Researcher Links Violent Video Games To Moral Maturity Development

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Researcher Links Violent Video Games To Moral Maturity Development

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A Canadian researcher says there is a "significant negative relationship" between playing violent video games and the development of sociomoral maturity in young teenagers.

A new report from Brock University in Canada claims that playing violent video games can have a negative impact on the development of moral reasoning and maturity in teens. Researcher Mirjana Bajovic examined 109 grade eight students from seven elementary schools in the country and found, based on their Sociomoral Reflection Measure scores, that those who played violent video games for three or more hours per day exhibited significantly lower sociomoral maturity levels than those who played for just an hour.

Both the content of the games and the time spent playing them contribute to the delayed development, according to Bajovic, as there was no correlation with the amount of time spent playing non-violent games. That would appear to run contrary to earlier research suggesting that it was the amount of time spent playing games, without "getting involved in different positive social experiences in real life," that led to delayed emotional development in some teens.

I'm not an academic by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think we necessarily need to consider this a devastating blow struck by moral panic aficonados. For one thing, a sample size of 100 is pretty tiny as these things go, and I think it's also fair to say that you're going to find wildly varying rates of "sociomoral maturity" in any group of 13-year-olds, regardless of what they do in their spare time. That's not to suggest that young teens should be sinking four or five hours a day into Call of Duty or Killzone, but I don't think this necessarily counts as conclusive.

Bajovic acknowledged that keeping teens from playing violent video games is "not realistic," but said that parents need to stay aware of what their kids are playing and for how long, and also recommended that they be encouraged to take part in activities with "different perspectives and positive role-taking opportunities," like charity work and extracurricular activities. That much, I can't argue with at all.

Source: Science Daily

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somebody needs to be handing pamphlets out to these guys before they conduct largely meaningless studies, or i have to start getting into the paid meaningless studies business

you could probably hand these kids like say, rutabegas, and then claim that rutabegas cause immoral behavior

These are not factual studies that prove anything, just another in a long line of people trying to look important by trying to hook together a bunch of numbers that look important when they're not. Games do not make people DO anything. They do not transform us into anything. Any reaction that a video game seems to get from an individual is already there and has no say in the matter as to how it's expressed. Stop doing your research backwards.

Maybe people should just follow the damn ratings on the box and we won't have these problems.

I'll tell you what makes me angry and want to punch something. This whole never-ending back and forth between people who say videogames do or don't cause violent behavior.

This should be common sense: Well-adjusted, psychologically stable people aren't influenced by videogames. The people that commit violent acts that were later connected to videogames already had other significant mental issues beforehand and should have been given psychological help a long time ago.

That's the problem, no one wants to take responsibility for not noticing or not doing anything to help these people before they lost it completely, so they find a convenient scapegoat: videogames.

mattttherman3:
Maybe people should just follow the damn ratings on the box and we won't have these problems.

But that would mean taking responsibility for their own childrearing mistakes.

And we can't have that, because that would mean its their fault that 'little darling angel' is an uncontrollable hellion.

I am not a scientist, nor a statistician, nor a researcher.... but even I can see the flaw in this research (apart from the obvious sample size etc. etc.). They've got no adequate baseline comparison.

Maybe it's just me, but anybody who's putting 4-5 hours a day into an isolationist-type thing (whether it's violent games, non-violent games or knitting) is going to be less socially mature/capable than somebody who doesn't. Duh.

At best you could use this study to support the whole "moderation is better than obsession" thingy, but apart from that, it's only real use is toilet paper.

Unfortunately, no matter how small sample size or other factors at work, the fact remains that there is one more "conclusive" statement against gaming which will undoubtedly be quoted into oblivion.

As far as I can tell, the author of the study isn't saying games make kids DO anything. Before anyone freaks out, this study measured self-reported responses from children about their game-playing habits and did a correlation study to what they scored on a standard moral reasoning test. The author is making no claims of causation, nor is this a useless study. While there is no reason to believe that violent videogames make people act violently, studying correlations between our habits and our behaviors is not a waste of time.

