Op-Ed Submitted by Eduardo Castillon
You might spend much of your time consuming different media: movies, television series, or video games. Like many people, you may enjoy such products because of how they make you feel. You might even consider yourself a “fan,” but have you ever stopped to wonder if the media that you like is doing more than simply keeping you entertained? In the wake of horrendous shootings around the country, a topic of debate has come up concerning the connection between violence and video games. It may be a difficult connection to spot, but the current scientific research on the subject may surprise you.
According to a study from 2010 by Craig Anderson of the University of Iowa, “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.” The study was a meta-analysis, meaning that instead of obtaining primary data, it used data from several different sources to summarize any apparent trend. The meta-analysis also investigated cultural differences, types of aggression, and the research designs of the studies being analyzed. Each of these factors being taken into consideration support the study’s accuracy. So, it would seem that there is good reason to believe in a connection between violence and video games but that also the scientific consensus is already settled on the matter. It would be for the greater good then to ban video games to prevent terrible acts of violence from occurring. Hooray for science! The truth is, dear reader, more complicated than I’ve let on.
If you’ve ever taken a Statistics 101 class, you’ll know that a study’s R value show of strength and direction of a correlation, with a 0 R value meaning that there was no linear relationship between the two variables being studied. This is important when you consider Anderson’s study has an overall R level of 0.15. Despite the number of factors included in the meta-analysis, its R level is just so terrible it cannot be considered reliable. To make things worse, Anderson did not account for differences between the sexes, such as males being more aggressive than females, which could possibly worsen the study’s R value. You may feel relieved upon reading that Anderson’s findings weren’t reliable. Don’t be fooled, the issue of how media affects human behavior is still under great debate. The reason I showed you the study was not to convince you of a certain position, but to encourage you to confront your own bias.
There are two reactions you may have felt upon reading the Anderson’s findings. You may have taken the study at its word as a credible scientific source. More likely, you felt confused, dismissive, and possibly even angry. This is normal, but it does get in the way when researching such sensitive topics. You are much less likely to read articles you disagree with, especially if you’re passionate about the discussion. However, by not listening to the other side, we are putting obstacles in the way of understanding complex issues require solving. When we refuse to come to an agreement or when the truth is hidden behind misinformation, nothing gets done. The shootings continue while we talk about children playing video games. The cost of ignorance is taken out on everyone. As such, every citizen, including you and I, are morally obligated to read and understand that which we stand entirely opposed to, whether it makes us comfortable or not.