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Scholars are (still) calling on APA to stop linking violent games to aggression

Scholars are (still) calling on APA to stop linking violent games to aggression

August 18, 2015 | By Alex Wawro

A group that includes psychologists, criminologists and self-professed media scholars continues to call for the American Psychological Assocation to reconsider its stance on how violent media affects people in the wake of the APA's recent affirmation of a link between violent video games and heightened levels of aggressive behavior.

The group delivered an open letter to the APA in 2013 welcoming its (then recent) decision to appoint a task force to reevaluate the APA's 2005 stance that violent media causes increased aggression, but expressing concerns that the task force's methods might be "misleading" and "overgeneralized" based on "weak or inconsistent evidence."

Now one of the members of that group, Stetson University psychology professor Chris Ferguson, has reached out to Game Informer to reiterate his concerns about the APA's methodology in the wake of its Task Force On Violent Media's conclusion that playing violent video games is a consistent "risk factor" for both decreased empathy and increased aggressive behavior (though not necessarily violence.)

"The evidence linking violent games to aggression is honestly a lot less clear than the APA report would have one believe," Ferguson told Game Informer. "Further, the task force appeared to have been selected from among scholars with clear anti-media views (two had previously signed an amicus brief supporting attempts to regulate violent video games in the Brown v EMA 2011 Supreme Court case for instance.)"

He goes on to claim that a number of recent studies have found no link between violent video games and increases in aggression, which is especially notable in light of the APA's recent call for "developers to design games that are appropriate to users’ age and psychological development." 

For more information about how the task force conducted its research, you should read the report [PDF] in full. You can read more of Ferguson's arguments against the APA's stance over on Game Informer.

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