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Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, have concluded that violent video games do not increase violent tendencies in teenagers.
The results were posted to Royal Society Open Science, and declared as “one of the most definitive” studies to date, utilizing “a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games.“
“Unlike previous research on the topic, which relied heavily on self-reported data from teenagers, the study used information from parents and carers to judge the level of aggressive behavior in their children. Additionally, the content of the video games was classified using the official Pan European Game Information (EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (US) rating system, rather than only player’s perceptions of the amount of violence in the game.“
Lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski (Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute) criticizes other studies, saying:
“The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”
Co-author Dr. Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University goes even further, stating “Our findings suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games.”
To help prevent this, the researchers preregistered- publicly showing their hypothesis, methods, and analysis techniques before any work began. Przybylski spoke highly of the registered study approach:
“Part of the problem in technology research is that there are many ways to analyse the same data, which will produce different results. A cherry-picked result can add undue weight to the moral panic surrounding video games. The registered study approach is a safe-guard against this.”
“Researchers should use the registered study approach to investigate other media effects phenomena. There are a lot of ideas out there like ‘social media drives depression’ and ‘technology addiction that lowers quality of life’ that simply have no supporting evidence. These topics and others that drive technological anxieties should be studied more rigorously – society needs solid evidence in order to make appropriate policy decisions.”
The test group was made up of 2,008 subjects- an equal number of parents or carers and “a nationally representative sample of British 14- and 15-year olds.“
“Teenagers completed questions on their personality and gaming behavior over the past month, while carers completed questions on their child’s recent aggressive behaviors using the widely-used Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.“
These results were then compared against one another via the “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,“ along with the “Registered Reports Protocol.” The final results concluded that “no correlation was found between playing video games and aggressive behavior in teenagers.“
However, researchers did emphasize that “this does not mean that some mechanics and situations in gaming do not provoke angry feelings or reactions in players.“
Przybylski explains how “Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behavior. This would be an interesting avenue for further research.”
If you want to read the full report, you can find it here.