Girl in the Machine
Friday, February 15, 2008
Pseudoscience Strikes Again: It's Biological!


GamePolitics has found another wonderful study that pseudoscience-loving types will eat right up: that men are more likely to become addicted to video games than women are. Through a "first-of-its-kind imaging study," these scientists have found that the reward-portion of the brain typically associated with addiction activated more in male subjects than female subjects while playing a video game. According to Dr. Fumiko Hayft, "this may explain why boys and men are more attracted to video games than girls or women." Imaging study, you say? The men's brains lit up more than the women's? I don't need more information than that--after all, those smart scientists know what they're doing. That's all I need to hear! Why, it's bullet-proof!

Did you see that? I just visited the minds of all the people who are convinced by this article. So many folks assume that, because the study was conducted by smarty-pants scientists, they don't need the details of the study to trust that it's true. This type of thinking is flat-out wrong, and trusting swiss-cheese studies like this one can become very dangerous.

Why don't we take a closer look at this "study":

Who were the Subjects?
The study consisted of male and female subjects. And that's pretty much all we know. Aren't there important details about these subjects that we should know? What about if they've played video games before? And if they have, how often? Hell, how many subjects participated in this milestone of a study?

What was the Equipment?
According to the article, scientists had an unspecified amount of men and women play a game while hooked into . . . something that shows brain images. What kind of brain-imager? Are we talking about an EEG, an MRI, an fMRI? One can only assume that, because it isolates specific images of the brain, it's probably an MRI or fMRI. While not a huge problem for the less neuroscience-savvy among us, this detail would have still been useful.

What was the Subjects' Task?
Anyway, the subjects played a game. What kind of game was it? After all, if the study plans on using just one game to represent all of video gaming, this element should be important. While the news report does not specify the game (although it was a PC game), the "implicit" goal of the game was to "gain more territory," which the male subjects "were able to learn faster and eventually gain more territory than females," which was apparently factored into overall attraction to the game itself.

As a reader of this blog, I'm sure you're aware that there is a huge variety of video games out there, and a single PC game about gaining territory will probably not cover all addictive elements of video games in general. The focus of rewarding, enjoyable behavior in this study is mind-numbingly narrow--and stinks of the Western perspective of victory. What about the subjects who would rather explore the area. As I mentioned before, the subjects were not explicitly told that the goal of the game was to conquer. Personally, if I were told to play a game without any clear goals, I would run around and explore as much as possible--something I find really enjoyable when I play video games. I'd begrudgingly get to conquering when I had nowhere else to go.

What are the Results?
Hayft bases her conclusions on the results received from the mysterious brain imaging, which showed that "the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more active in men than women during video game play." This part of the brain, according to her, "[overlaps] with the regions that are related to addiction." Are we really basing our conclusions off of this finding? That the pleasure part of the brain that is related to addiction is activated? I would like to see an example of someone engaging in an activity they find pleasurable that stimulates the brain in an area not related to addiction. Just because an area related to addiction is stimulated in the brain does not an addiction make--hell, I'm sure that part of my brain is activated when I chow down on fried eggs. I freaking love fried eggs, but I'm not addicted to them.

What's more, Hayft conducted no follow-up sessions with these subjects to see if they were jonesin' for more of this game or any other video game-playing. This is no evidence to connect a specific sex with more of a predisposition for addiction to video games than the other.

What was the Point?
Seriously, what good could this study have done to society? It's nothing more than an attempt to back up the sexist notion that boys like video games more than girls with biological "proof." The celestial teapot has more proof than this study.

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 Posted by PlasmaRit
 2:19 AM + Link to this post
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