Now, will a bunch of people with preformed opinions about unproven assumptions use correlative studies like these and hold them up as definitive proof of their presuppositions? Yes. Does that mean we should not do the studies? No. This study is one piece of work in a larger body of behavioral studies. It should not be dammned for being a small piece of work, nor held as triumphant by those who think it proves their case.

On both ends of the spectrum, we all need to have a big glass of calm the hell down.

To be honest my problem is not with someone claiming that violent games cause x
My problem is that these people claims that ONLY violent games cause x, while violent movies and books are totally fine
When doing study check other media as well please.

P.S. Also- what exactly were those "violent games" 8th graders played, because by my book "violent" games start from M and those aren't for 8th graders

Eh, just the usual "Gaming causes violence/immorality, gaming doesn't cause violence/immorality" back-and-forth research I've seen so many times. Some people just need to remember that not every brain is wired up the same way.

...Although, anyone else want to start a petition to rename the university to Brock Samson University just to troll the guy?

blackrave:
To be honest my problem is not with someone claiming that violent games cause x
My problem is that these people claims that ONLY violent games cause x, while violent movies and books are totally fine
When doing study check other media as well please.

Please note that the study does not make causation claims, it simply looks at correlation.

Bad Player:
Causation =/= Correlation

This isn't a perfect study, but they actually seem to address that in the actual paper. You can follow some links and read the full thing. I don't think it's a stretch to see a causual relationship between "playing violent games for 3+ horus a day" and "not developing social/moral skills".

However, the study was definitely way too small, since that's probably all they could handle. There were only a couple of kids who fell into the 3+ hour group and they could have also been affected by any number of things. Reading quickly through bits of it, it doesn't really seem like the researchers involved had a strong bias going in. It sounds like they were interested in the subject and put together the best test they had the ability to administer.

FalloutJack:

These are not factual studies that prove anything, just another in a long line of people trying to look important by trying to hook together a bunch of numbers that look important when they're not. Games do not make people DO anything. They do not transform us into anything. Any reaction that a video game seems to get from an individual is already there and has no say in the matter as to how it's expressed. Stop doing your research backwards.

But this study in no way seems to be attempting anything like that. I didn't read anywhere in the actual study where it said that games made anyone do anything. It stated that the few kids who played a whole lot of violent games, did a little worse on a test someone made to determine someone's moral maturity, and that might indicate a connection.

How should they do this research? How as it "backwards"?

Do you really think it's a great idea for a 13-year-old to play violent games for 3+ hours per day? That won't turn them into a killer, but I wouldn't be shocked if it had a small impact on their social skills. The main point of the study was just that parents and teachers should be aware of the possible impact.

Lawyer105:
I am not a scientist, nor a statistician, nor a researcher.... but even I can see the flaw in this research (apart from the obvious sample size etc. etc.). They've got no adequate baseline comparison.

Maybe it's just me, but anybody who's putting 4-5 hours a day into an isolationist-type thing (whether it's violent games, non-violent games or knitting) is going to be less socially mature/capable than somebody who doesn't. Duh.

At best you could use this study to support the whole "moderation is better than obsession" thingy, but apart from that, it's only real use is toilet paper.

My exact criticism. Their "control" group isn't really a control for the type of content but for time of exposure. It is mentioned that other types of games didn't seem to factor. I don't know the time they played those, but if it's not there it's an iffy setup. How about a kid who spends 5 hours watching violent movies if you want to say it's video games and not media in general? Of course, the big problem here: the time these kids should be exposed to these games should be zero if good parenting was at work. Since it's apparently not (because they're letting their kid get sucked into gaming for 5 hours a day) then maybe social immaturity has other variables hovering over there.

Gorrath:

Please note that the study does not make causation claims, it simply looks at correlation.

I wasn't talking about this study only
I meant it in a general sense

Also- is there a study that takes into consideration also violent movies, series and book? Because that could be interesting to read.

