Thursday, May 15, 2008

Harvard Schmarvard!

So I sat down to my computer this morning with my cup of coffee and scanned the news headlines. I nearly spewed it all over the screen when I read this one:

Violent Games Myth: The notion that violent video games turn kids into aggressors has been dispelled (Harvard researchers' findings)

Oh, Puh-Lease!! There are just so many things wrong with this that I can hardly stand it.

First of all, if that had been credited to a less-"impressive" source, say, George Bush, or Kathie Lee Gifford, or the producers of Grand Theft Auto, would it even have made the morning headlines? Ignore the status name there, folks, and read the article objectively.

I provided the link above for you to read, but just in case you are too lazy to click on it (trust me, I understand), here are some direct quotes (in blue) from the article, along with my two cents (in black).

Penned by Harvard Med School researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olsen,
"Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do" refutes common conceptions about the causal relationship between
violent video games and violent behavior.

In other words, playing a few hours of GTA IV will not result in your kid stealing a car, careening through traffic and gunning down civilians.
Uhm, no, actually this is NOT an accurate translation of that opening paragraph. I don't think they were talking about "playing a few hours" and "gunning down civilians." These are assumptions! Embellishments! Exaggerations! I can practically see the reporter smirking as he (or she? Why do I feel like it's a he? Ha! -- went back and checked. HE.) wrote this with one eye on the clock, anxious to get home and play his PS3. He was probably chewing on his lead-laced pen as he thought.

"What I hope people realize is that there is no data to support the simple-minded concerns that video games cause violence," Kutner told Reuters News Service in an interview.
Oh, really, Kutner? You're gonna go there? "Simple-minded"?! I admit that makes me want to read the actual research paper, because that's a pretty strong statement and I'm assuming he thinks he can back it up. But to my ears, it reeks of researcher bias. (can ears detect reek? I'm unfortunately fond of mixed analogies. You know what I mean.)

Their findings are a result of a two-year study of over 1,200 middle-school students. Unlike most studies set in sterile lab environments using psychological triggers, much of their data was collected by -- brace yourself -- actually talking to their young subjects.
Ok, so we're supposed to be so impressed that you TALKED to your subjects? Like, dude, like, so, like NOT! How many of us actually see our own behavior accurately and don't bend the truth to our advantage now and then? Uh, huh. And how many middle-school students are able to do that? Especially when questioned by a potentially-biased researcher who is quite likely a fan of the games? Did they ask the parents or teachers or neighbors anything about these kids? Did they look at factual evidence or behavior reports or field notes or standardized questionnaires or anything that could be objectively measured? Is this entire report based on self-reports and subjective measures? And that's supposed to impress me??

The researchers did note a link between mature-rated titles and aggressive behavior, as a significant number of both boys and girls who played M-rated titles
reported getting into more fights over the past year than kids who didn't play
M-rated games.
Ok. Now we're getting somewhere. This "link", did anyone look into that a little more thoroughly? Is it possible that THIS is the type of thing (along with desensitization, normalizing effects, learned behavior patterns, etc.etc.ETC!) that we might be concerned about instead of only whether or not the kids are "gunning down civilians"?

However, Kutner and Olson point out that this simply demonstrates a correlation between violent games and aggression, not that one causes the other, suggesting the possibility that the kids attracted to mature-rated games were naturally aggressive to begin with.
Keep going, you two. Yes, correlation does not imply causation, but it often points to some possible, unknown relationship worthy of further study. And furthermore, they are very quick to point out their study did not find a direct, causal effect....BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THE OPPOSITE IS, THEREFORE, TRUE. They didn't find a causal effect in THIS study. That's it! They can't make a blanket denial for any connection in general! The subject has not been thoroughly exhausted & laid to rest as the headlines seem to imply.

Yahoo! Headlines and Mr. Reporter, I'm ashamed of you. And, frankly, a little embarrassed for you. It is possible this study has more credibility than I'm giving it here...but you made it sound absolutely ridiculous.

I'm gonna go walk around the block. When I get back I would like to see a factually-based, reliable weather forecast on my homepage, also, if that's not too much to ask. Quit messing with us.

1 comment:

Jujyfruit said...

Sorry the sentence breaks are so wonky! Looks fine on the preview screen, so I'm not sure how to fix it. Just pretend they are me gasping for breaths and swallowing violently and searching for words to convey my outrage, mmmkay?