviance and substance use. Results indicate a substantial decrease in the relationship between video games and these outcomes when a matched sample is used. This suggests that the strength of evidence supporting a relationship has likely been overestimated using other methodologies.

8 -- PsycNET - Comfortably numb or just yet another movie? Media violence exposure does not reduce viewer empathy for victims of real violence among primarily Hispanic viewers. (commented here)

Continued debate exists regarding the impact of media violence exposure on viewers' thoughts and behaviors. One facet of this debate has focused on the possibility that viewing media violence may desensitize viewers to the suffering of others and reduce their empathy. In the current study, 238 mostly Hispanic, young adults were randomized to watch either a violent or nonviolent TV show. Participants also watched clips of either fictional victims of violence (i.e., movie clips) or clips of actual people being injured or killed. Participants were significantly more empathic of victims' suffering when they knew they were watching real violence rather than fictional violence. However, previous exposure to a violent or nonviolent TV show did not reduce empathy. These results suggest that, at least among a primarily Hispanic audience, viewers' processing of media depends upon whether they understand it to be real or fictional, and media violence does not necessarily reduce empathy to real-life violence.

9 -- Not Worth the Fuss After All? Cross-sectional and Prospective Data on Violent Video Game Influences on Aggression, Visuospatial Cognition and Mathematics Ability in a Sample of Youth

The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision relating to violent video games revealed divisions within the scientific community about the potential for negative effects of such games as well as the need for more, higher quality research. Scholars also have debated the potential for violent games to have positive effects such as on visuospatial cognition or math ability. The current study sought to extend previous literature by using well-validated clinical outcome measures for relevant constructs, which have generally been lacking in past research. Cross-section data on aggression, visuospatial cognition, and math achievement were available for a sample of 333 (51.7 % female) mostly Hispanic youth (mean age = 12.76). Prospective 1-year data on aggression and school GPA were available for 143 (46.2 % female) of those youth. Results from both sets of analysis revealed that exposure to violent game had neither short-term nor long-term predictive influences on either positive or negative outcomes. A developmental analysis of the cross-sectional data revealed that results did not differ across age categories of older children, preadolescents or adolescents. Analysis of effect sizes largely ruled out Type II error as a possible explanation for null results. Suggestions for new directions in the field of video game research are proffered.

10 -- A longitudinal test of video game violence influences on dating and aggression: A 3-year longitudinal study of adolescents

Background In 2011 the field of video game violence experienced serious reversals with repudiations of the current research by the US Supreme Court and the Australian Government as non-compelling and fundamentally flawed. Scholars too have been calling for higher quality research on this issue. The current study seeks to answer this call by providing longitudinal data on youth aggression and dating violence as potential consequences of violent video game exposure using well-validated clinical outcome measures and controlling for other relevant predictors of youth aggression.

Method A sample of 165, mainly Hispanic youth, were tested at 3 intervals, an initial interview, and 1-year and 3-year intervals.

Results Results indicated that exposure to video game violence was not related to any of the negative outcomes. Depression, antisocial personality traits, exposure to family violence and peer influences were the best predictors of aggression-related outcomes.

Interpretation The current study supports a growing body of evidence pointing away from video game violence use as a predictor of youth aggression. Public policy efforts, including funding, would best be served by redirecting them toward other prevention programs for youth violence.

11 -- PsycNET - A longitudinal study of the association between violent video game play and aggression among adolescents

In the past 2 decades, correlational and experimental studies have found a positive association between violent video game play and aggression. There is less evidence, however, to support a long-term relation between these behaviors. This study examined sustained violent video game play and adolescent aggressive behavior across the high school years and directly assessed the socialization (violent video game play predicts aggression over time) versus selection hypotheses (aggression predicts violent video game play over time). Adolescents (N = 1,492, 50.8% female) were surveyed annually from Grade 9 to Grade 12 about their video game play and aggressive behaviors. Nonviolent video game play, frequency of overall video game play, and a comprehensive set of potential 3rd variables were included as covariates in each analysis. Sustained violent video game play was significantly related to steeper increases in adolescents' trajectory of aggressive behavior over time. Moreover, greater violent video game play predicted higher levels of aggression over time, after controlling for previous levels of aggression, supporting the socialization hypothesis. In contrast, no support was found for the selection hypothesis. Nonviolent video game play also did not predict higher levels of aggressive behavior over time. Our findings, and the fact that many adolescents play video games for several hours every day, underscore the need for a greater understanding of the long-term relation between violent video games and aggression, as well as the specific game characteristics (e.g., violent content, competition, pace of action) that may be responsible for this association.

