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Research: No Significant Relationship Between Violent Games, School Shootings

Research: No Significant Relationship Between Violent Games, School Shootings

January 23, 2009 | By Eric Caoili

January 23, 2009 | By Eric Caoili
More: Console/PC

In his recently published research, Texas A&M International University assistant professor Christopher Ferguson says that "no significant relationship between violent video game exposure and school shooting incidents" has been found in existing scientific literature so far.

Titled "The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic?", the report was published in the latest Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling.

"The wealth of evidence, from social science research on video games, to governmental reports and legal cases, to real world data on crime, fails to establish a link between violent video games and violent crimes, including school shootings," says Ferguson, in a report viewed by Gamasutra and originally discussed by GamePolitics.

He continues, "The link has not merely been unproven; I argue that the wealth of available data simply weighs against any causal relationship."

Ferguson specifically references 2007's Virginia Tech massacre and Utah Trolley Stop mall shooting, as well as the Northern Illinois University shooting in 2008 in his research. He notes that no evidence tying the perpetrators of those incidents to violent video games was found, despite media speculation and dubious research findings claiming otherwise.

"It has been observed that a small group of researchers have been most vocal in promoting the anti-game message, oftentimes ignoring research from other researchers, or failing to disclose problems with their own research," says Ferguson.

"As some researchers have staked their professional reputation on anti-game activism, it may be difficult for these researchers to maintain scientific objectivity regarding the subject of their study."

He adds, "Similarly, it may be argued that granting agencies are more likely to provide grant money when a potential problem is identified, rather than for studying a topic with the possibility that the outcome may reveal that there is nothing to worry about.

The TAMIU assistant professor of Psychology admits that it is possible that school shooters could represent a particular "at risk" subgroup of individuals who might be affected by violent video games, but most research conducted so far has only studied children or adults not considered "at risk."

Even if future research supported that theory, however, he says, "Violent video games, then, could be arguably synonymous to peanut butter: a perfectly harmless indulgence for the vast majority, but potentially harmful to a tiny minority."

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