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Controversial study about video game violence retracted

  • January 28, 2017


A study entitled “Boom, Headshot!” that linked skill in first-person shooters to skill in real-life firearms marksmanship has been retracted after other researchers discovered inconsistencies in the study’s data set.

The study, conducted through Ohio State University by Professor Brad Bushman, was published in 2012 and claimed that people who played FPS for just 20 minutes saw vastly improved marksmanship skills in the short term, and that extensive play led to sustained improvement.

Researchers at Villanova University in the United States and Ruhr University Bochum in Germany disputed the findings of the study and were able to highlight inconsistencies in the data. Ohio State University’s committee of inquiry looked into the issue and sent a statement to the publication Retraction Watch.

The University was “alerted to irregularities in some of the variables of the data set… in January 2015,” and was “unable to confirm the values of the questioned variables because the original research records had been taken from the Ohio State University.” Professor Bushman has replicated the study and it is currently under review for republishing.

Biased studies lead to biased answers

Bushman has published other studies questioning the effects of violent video games, while the disputing doctors, Dr. Patrick Markey and Dr. Malte Elson, have published research pointing to the opposite. Markey’s 2014 research suggested that violent video games can actually help reduce crime.

Both parties seem to have a stake in the matter, with Bushman looking to prove the negative effects of gaming and Elson and Markey the exact opposite. Even if Bushman’s study is proven accurate after review, all it will prove is that video games focused on aiming better prepare people to aim things in real life. As we look at these studies, it’s important to remember that they often prove their ideas in very specific situations that may not translate to the real world or start from a perspective of confirming an existing bias.

We’re looking forward to seeing if Bushman’s re-created study stands up to examination and what other researches in the field will have to say about it once published.

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