12 -- PsycNET - Violent video games and the Supreme Court: Lessons for the scientific community in the wake of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association

In June 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that video games enjoy full free speech protections and that the regulation of violent game sales to minors is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also referred to psychological research on violent video games as “unpersuasive” and noted that such research contains many methodological flaws. Recent reviews in many scholarly journals have come to similar conclusions, although much debate continues.

Given past statements by the American Psychological Association linking video game and media violence with aggression, the Supreme Court ruling, particularly its critique of the science, is likely to be shocking and disappointing to some psychologists. One possible outcome is that the psychological community may increase the conclusiveness of their statements linking violent games to harm as a form of defensive reaction.

However, in this article the author argues that the psychological community would be better served by reflecting on this research and considering whether the scientific process failed by permitting and even encouraging statements about video game violence that exceeded the data or ignored conflicting data. Although it is likely that debates on this issue will continue, a move toward caution and conservatism as well as increased dialogue between scholars on opposing sides of this debate will be necessary to restore scientific credibility. The current article reviews the involvement of the psychological science community in the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case and suggests that it might learn from some of the errors in this case for the future.

13 -- Motion capture controls negate the violent video-game effect

Considerable research suggests that violent video game play increases players’ aggression. However, few studies have investigated this effect in the now ubiquitous context of motion-capture technology. Study 1 used a 2 × 2 design, with a violent (Soul Calibur) and non-violent (Lego Indiana Jones) game, played under analog (Playstation 3) and motion-capture (Nintendo Wii) conditions. Violent video game play led to less aggression when participants used motion-capture controls. Study 2 eliminated potential confounds by using the only game on the Wii system that can be played identically with or without motion capture (Punch-Out!!). Again, participants who used motion-capture were less aggressive. Study 3 looked for effects of cooperative vs. competitive play during 2-player motion-capture gaming (Soul Calibur, Wii). Participants using motion-capture controls in competitive and cooperative scenarios did not differ from baseline. These results run counter to standard models relating violent video game play to aggressive behavior, highlighting the difficulty in anticipating the effects of newer, more immersive technology

14 -- Studies in Media and Communications | A Futile Game: On the Prevalence and Causes of Misguided Speculation about the Role of Violent Video Games in Mass School Shootings

Purpose – Video game violence has historically been offered by policy-makers and some scholars as one contributing factor to mass homicides, particularly with shooters who are young, male, and white. However, the evidence for or against such beliefs has not been closely examined.

Approach – The current chapter examines the research exploring violent video game playing and its links with violent and aggressive behavior. Further, research regarding mass school shooters is also examined. The chapter also engages in a sociological analysis of structural factors within both the general society and scientific community by which media is often identified as a potential cause of social problems.

Findings – Current evidence cannot support proposed links between video game violence and aggressive or violent behavior, whether mild or mass homicides. Efforts to blame mass homicides on video games appear to be due to unfamiliarity with games among older adults, prejudicial views of young offenders, and a well-identified cycle of moral panic surrounding media as a scapegoat for social ills. Poor peer-reviewing within the scientific community allowed scholars to participate in this moral panic.

Social implications – Time focused on video games as a cause of mass school shootings is time wasted. Discussions of mental health issues and mental health care are likely to bear more fruit in relation to mass school shootings.