Clovus:

Bad Player:
Causation =/= Correlation

This isn't a perfect study, but they actually seem to address that in the actual paper. You can follow some links and read the full thing. I don't think it's a stretch to see a causual relationship between "playing violent games for 3+ horus a day" and "not developing social/moral skills".

However, the study was definitely way too small, since that's probably all they could handle. There were only a couple of kids who fell into the 3+ hour group and they could have also been affected by any number of things. Reading quickly through bits of it, it doesn't really seem like the researchers involved had a strong bias going in. It sounds like they were interested in the subject and put together the best test they had the ability to administer.

FalloutJack:

These are not factual studies that prove anything, just another in a long line of people trying to look important by trying to hook together a bunch of numbers that look important when they're not. Games do not make people DO anything. They do not transform us into anything. Any reaction that a video game seems to get from an individual is already there and has no say in the matter as to how it's expressed. Stop doing your research backwards.

But this study in no way seems to be attempting anything like that. I didn't read anywhere in the actual study where it said that games made anyone do anything. It stated that the few kids who played a whole lot of violent games, did a little worse on a test someone made to determine someone's moral maturity, and that might indicate a connection.

How should they do this research? How as it "backwards"?

Do you really think it's a great idea for a 13-year-old to play violent games for 3+ hours per day? That won't turn them into a killer, but I wouldn't be shocked if it had a small impact on their social skills. The main point of the study was just that parents and teachers should be aware of the possible impact.

Glad to see at least one other person read the freaking study before talking about what claims it makes.We can't sit here screaming bloody murder about people claiming causation if we can't even be arsed to check and see if that's what they are actually claiming.

blackrave:

Gorrath:

Please note that the study does not make causation claims, it simply looks at correlation.

I wasn't talking about this study only
I meant it in a general sense

Also- is there a study that takes into consideration also violent movies, series and book? Because that could be interesting to read.

Thanks for clarifying, your use of the phrase "these people" gave me the impression you were discussing the study at hand. There are studies that have measured similar correlative relationships with other media, but this study was not intended as a comprehensive study on such relationships with all media. I do not personally know of a study that measures correlation of time spent on all violent media and moral reasoning scores, but it would be nice to have one.

Dreadman75:
I'll tell you what makes me angry and want to punch something. This whole never-ending back and forth between people who say videogames do or don't cause violent behavior.

This should be common sense: Well-adjusted, psychologically stable people aren't influenced by videogames.

But this study was about 13-year-olds. Also, this study had nothing to do with violent behavior.

Do you think your angry response and disinterest in reading was caused by a childhood filled with Doom and Carmageddon, or was that just irony?

Gorrath:
snip

Causation and correlation are largely irrelevant. This study is flawed at the most basic level. It has no adequate control group.

It looks at one angle only and draws a correlation without validating the correlation against a control. I'd contend (as I have above) that anybody spending a large amount of time in alone-time pursuits is likely to be somewhat less socially mature/adept than people with more balanced day-planners.

As such, their "correlation" basically comes across like this "We looked at the sky and noticed that birds were flying when the wind blew. We therefore conclude that there is a correlation between the wind speed and the number of birds in flight."

shiajun:

Lawyer105:
I am not a scientist, nor a statistician, nor a researcher.... but even I can see the flaw in this research (apart from the obvious sample size etc. etc.). They've got no adequate baseline comparison.

Maybe it's just me, but anybody who's putting 4-5 hours a day into an isolationist-type thing (whether it's violent games, non-violent games or knitting) is going to be less socially mature/capable than somebody who doesn't. Duh.

At best you could use this study to support the whole "moderation is better than obsession" thingy, but apart from that, it's only real use is toilet paper.

My exact criticism. Their "control" group isn't really a control for the type of content but for time of exposure. It is mentioned that other types of games didn't seem to factor. I don't know the time they played those, but if it's not there it's an iffy setup. How about a kid who spends 5 hours watching violent movies if you want to say it's video games and not media in general? Of course, the big problem here: the time these kids should be exposed to these games should be zero if good parenting was at work. Since it's apparently not (because they're letting their kid get sucked into gaming for 5 hours a day) then maybe social immaturity has other variables hovering over there.

