Studies connecting video games with real world violence have historically been... conflicting. It's almost as if the human brain is complex and doesn't dictate behavior based entirely on one particular stimulus.
The most recent finding out there leans towards a direct connection. But it also attempts to avoid the causation/correlation problem of whether violent video games make kids more aggressive, or if aggressive kids simply prefer violent games.
The research indicates children and teens who spend more time playing violent video games become more aggressive than peers with less exposure — even when accounting for how aggressive they were at the beginning of the study.
The research - conducted by Craig Anderson and colleagues at Iowa State University in Ames - was published in the medical journal Pediatrics.
Data was obtained from three long-term studies of children aged 9-18 from the US and Japan. They consisted of 181 Japanese students ages 12-15; 1,050 Japanese students ages 13-18; and 364 US kids ages 9-12.
Anderson said he began his collaboration with Japanese researchers on the project to compare how cultural differences may affect the connection.
"The culture is so different and their overall violence rate is so much lower than in the US," Anderson said. "The argument has been made – it's not a very good argument, but it's been made by the video game industry — that all our research on violent video game effects must be wrong because Japanese kids play a lot of violent video games and Japan has a low violence rate."
The studies themselves differed in method and timeframe the children were watched, reports CNN. The US children listed their three favorite video games and how often they played them. With the younger Japanese group, researchers looked at how often the kids played five different genres of games. And the older Japanese group gauged the violence in their favorite game genres and how often they played them.
But for every group, the researchers claim, children with more exposure to violent video games became more aggressive over time than their peers who had less exposure.
"It is important to realize that violent video games do not create school shooters," ISU professor Douglas Gentile said. "They create opportunities to be vigilant for enemies, to practice aggressive ways of responding to conflict and to see aggression as acceptable. In practical terms, that means that when bumped in the hallway, children begin to see it as hostile and react more aggressively in response to it. Violent games are certainly not the only thing that can increase children's aggression, but these studies show that they are one part of the puzzle in both America and Japan."
On the flip side of the coin, other studies could find no link between video game violence and physical violence. There was even a study last May that suggested video games actually lowered aggression levels.
This helps affirm El Reg's hypothesis that video game studies have a direct link to finding whatever the researcher wants to find. ®