15 -- Virtually justifiable homicide: The effects of prosocial contexts on the link between violent video games, aggression, and prosocial and hostile cognition - Gitter - 2013 - Aggressive Behavior - Wiley Online Library

Previous work has shown that playing violent video games can stimulate aggression toward others. The current research has identified a potential exception. Participants who played a violent game in which the violence had an explicitly prosocial motive (i.e., protecting a friend and furthering his nonviolent goals) were found to show lower short-term aggression (Study 1) and show higher levels of prosocial cognition (Study 2) than individuals who played a violent game in which the violence was motivated by more morally ambiguous motives. Thus, violent video games that are framed in an explicitly prosocial context may evoke more prosocial sentiments and thereby mitigate some of the short-term effects on aggression observed in previous research. While these findings are promising regarding the potential aggression-reducing effects of prosocial context, caution is still warranted as a small effect size difference (d = .2–.3), although nonsignificant, was still observed between those who played the explicitly prosocial violent game and those who played a nonviolent game; indicating that aggressive behavior was not completely eliminated by the inclusion of a prosocial context for the violence.

16 -- Much ado about nothing: the misestimation and overinterpretation of violent video game effects in eastern and western nations: comment on Anderson et al. (2010). [Psychol Bull. 2010]

The issue of violent video game influences on youth violence and aggression remains intensely debated in the scholarly literature and among the general public. Several recent meta-analyses, examining outcome measures most closely related to serious aggressive acts, found little evidence for a relationship between violent video games and aggression or violence. In a new meta-analysis, C. A. Anderson et al. (2010) questioned these findings. However, their analysis has several methodological issues that limit the interpretability of their results. In their analysis, C. A. Anderson et al. 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. They also focused on bivariate correlations rather than better controlled estimates of effects. Despite a number of methodological flaws that all appear likely to inflate effect size estimates, the final estimate of r = .15 is still indicative of only weak effects. Contrasts between the claims of C. A. Anderson et al. (2010) and real-world data on youth violence are discussed.

17 -- A Multivariate Analysis of Youth Violence and Aggression: The Influence of Family, Peers, Depression, and Media Violence

Objective To examine the multivariate nature of risk factors for youth violence including delinquent peer associations, exposure to domestic violence in the home, family conflict, neighborhood stress, antisocial personality traits, depression level, and exposure to television and video game violence.

Study design A population of 603 predominantly Hispanic children (ages 10-14 years) and their parents or guardians responded to multiple behavioral measures. Outcomes included aggression and rule-breaking behavior on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), as well as violent and nonviolent criminal activity and bullying behavior.

Results Delinquent peer influences, antisocial personality traits, depression, and parents/guardians who use psychological abuse in intimate relationships were consistent risk factors for youth violence and aggression. Neighborhood quality, parental use of domestic violence in intimate relationships, and exposure to violent television or video games were not predictive of youth violence and aggression.

Conclusion Childhood depression, delinquent peer association, and parental use of psychological abuse may be particularly fruitful avenues for future prevention or intervention efforts. 

18 -- THE ROLE OF MEDIA VIOLENCE IN VIOLENT BEHAVIOR - Annual Review of Public Health, 27(1):393

Media violence poses a threat to public health inasmuch as it leads to an increase in real-world violence and aggression. Research shows that fictional television and film violence contribute to both a short-term and a long-term increase in aggression and violence in young viewers. Television news violence also contributes to increased violence, principally in the form of imitative suicides and acts of aggression. Video games are clearly capable of producing an increase in aggression and violence in the short term, although no long-term longitudinal studies capable of demonstrating long-term effects have been conducted. The relationship between media violence and real-world violence and aggression is moderated by the nature of the media content and characteristics of and social influences on the individual exposed to that content. Still, the average overall size of the effect is large enough to place it in the category of known threats to public health.

19 -- A meta-analysis of pathological gaming prevalence and comorbidity with mental health, academic and social problems

Background Mental health professionals, policy makers and the general public continue to debate the issue of pathological video gaming. Scholars disagree on the prevalence and diagnostic criteria for this potential new disorder. The current meta-analysis considers existing scholarship to examine how differing measurement methods influence prevalence rates and associations with other mental health problems.

Method Thirty three published studies and doctoral dissertations were analyzed in meta-analysis. Prevalence rates and comorbidity with other mental health problems were examined according to measurement method.