I wonder if the problem is that it is harder to find kids who spend that much time watching videogame-like violent movies or television. GTA was one of the games played by these kids. That series has some pretty crazy levels of violence/gore. I can imagine parents who just can't seem to understand that video games have mature content, but how many parents are letting Little Johnny sit there watching Human Centipede or Saving Private Ryan all day long?

Sure, kids watch violent cartoons, but I don't think many watch realistic depictions of humans being killed that much. I don't think they even want to - it would get boring. But the interactive nature (ie, fun) of games can get a kid to replay the same violent scenes for hours every day.

Lawyer105:

Gorrath:
snip

It looks at one angle only and draws a correlation without validating the correlation against a control. I'd contend (as I have above) that anybody spending a large amount of time in alone-time pursuits is likely to be somewhat less socially mature/adept than people with more balanced day-planners.

And yet your contention is not what they found when they compiled the results of the study. As was mentioned, individuals playing violent videogames for extended periods scored lower on the test. People playing non-violent videogames for extended periods did not score lower on the test. While I am perfectly inclined to agree that this study is imperfect and only part of a larger body of work that needs done, your assertion seems based on even less evidence than their's is. What's more, I find your description of the correlation they seem to be drawing to be a rather bad analogy. I do not say any of this with a confrontational tone by the by, I simply find that you might be discarding their findings out of hand while suggesting an alternative view that isn't backed up by anything in this particular study.

If this researcher is building this research towards the concept of 'Kids showing negative behavior after playing violent video games can be indicative of the kid having more serious mental and social issues' then I'm all for this research. I mean the school shootings, the dude who was SUPPOSEDLY a reformed criminal who went and burned down the house in Webster NY and more, honestly I am all for video games being used as a tool to flag someone for studies of potential sociopathic behavior.

What I REALLY hope is that this wasn't done to be tacked onto the 'violent video games make people violent' debate. I feel the same way about violent video games, guns, alcohol and the like. None of those are harmful (Or at least, not harmful in moderation like alcohol) themselves... They're harmful in the hands of the wrong people.

But I like the think the more rational and sane people watching/partaking in this debate already are aware of that and the idiots on both sides proceed to attack the other side the moment they so much as blink.

Gorrath:
As far as I can tell, the author of the study isn't saying games make kids DO anything. Before anyone freaks out, this study measured self-reported responses from children about their game-playing habits and did a correlation study to what they scored on a standard moral reasoning test. The author is making no claims of causation, nor is this a useless study. While there is no reason to believe that violent videogames make people act violently, studying correlations between our habits and our behaviors is not a waste of time.

Taken from the paper itself: "In summary, the present findings suggest that playing violent video games may hinder moral development in some adolescents."

While the author is not making definitive claims of causality, she is offering it as an implication of the study. And while she's not saying that video games directly cause violent behavior, she is suggesting that video games cause children to morally develop slowly, even if the claim isn't definite.

Is it not possible that people with stunted moral development are more drawn to violent video games than others? (Or perhaps Martians secretly brainwashed those kids, causing both a reduction in moral development and an attraction to moral video games? An unlikely explanation for the correlation, I admit, but you never know...)

Don't confound the arguments. Is it good for a kid to spend 3+ hours a day playing violent video games? Probably not. Should they be active in the community, helping out and volunteering, and being social? Sure. Should parents take an active part in their kids' lives, and make sure their kids are experiencing media appropriate for their age? Of course. Could violent video games cause stunted moral development? Sure, I can see that.

Should a research paper present correlation as causation? Nope.

(What they should have said is something like, "In summary, the present findings demonstrate a link between playing violent video games and hindered moral development in the study group. One possible explanation for this result is that the violent video games hindered the adolescents' moral development.")

109 is... not really a sample size I'd be terribly impressed with under most circumstances. From 7 schools whispers "cherry picked" to me. It sounds like someone couldn't get a decent grant, which is not usually very encouraging either.

