The authors start by reviewing the fact that debates about video games often end up in court and they also talk about how prior case law has set standards for evaluating scientific evidence and expert opinion. They introduce two competing theories about video games:
- One, that video games teach people to be violent and antisocial and are therefore, harmful
- Two, that video games provide a socially acceptable outlet for violence and are therefore helpful or at least have no detrimental effect on society.
For the first theory, there is some evidence that playing violent video games makes people likely to wait longer before being helpful to another person (ie: someone on crutches in need of assistance) but this was also found in people after watching a violent movie. They also found evidence that some people are more likely to play violent games (men and people with low self-esteem or personality disorders) These lines of evidence, however, clearly are not the same as a person being driven to harm another person after engaging in violent media.
For the second theory, the authors first point out that there are many studies which examined similar outcomes to the studies noted above and found no effect and no relationship between video games and behavior. Other studies have found that much stronger predictors of violent behavior include: abuse by others (such as parents), depression, personality disorders, and having delinquent peer influences.
In the end, the authors conclude as many do, by calling for more robust research. They correctly note that "correlation is not causation". Lastly they note that even if there is a measurable effect of violence on behavior, is it a large enough effect to worry about it? Rather, should not our attention be focused on more important and root cause issues like educational disparities, violence and abuse in the home/family, and adequate mental health access?
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