26 May 2011

Violence and Video Games Again

A study has been published linking actual (well maybe) proof that video gamed desensitize the brain to violence.  At least according to an article at University of Missouri.   Basically, one group played violent video games and the other non violent. They were then shown photographs and the brain's reaction to the photos was measured. (Why does that evoke a mental picture of Alex in theatre watching movies in A Clockwork Orange?) Those who had played violent games had less reaction to say a picture of a man holding a gun in another person's mouth than the group that played non violent ones.  They followed that up with setting people up with an opponent. They could give their opponent a blast of sound as an attack.  Again those that had been playing the more violent games gave louder blasts to their opponent.

It may be they are correct, it may be that violent games desensitize us to violence. God knows that has been proven in real world situations such as children growing up in war torn countries, in violent neighborhoods and even in violent households. Studies have been done again and again on those. Studies have been inconclusive on violent television and movies as one is passive and does not feel like your life is in immediate danger.  But one would THINK a university would write up such a hot topic even in their own in a more professional and scientifically accepted manner. There is even a Skinnerian reference of being rewarded for violence perhaps being a cause. (NO kidding, I am not a fan of Skinner but I do admit he had some damn good points and was very thorough in his research and testing - too detached from a parental point of view.)  

A few points in the article immediately raised my eyebrows.  First there were 70 young adults taking part in the study, one assumes college students since there tends to be a ready supply of them at a University. There was no mention background vetting, are  they football players or members of some other athletic team for a physical contact type sport, were they gamers already, do they know a thumbpad from a control stick, what sort of movies and shows do they watch and what was their home life and upbringing like ?  Was there a control group made up of similar people?

At one point it is mentioned rather offhandedly that the subjects that  " had already spent a lot of time playing violent video games before the study showed small brain response to the violent photos, regardless of which type of game they played in the lab."     By stating you not KNOW if these people were already desensitized, it indicates that the a NORM has not been set.  Or if it is set subjects were not tested beforehand to ensure they fell into that norm prior to the test.    Perhaps these subjects re of a personality type that does not react as strongly to violence from the beginning and that is why they LIKE violent video games.  

There is some indication in the article that at least some have played games in the past.  Much mention is made of the violent games they tested, but none of the nonviolent that were used.  Were they competitive, cooperative, team vs team, dating sim, or are we talking Farmville type cooperative where you really might as well be playing alone except that the company wants to addict more players so require friends to complete a task as opposed actually NEEDING more than one person to complete it.

The next thing they failed to mention at all is a control group - a group that does not play any video games at all and how they react to the same photos and games.  It is this type of sloppy testing or at least reporting of findings that just fuel an argument that some people already believe to be true and give more ammo to the naysayers.  What is even MORE interesting is that the study has not even been PUBLISHED and yet here are the 'experts' running out to spout their findings and set the gamin industry and parents in an uproar yet again.

 Here is a study for you, how about the desensitizing of any claim regarding human behavior and movies, video games and other past-times from sloppy scientific studies?  I think you may find that it is related to the "Boy who cried Wolf Syndrome". Those who are on the fence will remain so until you demonstrate that the study was non-biased and performed according to pure scientific method standards,  I will wait and see what the actual study results that are written up in the  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. But by rushing out with a poorly supported conclusion in an article, It already makes me suspect that the study was approached with less than a detached air. Which seems to be the case these days in almost every field, to make the test fit the hypothesis. And that my friends is why people do not believe in Global Warming, in evolution and in studies of violence in video games.  Too many 'scientists' seem to have an agenda that is tied to some commercial or organizational cause. Now excuse me I have to go PK a bunch of  gamers.

1 comment:

kingnido said...

it doesn't sound like a great study, blasting sound at others is a bit different from firing something that could actually hurt a person