All in all, I'm going to dismiss this one I think - unless I see some serious follow up or something really compelling in the original research.

Now, were they online with a bunch of jerks on an online service or doing single player games? For if they are online it might not be the nature of the game itself, but the group of people they are the cause.

Bad Player:

While the author is not making definitive claims of causality, she IS offering it as an implication of the study. And while she's not saying that video games directly cause violent behavior, she IS suggesting that video games cause children to morally develop slowly, even if the claim isn't definite.

Is it not possible that people with stunted moral development are more drawn to violent video games than others? (Or perhaps Martians secretly brainwashed those kids, causing both a reduction in moral development and an attraction to moral video games? An unlikely explanation for the correlation, I admit, but you never know...)

Don't confound the arguments. Is it good for a kid to spend 3+ hours a day playing violent video games? Probably not. Should they be active in the community, helping out and volunteering, and being social? Sure. Should parents take an active part in their kids' lives, and make sure their kids are experiencing media appropriate for their age? Of course. Could violent video games cause stunted moral development? Sure, I can see that.

Should a research paper present correlation as causation? Nope.

(What they SHOULD have said is something like, "In summary, the present findings demonstrate a link between playing violent video games and hindered moral development in the study group. One possible explanation for this result is that the violent video games hindered the adolescents' moral development.")

I think you and I have a different take on what the author is saying. Your proposed revision to the study's summary does not read any different in my mind than the one in the paper. It's worded differently, but I read the implication as the same. You seem to be suggesting that she says it's correlative but she totally implies is causative. I read the study and all I get from it is that it showed a correlation between extended periods of children playing violent games and what they scored on a standard morality test. I don't see the controversy here. As you noted, she is most certainly not making definitive claims of causation, just looking at casual links and asking people to consider possibilities.

Kiiiiiiiiiinda wish some of the commenters read the study before immediately responding.
As far as I can see, they made a case (maybe with some gaps, I think they could have used a better control group and just more groups in general) and presented what evidence they had, but it's a study by a group at a University. Not saying they're definitely correct, but it's kinda arrogant to just label them wrong because YOU aren't a psychopath. Cite other sources, worst case conduct your own study.
Again, they could be wrong and maybe there isn't a link between spending 3+ hours a day playing video-games and impaired social skills.

Gorrath:
I read the study and all I get from it is that it showed a correlation between extended periods of children playing violent games and what they scored on a standard morality test.

Just figured I'd say "In summary, the present findings suggest that playing violent video games may hinder moral development in some adolescents." is not a statement limiting itself to correlation. It pretty clearly makes a point of reinforcing the idea that violent video games lead to those results, as opposed to say, someone who would score lower on those tests gravitating towards violent video games, or even that other factors that lead to a preference for violent video games also "hinder moral development". So yeah, by finding a correlation and then pushing an interpretation of what that correlation suggests with too small a sample size to rule out other possibilities they're implying causation.

CaptainMarvelous:
Kiiiiiiiiiinda wish some of the commenters read the study before immediately responding.
As far as I can see, they made a case (maybe with some gaps, I think they could have used a better control group and just more groups in general) and presented what evidence they had, but it's a study by a group at a University. Not saying they're definitely correct, but it's kinda arrogant to just label them wrong because YOU aren't a psychopath. Cite other sources, worst case conduct your own study.
Again, they could be wrong and maybe there isn't a link between spending 3+ hours a day playing video-games and impaired social skills.

Pretty much this.

I find it kinda disturbing how most everyone in this thread dismissed the results of this study without even looking at the evidence, with the only reason being some version of "I did/know someone who did that and I/they turned out fine". It's intellectual cowardice at best.

The study may or may not be wholly correct, I don't know (and honestly, I don't much care), I just find the sneering condescension for science that doesn't fit preconceived notions to be more than a little disturbing.

infinity_turtles:

Gorrath:
I read the study and all I get from it is that it showed a correlation between extended periods of children playing violent games and what they scored on a standard morality test.

