Meta-analytic study finds no link between violent video games and aggressive behavior and links violent games to beneficial effects

The video game industry takes more than its share of bumps and bruises for violent content. Much debate in Washington has happened over violent video games and exactly what sort of effect these violent games have on gamers who play them.

As more and more states consider video game regulations to prevent the sale of violent games to minors, we see more and more studies reporting to link video games to violent behavior. Other studies claim to show that violent video games only affect gamers who are prone to those behaviors to begin with. Another study claims that violent video games leave gamers paranoid. Who is to be believed?

ArsTechnica reports that Christopher John Ferguson from the Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas has devised a meta-analytic review of the studies published since 1995 relating video games to good and bad effects in those who play them.

Ferguson says that one of the most cited studies of violent video games conducted by Anderson and Dill, which claimed to show a causal link between violent video games and aggression was flawed. Ferguson says that the Anderson and Dill study when inspected closely actually supports the exact opposite of the publicized findings that video games don’t correlate to aggressive behaviors in players.

Four measures of aggression were used the Anderson and Dill study, provided by a “noise blast” program that wasn’t standardized. According to Ferguson, the fact that the study authors only found correspondence to one of the measures and the confidence measures around the effect size for the findings actually crosses zero and can’t be considered proof of a positive finding.

A similar study by Ferguson et al. using a standardized version of the “noise blast” program found no relationship between violent games and aggression. What was found from these study reviews was that once predication of family violence was eliminated by players of violent video games, there is no correlation between the two.

In other words, gamers who play violent video games are more likely to be aggressive due to family violence than by playing video games. Some studies looked at by Ferguson suggest that the relationship of violent video games and reduced aggression needs to be researched in the future.

Ferguson says that some of the studies he looked at in the meta-review suggest a beneficial relationship between specifically playing violent video games and improved visuospatial cognition.

That would mean that violent video games actually help gamers rather than sending them into aggressive tendencies. When Ferguson gets down to the results of his meta-analytic study he finds that there is only a two percent overlap in variance between violent video games and aggressive behavior and that once corrected for publication bias, that relationship drops to a number of r += 0.04 with a confidence interval crossing zero.

This does not support a relationship between violent video games and aggressive behavior according to Ferguson.

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