Crusaders against video games like to cite studies that link violent games with aggressive behavior. A new meta-analysis of that research suggests it’s much weaker than activists, politicians, and researchers themselves claim.
Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Texas A&M International University, looked at 25 published studies on the link between video games and measures of aggressive behavior. In a report published in the January-February issue of the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, he finds “questionable or inconsistent evidence” in the studies most often trotted out to damn Grand Theft Auto, Hitman, and other blood-drenched diversions. Although playing games can encourage people to think “aggressive thoughts,” he concludes, there is no statistically significant association between playing violent games and committing violent acts.
“There is a leap of faith made linking aggressive behavior, which is very broad, with violent criminal behavior,” explains Ferguson. Researchers tend to use measures of aggression that have no demonstrated connection to actual violence, such as heart rate, brain waves, and subjects’ willingness to deliver “noise blasts” to other people in the lab. And even when such studies yield weak associations or conflicting results, the researchers tend to present their findings as positive.