Video games can promote aggression in young people, study says

For decades, a debate has raged over whether there’s a link between violent video games and violent behavior. Now, new research suggests a small but “reliable” correlation between violent video games and overtly aggressive behavior in adolescents and preteens.

The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pulled two dozen studies conducted between 2010 and 2017 on this relationship. “Our research aims to provide the most current and compelling responses to key criticisms on this topic,” lead author Jay Hull, a social psychologist and dean of social science at Dartmouth College, announced Monday. “Based on our findings, we feel it is clear that violent video game play is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression.”

Researchers hoped to improve upon the current body of fallible statistics by weeding out studies that failed to control for several factors, including age and baseline aggression, and accepted only studies that measured the link between violent video games and violent actions, as opposed to thoughts or speech.

Hull and his team found that such games affected 0.08 percent of participants, considered by many skeptics as relatively — if not insignificantly — small. “According to traditional ways of looking at these numbers, it’s not a large effect,” Hull tells Scientific American, but argues that it is “reliable — it’s not by chance and not inconsequential.”

Ethnicity may also play a larger roll than scientists previously thought. The meta-analysis found that white participants were influenced the most, while the games seemed to have little impact on Hispanics.

Co-author Dr. James D. Sargent, professor of pediatric oncology at Dartmouth, argues that those skeptical of the influence of violent games are basing their interpretations on flawed studies.

“I hope our findings prompt [them] to re-evaluate their position,” he wrote.

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