'Broad consensus' that violent media increase child aggression

October 6, 2014 by Jeff Grabmeier, The Ohio State University
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Image credit: Openeducation

Majorities of media researchers, parents and pediatricians agree that exposure to violent media can increase aggression in children, according to a new national study.

The study found that 66 percent of , 67 percent of parents and 90 percent of pediatricians agree or strongly agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Majorities of these groups also believed that children's aggressive behavior can be fueled by viewing games, movies, TV programs, and Internet sites. However, fewer than half agreed that violent comic books or literature would have such harmful effects on children.

"Some people claim there is no consensus about whether violent media can increase aggression in children, but this study shows that there is consensus," said Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.

"As in most areas of research, there is not complete agreement. But we found the overwhelming majority of media researchers, parents and pediatricians agree that violent media is harmful to children."

Bushman conducted the study with Carlos Cruz, a doctoral student at Ohio State, and Mario Gollwitzer, a professor at Philipps University Marburg in Germany. Their study appears online in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Bushman noted that while 66 percent of researchers agreed or strongly agreed that increased aggression, only 17 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. The remaining 17 percent were undecided.

"That means that among researchers who have an opinion, eight out of 10 agree that increase aggression," Bushman said. "That's hardly a controversy."

For the study, the researchers surveyed 371 media psychologists and communication scientists from three professional organizations; 92 members of the Council on Communication and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and a nationally representative sample of 268 American parents.

In addition to the other findings, the study revealed that majorities of researchers, pediatricians and parents agreed that there is a causal relationship between exposure to violent media and .

There was considerable disagreement among the three groups as to whether media violence was a major factor in real-life violence. That finding is not surprising, Bushman said, but it underscores one of the important implications of this study.

"With the general consensus about the harmful effects of media violence, it may seem surprising that some people still question the effects of violent media on aggression," Bushman said. "One important reason is that people don't distinguish between aggression and violence."

Violent acts are rare, he said, and are caused by many factors acting together.

"You cannot predict a shooting rampage just based on exposure to violent media or any other single factor," Bushman said.

But the evidence is clear, he said, that exposure to violent media can predict less-serious forms of aggression.

Bushman said other forces driving the continued public debate on violent media effects include: journalists reporting violent media research in a way that increases uncertainty; media industries having a vested interest in keeping the public uncertain about the link between violent media and aggression; the motivation of violent media consumers to deny they are affected; and a few who repeatedly claim that do not increase .

Explore further: What's the psychological effect of violent video games on children?

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3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2014
video games make children and adults more passive by decreasing testosterone relative to vigorous physical activity. but relative to sittingon the couch and watching cindarella, perhaps they make children more agressive.

it's remarkeable to read 'broad consensus' . broad consensus is frequently wrong.
5 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2014
But the evidence is clear, he said, that exposure to violent media can predict less-serious forms of aggression.

What evidence?

The whole study was about asking people what they believe instead of what they can prove. That's measuring the emperor's nose by vote instead of a ruler.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2014
I guess the world ended in the 30s-40s-50s-60s what with children watching The Three Stooges and all.

The violence bullshit got so bad, that in the early 70s when Moe Howard was trying to get financing for another Stooge feature that he promised the Mother's of America to not be violent. Merv Griffith interview with Moe Howard on you tube.
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 06, 2014
"Consensus" is a lousy way to do science.
Science is based on facts, not polls.
David Chase
not rated yet Oct 07, 2014
Phys.org is one of my favorite science sources. Articles like this make me wonder why. When slightly over half of "researchers" (whoever they're including in this group) say there is a link between two things and phys.org bolsters this with parents' impressions to justify calling it a "consensus" on a science based news site, I am reminded of the article (by someone without any scientific background) it also STRONGLY supported about humans being half chimpanzee, half pig. (If you haven't read it... no i'm not kidding)


In this particular article, the editor of Phys.org harshly criticized the comments of many who pointed out the obvious lack of supporting evidence. It was as though the editor had a personally vested interest and was emotionally upset.

This is reminiscent of Fox News polling its own viewers to determine the legitimacy of global climate change.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2014
Hold on guys, I think you're not reading the article correctly.

