The Latest on Violent Video Games and Aggression

Via Andy McKenzie comes the latest Meta-Analysis concerning the above-mentioned topic, entitled "Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review" (Full text pdf). Abstract:
Meta-analytic procedures were used to test the effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, empathy/desensitization, and prosocial behavior. Unique features of this meta-analytic review include (a) more restrictive methodological quality inclusion criteria than in past meta-analyses; (b) cross-cultural comparisons; (c) longitudinal studies for all outcomes except physiological arousal; (d) conservative statistical controls; (e) multiple moderator analyses; and (f) sensitivity analyses. Social–cognitive models and cultural differences between Japan and Western countries were used to generate theory-based predictions. Meta-analyses yielded significant effects for all 6 outcome variables. The pattern of results for different outcomes and research designs (experimental, cross-sectional, longitudinal) fit theoretical predictions well. The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. Moderator analyses revealed significant research design effects, weak evidence of cultural differences in susceptibility and type of measurement effects, and no evidence of sex differences in susceptibility. Results of various sensitivity analyses revealed these effects to be robust, with little evidence of selection (publication) bias.
The most interesting question here, at least to my mind, is the effect of playing violent video games on real-life aggression; after controlling for sex and previous aggressive behaviour in longitudinal studies, the authors find a statistically significant association of r=.152, which translates into 2.3% of the outcome variance explained, which is very little. On the one hand, and as argued by the original authors, this kind of analysis is particularly conservative because differences in previous behaviour may itself, in part, be explained by differences in gaming behaviour. On the other, and as argued by Ferguson and Kilburn in their comment on the paper (full text pdf), it may be seen as too liberal because other known confounds of aggressive behaviour (such as aggressive peers) are not controlled for. Maybe we're lucky and r=.152 is just the right estimate, but there's no way of knowing.

That's my version of the facts. Any conclusions for politics include value judgments, so make up your own minds. I'm doing my own little psychological research study to test whether I can abstain from opinionatin' altogether. So far it's not working that well, but I'm trying my best.

Additional link: Bushman et al. reply to Ferguson and Kilburn (full text pdf)

Related posts on this blog: One, another

No comments: