Game Politics (gamepolitics) wrote,
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Regarding the Controversy Over Monday's APA Study & Game Violence Article

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.

Tags: aggression, apa, brad bushman, direct causal link, dorothy singer, elizabeth carll, game violence, university of michigan, yale
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  • 19 comments
I still don't see them clarifying the different aspects of aggrestion. Whether it includes violence or not, the aggressive feelings may not necessarily be negative in all individuals. Where "aggressive" may be a low tolerance for competition, another's "aggressive" nature may actually be the challenge of competition itself, which isn't necessarily bad.

For those who showed an increase in anger, it may be that ANY interactive competition results in an increase in anger because they are not mentally suited to stressful or even not so stressful competitive situations. And interactive competition includes far more experiences than just video games. It includes physical sports, non-physical sports or games (any board game or puzzle solving event), even competition with others for a much desired job.

They perform no clear comparison and contrast. They show nothing whatsoever of any significance that discerns the various experiences that may affect individuals and create aggresive (of various forms) situations. As pointed out, it's misinterpretation of the study to say "they played video games, they became aggressive, hence a causal link between violent video games and real world violence". But from the way their statment reads, it's more of an attack on your article rather than an attack on self-appointed "experts" and politicians who misuse the study for their own agendas. One has to wonder if the researchers are actually saying that they support the apparent misuse of their study because that's the purpose they really wanted it use for int he first place, while publically denying such. Sounds like a conspiracy theory brewing, but that's what I get from this latest statement. The first one sounded more honest. The second one sounded like there had been some sort of dispute and they suddenly came to a decision which changes the focus of the first statement. Still says "no causal link", but they are pointing fingers at you, not the misusers of the study.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software
I'm not going to interpret their words or try to guess what they were thinking or what discussions happened between them privately.

I recognize that it's difficult to capsulize a significant piece of research in a small GP article. However we went to them with a single narrow issue, and got an answer.

The story is completely accurate and since I've been accused of otherwise, I thought it important to let the APA speak for itself.
Sounds like Thompson and his ilk are exaggerating and distorting the effects of this study to back up their own pro-censorship agendas. All of these studies are of course rendered irrelevant by simply looking at who actually plays video games. The vast majority of us are average 9-to-5 working joes who wouldn't hurt anybody, and are smart enough to know the difference between the real world and a screen made up of pixels and polygons.

But of course this doesn't jive with their vast, sweeping judgments, so they ignore it completely and continue to waste legislators' time with endless draconian proclamations.

I wonder if the APA has done a study on the effects of watching or participating in violent sports like football. Typically these are the guys with rap sheets a mile long. What better place to exercise one's violent fantasies and get praise and adulation for it?
GP would just like to see the data reported accurately - on both sides.
- earlier email from Jack Thompson from the No "Direct Causal Link" Between Games & Violence in APA Report story.

("Actually, I have just spoken with Dr. Brad Bushman, who served on that APA Committee. His name is on the report. He tells me that McCauley is utterly wrong, that the APA found causation not correlation. Contact him and confirm it for yourself. You can email him or call him.

I bet you don't have the courage to post this at GamePolitics, do you? Dennis McCauley won't do it. He's just a spinner for the industry.

Jack Thompson")

and one from Joystiq.

(27. Your serial spinner here, Dennis McCauley of GamePolitics, is presently reporting at 5pm on Tuesday, September 19, at his own vanity site, that the important American Psychological Association Report of August 2005 states that there is only correlation between violent video game play and increased aggression in teens, not causation.

Dr. Brad Bushman, who is one of the members of the APA Committee which issued that study states to me that that is utterly false, and that the APA study found causation.

If you go to the study itself you'll find that it speaks repeatedly of causation, not correlation.

There goes your Dennis the Menace again. Why you have him do a "column" here is beyond me, what with the above nonsense at which he has been caught.

