A recently released long-term study in the US found no link between violent movies and video games and the violence that occurs within society.
Led by psychologist Christopher Ferguson, the research brings into question the methodology used in previous studies that found that violence and video games may be related.
Ferguson said that a number of lab-based studies concerning violence looked into the aggression found in test subjects through “less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering nonpainful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.”
In addition, his study found that previous studies often “provide exposure to brief clips of media, rather than full narrative experiences” and “the resultant aggressive behaviors are also outside a real-world context in which the aggression appears to be sanctioned by the researchers themselves.”
One historical study examined in Ferguson’s study looked at the relationship between violent films and violence within society, paying close attention to the number of violent acts that occurred in popular movies between 1920 and 2005. The study discovered “a rough U pattern” during that time period, while violence within society occurred in a different pattern, with violence in films increasing in the last half of the 20th century, even while societal violence showed a reduction.
The second study used by Ferguson employed data from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to examine the violence occurring within video games between 1996 and 2011. That data was then used in comparison to youth violence in the same time frame, finding that a relationship existed between a decrease in youth violence and an increase in violent video games, writes James Vincent for The Independent.
During this time period “youth violence dropped precipitously”, the researchers write, “despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of videogames.”
Ferguson suggested that the issue of correlating violent video games to societal violence in the media may be due to “limited amount of resources and attention” that society can devote to “the problem of reducing crime”.
In addition, he states that the identification of the wrong problem could in fact”distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health.”
Ferguson writes: “This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.”
The US Supreme Court appears to agree with these findings. In the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Court ruled that laws which restricted the sale of video games with a mature rating to minors were unconstitutional. According to the Court, video games are protected under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, reports Jon Stinchcomb for The BG News.
However, not everyone agrees with that ruling.
“If a parent doesn’t want her kids to buy violent video games … it should be the parent” who makes that decision, Justice Elena Kagan said in a talk to students last month at her alma mater, Princeton University
In Connecticut, 15-year-old Matthew Rios focused on the effects of video game violence on society for his school project, finding through his research that violent video games affect certain areas of the brain, which can cause emotional and aggressive behavior to occur within young people.