Violent Video Games: Criticism of Research Methods

Following up on my previous post and as part of my literature review of violent video games and their effect on aggression, Ferguson's work questions the methodology of the research conducted by Anderson and others.

Criticism of Research Methods

Ferguson, C.J. (2007) conducted a meta-analytic review of publications on from 1995 to 2005 studying the effects of video game violence were focused on correlation (non-experiment) and laboratory based experiments.

The focus of the study identified the underlying notion that research like Anderson, Bushman, and others attempt to make, “If playing violent video games in real life can be correlated with aggressive behavior and similar effects are seen due to random assignment to a violent video game condition in laboratory experiments, it is thought that this provides evidence of causal link between video game violence and aggressive behavior.” This is really a key point for much of the aggression research, they rely heavily on the assumption that an increase in white noise, story branches or reaction time correlate into daily life situations.

Anderson and Bushman (1997,1999, 2002) used white noise blasts to measure a person’s aggression level. Ferguson points out that actually provide “no evidence” that higher noise blasts associates with external aggression. In another round of research conducted by Anderson, Bushman, and others (2003, 2005 & 2006) used the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time test to measure aggression, but each studied applied it differently demonstrating no standardized way to interpreting the data.

Many studies (Anderson and Dill, 2000) use multiple measures for the same dependent variables, but only find significant results in some of them.

Ferguson points out that none of the studies and measurements used are linked directly to criminal actions. [This assumption and argument was used in both the State Supreme Court cases in IL and MI over violent video game regulations. Both Courts cited this lack of direct casual relationship as a reason to overturn the law.] According to Ferguson, the research provides no “compelling” support for either a correlation or causation relationship.

In addition, Ferguson found that unstandardized measurements of aggression resulted in greater effect size. 62% of the studies examined used unstandardized measures.

Ferguson, C. J. (2007). Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review. Aggression & Violent Behavior, 12(4), 470-482.

image via mrlerone Flickr account

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