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.
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]