On Monday of this week, GP carried an item, No "Direct Causal Link" Between Games & Violence in APA Report.
It sparked a bit of controversy. It was suggested in certain quarters that GP ignored the views of Dr. Brad Bushman (left) of the University of Michigan, a member of the APA committee which issued the August, 2005 resolution.
That's not at all correct. In raising a particular question we turned to the two listed contacts for the APA study, Dr.Elizabeth Carll, committee co-chair and Dr. Dorothy Singer of Yale. There were a total of six committee members involved in the report. Dr. Bushman was among them. Not feeling the need to contact all six, we went to the two that the committee itself suggested.
The question Monday's GP article raised was, in retrospect, perhaps too narrow. But a very damning - and very narrow - interpretation of the APA study has been bandied about in recent times. GP wanted to pin the assertion down and see if it was accurate. We've heard it said or seen it written (and not by Dr. Bushman, by the way) that, "The American Psychological Association last year found a direct causal link between violent video games and teen violence." (emphasis GP's)
While the APA study was indeed very critical in regard to game violence (as we dutifully reported last August), that particular sentence seems to draw a straight line between violent games and real-life violence in the same way that a straight line is drawn between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. However, as GP - admittedly, a layman - interpreted it, the APA report just didn't seem to say that there was a "direct causal link." In fact, searching the APA resolution, that term does not appear anywhere. Nor do the words "causal" or "causation."
But we're not afraid of industry-critical views here, and we like to think we present the news as factually as possible. To that end, we did indeed reach out for Dr. Bushman for a clarification. He in turn advised GP that he was working out a response between himself and Drs. Carll and Singer. Dr. Carll was kind enough to send that response along on Thursday night. GP promised to reprint it verbatim. Here it is:
"Brad Bushman forwarded to both myself and Dr. Singer the comments you sent to him regarding the content of the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media. I also forwarded to Dr. Bushman your original email to Dorothy Singer and myself, which is below."
"To clarify, the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media stated that there was an increase in aggressive behavior as a result of playing violent video games. The Resolution did not state that there was a direct causal link to an increase in teen violence as a result of playing video games, rather an increase in aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and a decrease in helpful behavior as a result of playing violent video games." (emphasis GP's)
"The statement in your email of 9/19/06 to Dorothy Singer and myself refers to "teen violence" as opposed to aggressive behavior, which is why Dorothy Singer and I responded as we did. While violence is an extreme form of aggression, the body of research of which the resolution speaks is about aggression."
(GP: Yes, "teen violence" was the specific issue asked about, because that's the specific assertion which has been made in certain quarters. And Drs. Singer and Carll are in agreement on their answer, which was accurately reported in Monday's article.)
"In the interest of accuracy for future articles, it would be helpful to state that the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media reported an increase in aggressive behavior as a result of playing video games, rather than only reporting that there was no causal link to teen violence. Reporting that there was no causal link to teen violence without reporting that there was an increase in aggressive behavior, as a result of playing violent video games, may be misleading to the reader."
(GP: Point taken, Dr. Carll, although reading Monday's article clearly shows no intent to mislead. While not outlining the specifics of the aggression angle, GP did note, "The 2005 study was quite critical of interactive violence... 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." Monday's article also linked to the full APA resolution for those readers who wished to learn more about the APA's findings.)
Dr. Carll continues:
"The specific paragraph in the APA Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media states: 'WHEREAS comprehensive analysis of violent interactive video game research suggests such exposure a.) increases aggressive behavior, b.) increases aggressive thoughts, c.) increases angry feelings, d.) decreases helpful behavior, and, e.) increases physiological arousal'"
"Hopefully this has helped clarify an important distinction. Thank you for your interest."
And GP thanks Drs. Carll, Singer and Bushman for investing their time in clarifying this issue.
Bottom line? GP stands by Monday's article.