While the jury is still out on whether video game violence harms teenagers, a new study uses a novel method to consider the conflicting evidence — comparing evidence presented in a Supreme Court case.
A review of the case files showed that more evidence was presented to the court that suggested violent video games were harmful to teens.
“We took what I think is a very objective approach: we looked at the individuals on both sides of the debate and determined if they actually have expertise in the subjects in which they call themselves experts,” said Brad Bushman, Ph.D., co-author of the study.
“The evidence suggests that those who argue violent video games are harmful have a lot more experience and stronger credentials than those who argue otherwise.”
The case involved will determine if the state of California can ban the sale or rental of violent video games to children under 18. The court is expected to rule on the case this summer.
Groups supporting and opposing the law have filed what are called briefs of amicus curiae — briefs by individuals who believe that are experts on the issue. Analysis of the briefs found that 115 people believe video violence is harmful and 82 who believe the games are benign.
For each of the signers of the two briefs, the researchers calculated how many articles and books they published on issues relating to violence and aggression in general and on media violence specifically.
The results showed that 60 percent of the individuals who believe video game violence is harmful have published at least one scientific study on aggression or violence in general, compared to only 17 percent of the brief signers who believe the activity is innocuous.
In a further analysis, researchers examined where the signers of both briefs have published their research. The best academic journals have the highest standards and the most rigorous peer review, so only the best research should be published there, Bushman said.
The researchers used a well-established formula, called the impact factor, to determine the top-tier journals, and then calculated how many signers had published in these journals.
Results showed that signers of the brief arguing detrimental impact had published more than 48 times more studies in top-tier journals than did those who signed the opposing brief.
“That’s a staggering difference,” Bushman said. “It provides strong support for the argument that video game violence is indeed harmful.”
Bushman said he and his colleagues did this study because they wanted to show that there is a way for the Supreme Court to evaluate the contradictory evidence it has been presented.
“The justices were presented with two briefs, arguing opposite sides, and they may think the contradictory briefs simply cancel each other out,” Bushman said.
The research will be published in May in the Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy.
Source: Ohio State University