Long-Term Research Study Underscores Again No Link Between Violent Video Games And Real-World Violence

When it comes to news outlets, politicians, and uninformed consumers there are those that believe that violent video games cause people to be violent. Many point to tragedies such as Sandy Hook as a way to validate this particular belief despite studies that say otherwise. In fact, recent studies state that violent games help reduce real-life violence. However, one researcher says that there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between violent movies and games with real-world violence.

In a paper published in the Journal of Communication this past Wednesday, Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University revealed his findings that there is no clear relation between violent media and the frequency of societal violence. To reach this conculsion, he conducted two studies that sought to answer whether or not violence in media correlated with violent rates in society. The first study looked at movie violence and homicide rates between 1920 and 2005 while the second study focused on the consumption of videogame violence and any relation it might have to youth violence rates from 1996-2011.

In the first study, results showed that movie violence and homicide rates were not related and no permanent relation between them. He did discover that, during the mid-20th century, movie violence was associated, somewhat, with the higher homicide rates of the time. However, after 1990, that association was reversed when movie violence started to be associated with fewer homicides; a similar situation, prior to the 1940s, when movie violence was related to fewer homicides rather than more.

Ferguson’s second study, which focused on video game violence, used the ratings of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to help estimate the violent content for the most popular video games for 1996-2011. The estimates for video game violence consumption were then compared to federal data on youth violence rates for the same time period which corresponded to a decline in youth violence. However, Ferguson concluded that the correlations between the two were more likely due to chance rather than video games being the cause of the decline.

He went on to say that studies which focused on laboratory experiments and aggression as a response to media violence does not match with real-life exposure. His conclusion is that focusing on media violence as a cause for societal violence may not be the place to look at. Instead, studies should focus more on factors such as poverty, educational disparities, and even lack of mental health treatment availability to help figure out the root causes of societal violence.

"Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health," said Ferguson. "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."