Saturday, May 5, 2018

Thank goodness for internet archives

Sometimes the internet archives remind us of nonsense that we should never take seriously, and of those who profit off of such nonsense (e.g., Dave Grossman). This opinion piece, first published about 18 years ago, offers a thorough debunking of both Grossman's reading of military theory as well as his wild claims about violent media and real-life violence. As I have stated before, I would not be at all surprised by any newly published report showing some mild incremental increase in aggressive behavior following exposure to some contemporary form of media violence (including video games). The measurements we have available in lab experiments are ones that are fairly mild to begin with (these days usually blasts of noxious noise, hot sauce, or negative evaluations - any of which are as far from violence as one can imagine), and even if we had rather strong effect sizes to work with, we would not be able to make claims about real-life violence from such research. Regrettably, the Grossmans of the world tend to get the attention, the talk show appearances, and the book deals and even more regrettably get taken seriously. I wish that it were not so. Wishful thinking will not make the problem go away. What I can do is advocate, as well as I can, as an educator and very obscure researcher for a sensible reading of the media violence research literature. There is apparently a middle ground if one is willing to try to make even a mild attempt to view that literature objectively. One will find that many perfectly qualified researchers running generally okay empirical studies and meta-analyses disagree about the extent that violent media influence aggression, and like with any social science literature, one will find that a complete reading of the published and unpublished research reports shows conflicting and often contradictory findings. In other words, we should offer careful conclusions given what the available research tells us. In doing so, we should make it clear that at least as far as real-life violence is concerned, there is nothing to fear from the latest action film or FPS game.

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