According to a recent study carried out by the Oxford Internet Institute, there is no discernible link between violent video games and aggression in teenagers. The findings of the study have been published in Royal Society Open Science, detailing the extensive data collection and confidently asserting that no tangible links are to be found between playing mature video games and violently aggressive behaviors in adolescents.
Lead by professor Andrew Przybylski, the study analyzed data collected from just over 2,000 cases, incorporating information reported from parents and carers. Unlike previous studies in the same field, Oxford deliberately requested the observations of the teenagers be given by these carers as opposed to self-reported. The study claims that by collecting data from an outside source the behaviors reported would form a more rounded picture of the teenager’s attitudes and actions.
To ensure the validity of its findings, the Oxford Internet Institute used games with official classifications given by the Pan European Game Information (EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (U.S.) rating committees. This is an improvement on other studies of the same subject as previously the level of violence in the content was decided by the player’s subjective viewpoint rather than a legally recognized institution.
Co-author of the study Dr. Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University enforced a preregistration approach which required the researchers to publicly register their hypothesis and data collection methods before the study began. Weinstein and Przybylski hoped this would demonstrate that no cherry picking of information had been done to support a desired outcome of the study, an issue both researchers are aware has caused public perception issues in past studies.
In a statement released by Oxford University on February 13, Przybylski notes that while it has been a popular stance to claim a connection between violent video games and teenage aggression, Oxford’s findings along with others have proved that this is false. No correlation was found during the study, though it was noted that certain game mechanics may still cause small rises in angry reactions from players. Przybylski goes on to say that these reactions were noted anecdotally and mostly amounted to slightly anti-social behaviors such as trash-talking, trolling, and competitiveness.
The study was conducted on British 14 to 15-year-olds, split relatively evenly between males and females. The ground of teenagers was chosen specifically to align with census data, ensuring a variety of geographical locations and socioeconomic class.
You can read the full study, “Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents” aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report,” on the Royal Society Open Science site here.