New Study Finds Violent Games Might Actually Curb Real-World Violence

The results are in from the world's first long-term study into the consumption of violent media and its effect on real-life acts of violence. (If you're a member of the Australian Christian Lobby, you may want to sit down for a minute.) Not only did the study find zero link between the consumption of violent games and real-life violent acts, but violent games could actually be responsible for a decrease in youth violence.

The new study was conducted by clinical psychologist Christopher Ferguson from Stetson University in the US. Ferguson analysed the rates of youth violence from 1996 to 2011 and compared it to the consumption of violent video games over the same time period (based on the appraisal of ESRB ratings experts).

Rather than violent games leading to an increase in youth violence, Ferguson's data suggests that the opposite may be true.

Image credit: Journal of Communication

Data comparing videogame violence consumption to youth violence in society demonstrate an inverse relationship, at least for the years 1996 through 2011 when both sets of data were available. This relationship appears to be remarkably strong...Youth violence dropped precipitously, despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of videogames.

The paper claims that this decrease cannot be explained through an incapacitation effect due to incarceration rates. However, it also notes that the comparatively short time frame may have skewed results. In any event, it seems clear that a link between the consumption of violent video games and real-life violent acts simply doesn't exist. Surprise, surprise.

According to Ferguson the results of the study could help to shift society's focus away from violet media and see additional resources devoted to the real causes of violence — namely poverty, education/vocational disparities and mental health.

Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When [Journal of Communication]


Comments

    As for its influence over toxic behaviour on the internet...

    The use of the word 'relationship' masks the disconnect between correlation and causation.
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/kjh2110/the-10-most-bizarre-correlations

    Though, yes, this appears to be good news for us, against those that are proposing a positive correlation between gaming and RL violence.

      I was thinking the same thing. Wouldn't you get a similar result by comparing movie violence consumption to youth violence?

      Last edited 10/11/14 2:48 pm

        Assuming movie violence consumption increased like that, yep. You could probably also make a similar chart by counting the number of swears in The Simpsons.

        Last edited 10/11/14 2:50 pm

    but violent games could actually be responsible for a decrease in youth violence

    I really hate the catch cry of the skeptics, but "correlation does not equal causation" is a useful device for writing solid articles. Not arguing the data and the relationship, but I really dislike even qualified statements of this nature - especially when the rest of the article makes clear that this is the kind of conclusion that you can't really draw. The abstracts says it best - Results suggest that societal consumption of media violence is not predictive of increased societal violence rates.

    My favourite hypothesis at the moment comes from studies examining the relationship between crime rates and environmental lead pollution. There are some quite compelling studies which suggest that the reduction in Pb in the environment may have a had a significant role in the reduction in crime. The data show the same relationship across multiple locations in multiple countries.

    New Study Finds Games Might Actually Curb The Amount Of Sex You Get.

    I've tested this rigorously for many years and the hypothesis was correct.

      But your sample size for sex was zero

        And my sample size for games was roughly 2,000. Thus proving it beyond any doubt. :P

    In any event, it seems clear that a link between the consumption of violent video games and real-life violent acts simply doesn’t exist. Surprise, surprise.

    But a link between women as objects in games and objectifying women / misogyny in the real world still exists right?

      Someone will spend paragraphs rationalizing how it's different to avoid an holistic approach to the topic.

    sublimation
    [suhb-luh-mey-shuh n]
    noun
    1. Psychology. the diversion of the energy of a sexual or other biological impulse from its immediate goal to one of a more acceptable social, moral, or aesthetic nature or use.

    Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_%28psychology%29

    Now, until my workplace approves my requests for motivational random bear-attacks (or at the very least surprise fake assaults from android meat-puppet punching bags) to sublimate tens of thousands of years of evolutionary imperative coursing through my blood, driving me with the instinct to hunt, fight, and kill... video games will have to do as a weak substitute.

      Just don't get confused and suddenly vaporise yourself instead.

      2. Chemistry. the act, fact, or process of subliming (def 9).

    I have my doubts about this one. As other people have pointed out, correlation is not causation and this seems like a convenient match, unless there is some part of the study that identifies the youth violence rate as being those same youths that played more violent games in the absence of all other determining factors.

    Last edited 10/11/14 4:38 pm

    I wont be saying games reduce violence because I doubt that, however I will use this as further evidence it isn't harming us either.

    So having a safe outlet for violent tenancies means that less actual violence is happening? Makes sense to me, get it out of your system so you can remain clam in real life

    Correlation does not imply causation. You don't get to ignore that just because the correlation in this study supports your viewpoint. Don't be another Fox News. Be better.

    Of course there is a decrease in violence, people are inside playing the latest CoD instead of being outside and getting into trouble

    According to Ferguson the results of the study could help to shift society’s focus away from violet media and see additional resources devoted to the real causes of violence — namely poverty, education/vocational disparities and mental health.

    But if those things are the causes of violence, shouldn't we have seen significant improvement there corresponding with the improvement in levels of violence? I guess I haven't done a study of my own or anything but those problems seem to me to be as bad or worse than they were in the mid 90s.

    Last edited 11/11/14 9:30 am

    I'd say the swathe of consistently unclear data on violence in video games indicates the reaction to it is subjective.

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