If you listen closely to the debate over video game violence, you'll hear some misinformation bandied about on both sides of the issue.
One troubling theme we've heard lately involves an incorrect interpretation of a game violence study issued in August, 2005 by the American Psychological Association. The bad information that GP has been hearing lately runs along the lines of:
"The American Psychological Association last year found a direct causal link between violent video games and teen violence."
That's not correct. It's wrong.
In the public policy debate over video game content, it shouldn't be related as fact to legislators. Nor should it be fed to an already game-wary public.
For clarification, GamePolitics went to the source - the American Psychological Association itself.
Yale University's Dr. Dorothy Singer, who co-chaired the study committee, told GP via e-mail that claims of the APA finding a "direct causal link" between games and actual violence are "...wrong and misinterpreting the statement... nowhere do we make such a claim in the resolution, nor does APA... Our studies cited were correlational... there is a difference."
Indeed. Correlation and causation are often confused. Correlation shows a relationship between A and B. Causation means that A caused B. Big difference, especially when applied to a public policy debate like video game violence.
Dr. Elizabeth Carll (left), who chairs the organization's Interactive Media Committee added in an e-mail to GP yesterday, "There was no reference to direct causal link in the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media. I scrolled through my email and saw Dorothy Singer's response as well and we are in agreement."
All of that is not to say that the APA report is an endorsement of the video game industry. The 2005 study was quite critical of interactive violence. Dr. Carll said at the time, "Violence in video games appear to have similar negative effects as viewing violence on TV, but may be more harmful because of the interactive nature of video games."
Other APA committee members who participated in the preparation of the report include Iowa State University's Dr. Craig Anderson and Dr. Karen Dill of Lenoir-Rhyne College. The APA's full resolution on video game violence is available here.
GP: The debate over video game content is an important political and cultural issue. Research data is a key piece of that debate. So is presenting it accurately.