Results Prevalence estimates and comorbidity with other problems varied widely between studies. Measurement which attempted to replicate “pathological gambling” approaches produced higher prevalence estimates and lower comorbidity estimates than methods which focused on the interfering nature of pathological gaming. The most precise measures produce an overall prevalence rate of 3.1%.

Interpretation Diagnostic analogies with pathological gambling may produce spuriously high prevalence estimates, potentially over identifying non-pathological players as pathological. Diagnostic approaches focused on the interfering nature on other life needs and responsibilities may have greater validity and utility.

20 -- Just a game after all: Violent video game exposure and time spent playing effects on hostile feelings, depression, and visuospatial cognition

Research in the domain of video game violence continues to be contentious and debated. Scholars have examined both positive and negative effects of violent games, although results thus far have been inconclusive and systematic internal validity problems have been identified with past research. The current study adds to this growing literature by examining the effects of video game violence exposure and time spent playing on depression, hostility, and visuospatial cognition. This study improves upon previous research by matching game conditions carefully on confounding variables identified as problems by other scholars. In a laboratory setting, 100 participants were randomly assigned into one of six conditions based on two independent variables (time spent playing and type of video game). Results indicated that neither randomized video game play nor time spent playing a video game had any effect on depression, hostility, or, visuospatial cognition. Effect size estimates were below levels for practical significance. These results suggest that both positive and negative influences of violence in video games may be limited in scope.

21 -- Preference for Violent Electronic Games and Aggressive Behavior among Children: The Beginning of the Downward Spiral? - Media Psychology - Volume 14, Issue 3

A one-year longitudinal study with 324 German third and fourth graders was conducted in order to find out whether a preference for violent electronic games socializes children to become more aggressive or whether aggressive individuals tend to select this type of game. Cross-lagged panel analyses suggest that children who were rated as openly aggressive at Time 1 intensified their preference for violent electronic games over time. We determined that it could be ruled out that this selection effect was due to a number of underlying variables ranging from ecological variables (neighborhood) to family variables (migration status, older brother) and child variables (gender, self-esteem, level of achievement). Discussion focuses on the emerging preference for violent electronic games among children.

22 -- PLOS ONE: Failure to Demonstrate That Playing Violent Video Games Diminishes Prosocial Behavior

Background Past research has found that playing a classic prosocial video game resulted in heightened prosocial behavior when compared to a control group, whereas playing a classic violent video game had no effect. Given purported links between violent video games and poor social behavior, this result is surprising. Here our aim was to assess whether this finding may be due to the specific games used. That is, modern games are experienced differently from classic games (more immersion in virtual environments, more connection with characters, etc.) and it may be that playing violent video games impacts prosocial behavior only when contemporary versions are used.  
Methods and Findings Experiments 1 and 2 explored the effects of playing contemporary violent, non-violent, and prosocial video games on prosocial behavior, as measured by the pen-drop task. We found that slight contextual changes in the delivery of the pen-drop task led to different rates of helping but that the type of game played had little effect. Experiment 3 explored this further by using classic games. Again, we found no effect.  
Conclusions We failed to find evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behavior. Research on the effects of video game play is of significant public interest. It is therefore important that speculation be rigorously tested and findings replicated. Here we fail to substantiate conjecture that playing contemporary violent video games will lead to diminished prosocial behavior.


  1. At the Brazilian Scienceblogs I just found a good commentary on this issue: http://scienceblogs.com.br/socialmente/2013/08/no-banco-dos-reus-reflexoes-sobre-o-impacto-de-jogos-digitais-no-comportamento-humano/ .

    What I didn't mention on the post is that I take issue with the perfidious association between these psychopaths -- assuming he was the killer -- and video games or what gives (like in the Sandy Hook shooting). I remember that in the past many people blamed a role-playing game for another murder case, and usually people dig deep looking for a scapegoat. We can usually find at least a bible, a cell phone, porn and violent pictures (game, movie or comics) on the surroundings of a murder case, but it doesn't follow that any or all of these items can be to blame -- these items are far too common and can be found in any surrounding (that's a "base rate fallacy").

    (Which is not to say that the above items do not have any behavioral effect, BTW.)

  2. http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/sep/20/video-games-cause-violence-claims-cause-violence


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