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December 4, 2006

New Med Study Shows Some Linkage Between Violent Games and Behavior

CNN and other outlets are reporting on a study that that links aggressive activity by teens to violent video games.  A substantial link between the two is the holy grail of those who are seeking to ban the sale of such games to children.  This study, conducted by Dr. Vincent Matthews of the Indiana School of Medicine in Indianapolis, provides details only for short term effects.  Among the various grounds courts use to defeat bans against game sales to minors is the lack of a link between aggressive behavior and the games.  This same lack of a link helps defeat causes against movie production companies when their products are charged with inciting violence.

The study looked at minute changes in brain activity in 44 teens using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after they had played games for 30 minutes.  Half played a violent game where they shot weapons and the other half played a car and speed game.  Those who played the shooting game showed more activity in the part of the brain that handles emotional activity and less in the part that handles control and focus.

The study does not use random teens, however.  Those studied were diagnosed with disruptive brain disorder (DBD) and suggests that the variation in the reaction to the games may be due to differences in brain structure.  There is quite a bit more to this study than the press suggests.  Most stories generalize the connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior compared to the type of individuals studied and the detailed conclusions.  This is not to say that there might not be a link between violent video games and violent behavior, simply that a lot more work needs to be done before a court will use this as a basis to ban a game or award liability.  A lot more work.

The study was presented at the 88th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.  The press release with more qualifying details about the study is here.

December 4, 2006 | Permalink


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