Video Game Bias Takes Hit by TAMIU Professor

Video Game Bias Takes
Hit by TAMIU Professor

Video games are emerging from their bad reputation and not to blame for aggressive behavior in children and adults who play them according to a newly published article in “Aggression and Violent Behavior.”

The article, based on a meta-analytic study conducted and written by Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson, Texas A&M International University assistant professor of psychology, concludes that over the past 10 years, published studies on the effects of video game violence and behavior and the effects of video games on aggressive behavior may be exaggerating the link between video games and aggression.

The study, in the July/August issue, is available online at www.sciencedirect.com

“The results of the review revealed that publication bias issues and the use of non-standardized measures of aggression may have inflated estimates of video game effects on aggressive behavior. The current body of research on violent video game effects does not support a correlational or causal relationship with aggressive behavior,” explained Dr. Ferguson.

“Video games are an emerging form of entertainment that remain rather poorly understood. There have been a number of studies coming out over the past few years on the potential effects of video games, both positive and negative. Some studies suggest video games may lead to positive results such as better visuo-spatial cognition, better eyesight and improved sense of well-being, but much concern remains in regards to whether violent games increase aggression,” Ferguson added.

A controversial subject, commercial video games have only been around for a little more than 30 years and have been blamed for producing violence in children and desensitizing them to violence.

“Given the inconsistency of the studies on video games and to some degree of ‘moral panic’ that surrounds them, I was concerned this field may have been particularly susceptible to publication bias. The scientific discipline ends up telling people more or less what they want or expect to hear—‘media violence’ in general as an explanation for aggressive behavior, and thus violent crime,” Ferguson said.

According to Ferguson, better standardized measures of aggression, measures that are used the same way every time in each study, would yield more reliable and valid results because they do not allow authors unreasonable flexibility.

“As such, there’s no standardization and authors may select the way of measuring aggression that best supports their hypothesis and ignore all other methods. Many measures of aggression used in video game studies are not standardized,” he explained.

Essentially, it is up to parents to play an active role in deciding what games are appropriate for their family values and adults will decide for themselves what kind of games they enjoy playing.

“Parents shouldn’t feel any pressure to allow their children to play games they feel are morally inappropriate. This is ultimately a moral choice, not a scientific one, and parents should be encouraged to be comfortable in making these decisions based on their own feelings,” Ferguson reinforced.

He also suggested consumers ask questions about the quality of research and be more aware that many studies find results that do not have any actual impact on people’s day-to-day lives, scientific publications tend to produce findings that are consistent with preconceived ideas and many studies can’t be used to infer causality.

“This meta-analysis included both males and females and included studies with all age groups. The results are consistent for males and females and across all age groups. Studies seem to find a larger effect for adults than for children, although in all cases, the results are quite weak,” he concluded.

For more information, please contact Ferguson at 326.2636 or cferguson@tamiu.edu or visit offices in Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 302C.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu