Girl in the Machine
Friday, February 8, 2008
Aggression Toward Video Games


A couple of months ago I talked about my belief that video games are scapegoated by the media as the downfall of our generation. Through KillerBetties I found the blog of a licensed psychologist who agrees with me:

In 1955, the U.S. Senate blasted comic books, deploring their depiction of every horrible thing from murder to cannibalism ... Half a century later, violent video games are the comic books of our day.

Gaskill and Verhaagen are absolutely right to compare comic books in the 1950s to video games today. With every new generation, some new form of entertainment is the source of society's doom and inevitable downfall--ironically, the accusers turn out to be the doomed young generation before. If it's not comic books, it's rock and roll; if not rock and roll, it's movies; and the list goes on.

One frequently cited research article criticizing violent video games includes several studies. One of these studies was a "correlational study" from which the authors concluded, "Playing violent video games often may well cause increases in delinquent behaviors, both aggressive and non-aggressive." However, in a remarkable moment of self-contradiction, they later said that making such causative statements with a correlational study is "risky, at best."

Gaskill and Verhaagen go on to point out that correlational studies are often used quite erroneously to make concrete conclusions. This is because the point of a correlational study is to compare two different occurences and see if they have some sort of relation to eachother. In the case of this aggression and violent video games study, the authors found a correlation between the two--but, now everyone say it together, correlation does not equal causation.

What does this mean? It means that just because two occurrences may correlate together (such as aggression and violent video games), it does not mean that one caused the other to occur in the first place. An example that is particularly close to my heart is the positive correlation between ice cream sales and murders. If one were to follow the same logic that many politicians do concerning video games, one would conclude that buying ice cream makes you more likely to be a murderer. It turns out that there is a third variable that affects these two occurrences--summertime.

In other words, just because aggression and violent video games may correlate does not mean that violent video games cause aggression. Being a Psychology major myself, I've been recently studying aggression and its causes, and according to the American Psychological Association, violent media can have a long-lasting effect on a person only if it is viewed heavily and consistently over a long period of time.

So as long as you're not hooked into Grand Theft Auto six out of seven days of the week, you should be fine.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 1:10 PM + Link to this post
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