With tragic mass shootings happening in the United States at an alarming rate, some American politicians have their fingers pointing towards one direction. They believe that violent video games are to blame for these horrific tragedies.
Florida lawmaker Jared Moskowitz, for example, commented about the Broward County, Florida high school shooting, describing 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz as someone who “was prepared to pick off students like it’s a video game.” 17 lives were lost because of the attack.
Are video games to blame in these mass shootings?
Meanwhile, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was even more specific with his words as he lambasted popular culture. Following a shooting that happened in Marshall County High School that claimed 2 lives, Bevin said:
“We can’t celebrate death in video games, celebrate death in TV shows, celebrate death in movies, celebrate death in musical lyrics and remove any sense of morality and sense of higher authority and then expect that things like this are not going to happen.”
The perpetrator was Gabriel Ross Parker – who is merely 15 years of age.
A researcher, however, believes otherwise.
In an article published online by PopMech, Stetson University psychology professor Christopher J. Ferguson said that there is “no evidence to support these claims”.
Ferguson, who has spent about 15 years researching about violent video games, said such connection is actually a “myth”.
There are two reasons why some tend to condemn video game violence.
“So why are so many policymakers inclined to blame violent video games for violence? There are two main reasons.
“The first is the psychological research community’s efforts to market itself as strictly scientific. This led to a replicationcrisis instead, with researchers often unable to repeat the results of their studies. Now, psychology researchers are reassessing their analyses of a wide range of issues – not just violent video games, but implicit racism, power poses and more.
“The other part of the answer lies in the troubled history of violent video game research specifically. Beginning in the early 2000s, some scholars, anti-media advocates and professional groups like the APA began working to connect a methodologically messy and often contradictory set of results to public health concerns about violence. This echoed historical patterns of moral panic, such as 1950s concerns about comic books and Tipper Gore’s efforts to blame pop and rock music in the 1980s for violence, sex and satanism.
“Particularly in the early 2000s, dubious evidence regarding violent video games was uncritically promoted. But over the years, confidence among scholars that violent video games influence aggression or violence has crumbled.”
Ferguson points outs extreme video games have little to no impact to children’s behaviors.
The professor further went on:
“My own research has examined the degree to which violent video games can – or can’t – predict youth aggression and violence. In a 2015 meta-analysis, I examined 101 studies on the subject and found that violent video games had little impact on kids’ aggression, mood, helping behavior or grades.
“Two years later, I found evidence that scholarly journals’ editorial biases had distorted the scientific record on violent video games. Experimental studies that found effects were more likely to be published than studies that had found none. This was consistent with others’ findings. As the Supreme Court noted, any impacts due to video games are nearly impossible to distinguish from the effects of other media, like cartoons and movies.”
In fact, it may be the other way around, Ferguson claims.
“Spikes in violent video games’ popularity are well-known to correlate with substantial declines in youth violence – not increases. These correlations are very strong, stronger than most seen in behavioral research. More recent research suggests that the releases of highly popular violent video games are associated with immediate declines in violent crime, hinting that the releases may cause the drop-off.”
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