Posted at 6:00PM on Sep 19th 2006 by jack thompson 0 stars)

According to what I read above in today's story, your "boy" Bushman isn't doesn't agree with what you said.

Ohhh.. I get it. You had an IMAGINARY conversation with him. Did you have it at the same IMAGINARY place you interview your other IMAGINARY experts and other IMAGINARY family friends of the victims come from.

Get over yourself loser.

- Warren Lewis
Dennis, I don't mean to call anyone out he,ee but Did Thompson himself direct you to this? It just seems like it form my perspective, I mean no offense.
i don't understand the question?

kurisu7885

16 years ago

My general understanding is that aggressive behavior is usually rewarded by society. Why do you think we love sports so much? Who rises to the top in the business world? Is it the guy who does his job quietly and never stirs anything up? Even if there's a direct causal link with violence, which I'm fairly sure would be quite weak if there is, based on anecdotal evidence, an increase in aggressive behavior could mean that it's still overall beneficial. Unfortunately, that APA resolution didn't give any insight into the methodology, including whatever they were using as a control. (Violent video games cause aggression more than what?) There's also no information as to how they defined important terms like "violent video game" or "helpful behavior." Is there a more thorough overview online somewhere?
*makes a 4 note trumpet "loser" sound*

Like I said before, saying there's a direct causal link from violent games to real life violence fails the common sense test because during a time where violent and realistic video games became more and more commonplace, real life violence dramatically decreased, according to the Department of Justice.

Increases aggressive behavior and thoughts I can buy... of course, the $50,000,000 question is just how that increase compares with watching a violent movie or TV show, or even a football game.

And, of course, parents have the duty to keep their children's intake of ALL violent media under observation. If the parent is neglectful in doing this, charge them with child abuse, because if it wasn't video games, it would have been something else.
What Dr. Carll told GP:

"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." (emphasis GP's)

Dr. Carll quoting the actual resolution:

"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,..." (emphasis AE’s)

Maybe I’m being too anal about this, but the way I read it, the resolution does not state that there is an increase in aggressive behavior as a result of playing violent video games, only that research suggests there may be. Big difference that.

Furthermore, what is meant by an increase in aggression? Do I have to worry about a seven year old being more likely to flip me off or stab me in the face with a railroad spike?


Andrew Eisen
The key phrase being "While violence is an extreme form of aggression, the body of research of which the resolution speaks is about aggression."

So they are finding increases in aggression, not the extreme form, violence.

In another e-mail, Dr. Carll also wrote: "APA cannot be responsible for how others may choose to describe the resolution."

...and no one is asking the APA to be responsible for how JT describes their work, only to say whether he is citing it accurately, which he is not.

Further, based on Jack's bluster, you would have thought a big, "You're wrong, GP!" would have been coming from Dr. Bushman, but that didn't happen either.

As always, just trying to shine a little light on the truth...

Deleted comment

Re: Splitting hairs

monte924

16 years ago

I know that you don't want to annoy Dr. Bushman, but would it be possible to ask him if this conversation (with Thompson) actually took place? It seems almost like he's pulling ideas and conversations out of thin air. Has he really become that desperate?
well, I'm sure they had a dialogue. I've only Jack's version of how it went. I wouldn't expect Dr. Bushman to sell Jack out.

But I think the fact that Bushman helped craft the statement described here today speaks volumes.

What also speaks volumes is that Bushman never proclaims GP coverage as wrong or inaccurate.

monte924

16 years ago

Wow. I guess next time he name drops he'll say someone you don't have contact info for, like Hillary Clinton or Grover Cleveland or Dwight D Eisenhower.
Don't competetive sports select for all of these things, too? Increase aggressive behavior (to make you play better), increase aggressive thoughts ("I'm gonna get 'em"), etc.? I'd think that any time you're physically or emotionally engaged in gameplay, whether it is a lively game of Basketball or "Dead or Alive," that all these things would play a factor? Even *watching* sports on TV can get people "pumped up."