For Science: Academics blast APA’s updated resolution on games and aggression

    
28

My Twitter feed was on fire about three things today: politics, coronavirus, and violence in video games. The last entry there is all because the American Psychological Association published a new update to its 2015 resolution on violence and games, and it’s a contentious mess, even (especially) among leading academics in the field of games study.

While the update sets off noting that its resolution should “not be misinterpreted or misused by attributing violence, such as mass shootings, to violent video game use” and criticizing the media for popularizing these notions throughout the past two years of (in particular) gun violence, it then goes on to spend the next two pages asserting that “the link between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior is one of the most studied and best established” and that “all existing quantitative reviews of the violent video game literature have found a direct association between violent video game use and aggressive outcomes.” If you’re blinking right now in confusion, having read many papers and studies that say precisely the opposite, that could be because the newest study cited is, bizarrely, from as long ago as 2013, suggesting that even the update is already far out of date with modern research.

Multiple academics have already pointed out some of the flaws in the update. Dr Rachel Kowert – you’ll recall her as one of the academics behind The Video Game Debate research and panels – penned a long thread pointing out that the update to the resolution fails to illuminate some of the methodological problems that have plagued aggression research. For example, one of the ways “aggression” has been measured for the purpose of some of the older studies is by having participants give hot sauce to people who hate hot sauce after playing competitive games, which is absurd on its face. “This release is very similar to 2005 despite the fact 10 years have passed,” she concludes. “I’m happy to see some progress in noting that violence is a complex issue [but] it is still far from reflecting the state of the research and scholarly consensus in an accurate way.”

Dr Christopher J. Ferguson, who’s been quoted many times in our For Science entries thanks to his work in this field and who in fact was (mis)cited in this very APA release, posted a positively scathing rebuttal. He argues that the APA is not only one of the last holdouts on this antiquated position but that it ignored papers from the last few years to remain so, and that its task force on this particular project was biased from the start. “One of my own studies is cited by the 2019 review as supporting the APA’s position when, in fact, it does not,” he says, seemingly in disbelief. Here’s his overview of how the APA functions internally:

“Why is the APA so bad at this? I had the opportunity to sit on the APA’s Council of Representatives for three years and saw how the organization makes decisions. Trying to describe it fully in this space would be impossible, but, put simply, it’s a mess. Older adults are vastly over-represented on the Council, the 2015 task force, and 2019 review. This is non-trivial for video games, since evidence shows that age biases opinions about games among both clinicians and scholars. Older adults — and, interestingly, adults who don’t like kids — are more willing to believe video games are bad. Put bluntly, the APA is providing a platform for the biases of older generations against the hobbies of younger generations and pretending this is ‘science.’ […] In most cases, we Council members were asked to vote on matters of science we honestly knew little more about than the general public. This gave considerable leverage to APA staff members — who, unlike us, worked for the APA — and to members with political or ideological agendas to shape APA policy, often in ways that misrepresented messy social science. Remember, this is the organization that just a few years ago erupted into controversy over troublesome decisions allowing psychologists to participate in harsh interrogations (i.e., torture) at Guantanamo Bay.”

Ferguson also points out that a large group of academics had previously called on the APA to revise the resolution ahead of its vote; Dr Patrick Markey posted that for the public. That letter points out the resolution’s scientific flaws, points of confusion, and missing references to the modern preregistered and longitudinal studies that have found chiefly null results in regard to gaming and aggression links. “We believe that there are arguments to be made for and against a number of potential effects of video games,” it states. “But we do suggest that the APA’s 2015 resolution, even with the clarifying statement, fails to fully inform the public of the nuances of research in this field. By appearing to suggest evidence consistently supports one side of a debate when evidence is not clear the APA puts itself in an untenable, unscientific position.”

Further reading, including some of the newer studies:

Advertisement

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Utakata

They said that because it was the popular thing to say. And least likely to incur the wrath of current White House administration and it’s allies (Read: US Senators, Gun Lobby, etc.). Not because it makes any reasonable and/or sane sense that was established by using real science and evidence. You know, reality has a liberal bias…

…and here we are with a respected institution saying exactly what everyone wants to hear. Well those in power want to hear, that is. /bleh

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Minimalistway

Again … what they are saying is this basically:

Reader
Witches

Competitive gaming =/= shooter, but i guess it’s too much to ask that people making a study about gaming are aware of that.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

Predictably circling the wagons each time a difference of opinion comes out for the past 30 years – even though with the rise in the popularity of video games a marked and steady rise in aggression and violence has moved up the graph at a similar rate. Using the same tired arguments and memes that editorials and letters used in EGM in the 90s era.

People closing their minds to either side of any argument is the real reason problems still exist.

Phaserlight
Reader
Phaserlight

By what mechanism do violent video games cause violent behavior? Correlation does not equal causation.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

I’m am not saying it does. But I am not going to ignore the correlation either. And practical experience with some of the worst society has to offer – shows another distinct correlation.

Do people really think it is a stretch to think that gamers – some of the worst pieces of shit to roam this earth – might get violent when things don’t turn out their way?

maybe it is worth exploring instead of taking a few research paper’s word on it.

flatline4400
Reader
flatline4400

5 facts about crime in the U.S.

“Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 51% between 1993 and 2018. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 71% during that span.”

Come on, dude.

Reader
angrakhan

Violent video games don’t make you any more violent than watching the Hallmark channel makes you a sappy middle aged women. I’m married to said middle aged sappy woman and watching those shows as I walk through the living room hasn’t made me any more sappy or female. Maybe I can blame my age on it though. Likewise playing violent video games since they’ve existed hasn’t made me violent. My worst criminal activity is a few speeding tickets. Maybe I should sue Forza.

Anyway there may be a correlation between being violent and being attracted to violent video games, but as they say correlation is not causation which is what is being claimed here.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

“We voted on it” is science? huh *head scratch* Where is the evidence, where are the studies they mention, what were the circumstances of the studies, who took part, what did they do, for how long, what age groups, what was the mental health status of those participating prior to participating i mean the list goes on….I have questions!

“We voted” doesn’t cut it in terms of an explanation APA lol

Reader
Kanbe

Ya I was thoroughly confused on how voting and science fit together.

Reader
Sean Walsh

Thanks Bree for giving me a cohesive resource I can point parents too when this inevitably comes up in my life as my kids get older and are hopefully big gamers like their dad.

Ririrawr
Reader
Ririrawr

stealing a line from grumpo here: idiots gonna idiot

throw “biased” in there somewhere, call it science, right?

Reader
Tuor of Gondolin

Politics and political ideology is what this is all about, as the article states.

Reader
Robert Mann

You know what makes people go off the deep end and act with excess aggression? It’s not video games. It’s other people, and a lack of appropriate resolution to frustrations and stresses.

In short, by publishing this antiquated view the APA is more likely to cause somebody to go bonkers and create violence than the very thing they are insisting has some link.