The article isn't about whether violent media causes aggression/violence. It's about what the current CONSENSUS about the effect of violent media is.

(Whether that is in line with what actually happens is only alluded to in the last pargraphs, and is not a result of this study but of other studies).
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2014
Copy editor, the quote was "general consensus," not "broad consensus." ... At any rate, two out of three is not a consensus, well, except in politics (like when Bush II claimed his tiny margin of victory over Kerry gave him a "mandate"). ... Reality doesn't support the so-called "consensus": violent crime has been falling in the US since at least 1980, which pretty well coincides with the advent of video gaming. Perhaps violent games give testoterone-driven youth an outlet for their aggression. If in fact pediatricians are seeing more aggression among pre-teens (as the near-consensus of pediatricians implles), it's likely biochemistry, not programming, is the cause.
not rated yet Oct 07, 2014
Reality doesn't support the so-called "consensus":

As they note: there is a difference between violence and aggression.

That video games cause aggression is pretty much a no-brainer. Just listen in on any MMO teamspeak channel or just watch your own heartrate while playing violent video games. This isn't surprising. Go to any soccer match from little league to premier league and you will find that the players are more aggressive during the game.
This does not, however, translate into an obvious increase in violent behavior after the game.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2014
The article isn't about whether violent media causes aggression/violence. It's about what the current CONSENSUS about the effect of violent media is.

Yes. That is what it establishes.

But...then it goes on to imply that this counts as evidence that violent media does cause agression.

I quote:

"With the general consensus about the harmful effects of media violence, it may seem surprising that some people still question the effects of violent media on aggression,"

He is basically asking a bunch of people, most of whom have never read a single meta-study on the subject, to decide whether media violence causes agression, and then calling that a reason to believe that it does. It's perfectly circular reasoning.

It's called argumentum ad populum, or in plain english: consensus fallacy.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2014
That video games cause aggression is pretty much a no-brainer. Just listen in on any MMO teamspeak channel or just watch your own heartrate while playing violent video games

Excitement or assertiveness does not equal agression. There are people who get angry over games, and people who don't, and it's often the same people depending on what mood they're in.

Frustration is also a major player in video game agression, and not the contents of the game per se - you can get angry over tetris when trying and failing time after time.

So no, it isn't a "no brainer".
5 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2014
Weird, I thought the studies on this were basically inconclusive. I do find the numbers pretty interesting though:
66% of researchers
67% of parents
90% of pediatricians

Well, we can discount the parents and pediatricians since they don't have any scientific training. That leaves the researchers, who at 66% hardly have a "broad consensus". The fact that researchers and parents have the same opinion fits pretty well with the hypothesis that they don't actually know, and are just answering the poll by gut instinct. After all, the idea that violent video games cause aggression IS highly plausible.

Also, it kind of sounds like Brad Bushman has an agenda (had a conclusion in mind). He's being pretty fast and loose with the numbers. Plus, he's in "communication and psychology". Sorry for my bias, but I have a suspicion of studies done by people not in the hard sciences - they all too frequently turn out to be bogus for one reason or another.

On the other hand, maybe it's true. Who knows.
3 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2014
By aggression are they referring to self-confidence and assertiveness? I thought these were good things.
not rated yet Oct 08, 2014
What this article so conveniently glosses over is that "broad consensus" doesn't mean actual truth or even based on fact. All studies done on this, even ones sponsored by anti-video game interests, have been 'inconclusive' at best.

At the most, competitive / agressive-natured (what they often use as "violent") games have shown to induce an adrenaline response, which in turn made some kids (usually boys) want to play more competitive / aggressive games with each other (i.e. tag, roughhousing, sports) after playing said video games, than something calm like checkers.

Nowhere has any study shown an actual correlation (much less a causation) of real violence. Thus most recent stories resort to using the more vague term "aggression". Simply put, the author needs to get his facts straight.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2014
Yeah 'fear of aggressiveness' sounds like 60s tabula rasa bullshit to me.

Some games can teach cooperation and fair play.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2014
Ah, more "consensus science" from the same people who brought you global warming.

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