Just figured I'd say "In summary, the present findings suggest that playing violent video games may hinder moral development in some adolescents." is not a statement limiting itself to correlation. It pretty clearly makes a point of reinforcing the idea that violent video games lead to those results, as opposed to say, someone who would score lower on those tests gravitating towards violent video games, or even that other factors that lead to a preference for violent video games also "hinder moral development". So yeah, by finding a correlation and then pushing an interpretation of what that correlation suggests with too small a sample size to rule out other possibilities they're implying causation.

I've never read an interpretation of the words "suggest", "may" and "some" in a study summary that somehow translated to "X causes Y". I get that a lot of people seem to be reading it to mean that, but I'm at a total loss as to why. As for people banging on about the sample size, correlative studies like the one here often have University mandated minimum sample sizes of between 30 and 100 depending on the University and the study. Nothing about the sample size included in this study is out of whack with what is proposed in the study.

Wait now hang on. Sociomoral Maturity? This is what now? Because Moral Maturity is a thing that doesn't exist, Morals are right and wrong and honestly that's a very subjective thing. Never mind that it will shift quite drastically depending on one's current situation, so yeah...

It also there's an interesting question that they seem to leave out. were they that way before or after? see there's the key point. It's onething to say that those that said they played 3 or mor hours scored lower, but were these individuals scoring higher before they developed the habit of playing violent video games 3 hours a day?

How do you even measure something like that, since the sort of questions I imagine carry a heavy amount of Social Acceptability Bias (ie people will give the answer they feel is socially acceptable rather than their real answer). Sort of like if you ask 100 people if they lie. Most will say 'No'. Anyone who knows human nature knows that anyone who says no is themselves a liar.

Same deal here, there are probably more than a few who would not admit to playing violent video games that much for fear of social stigma and as for the questions that pertain to sociomoral maturity well same deal, they'll pick the answer that society will approve, those that score lower may just be the ones who are more honest.

BigTuk:
Wait now hang on. Sociomoral Maturity? This is what now? Because Moral Maturity is a thing that doesn't exist, Morals are right and wrong and honestly that's a very subjective thing. Never mind that it will shift quite drastically depending on one's current situation, so yeah...

It also there's an interesting question that they seem to leave out. were they that way before or after? see there's the key point. It's onething to say that those that said they played 3 or mor hours scored lower, but were these individuals scoring higher before they developed the habit of playing violent video games 3 hours a day?

How do you even measure something like that, since the sort of questions I imagine carry a heavy amount of Social Acceptability Bias (ie people will give the answer they feel is socially acceptable rather than their real answer). Sort of like if you ask 100 people if they lie. Most will say 'No'. Anyone who knows human nature knows that anyone who says no is themselves a liar.

Same deal here, there are probably more than a few who would not admit to playing violent video games that much for fear of social stigma and as for the questions that pertain to sociomoral maturity well same deal, they'll pick the answer that society will approve, those that score lower may just be the ones who are more honest.

I don't intend to cause a big argument with you, but there are a lot more to morals than simply right and wrong. If that were the case there would be no such animal as the "moral dilemma". Sociomoral Maturity is measured by several standardized tests developed for the task. There is plenty of literature out there in academia about the development of morality and the tests used to measure it. The study here, while not above reproach, isn't using any bizarre methodology and that these tests are common practice in such studies.

Not a bad study in truth but I think it's too focused on a unidirectional relationship between the two. It's just as likely that people with low moral maturity development would be inclined to play more violent video games because the moral implications of their actions in the game wouldn't be a detriment towards their enjoyment. In order to really identify this as unidirectional you would need a study following them before they became in video games to see if their is a decrease over time.

Another issue I think might be a problem is the difference between imaginative morality and practical morality. In other words children might answer the questions to rate lower because the mental image of the situation is reflective of a funny moment they had in a video game. Ie head shot with over the top rag doll physics. However, when faced with the same situation in reality they would behave in a completely normal and moral manner. This is the problem of making a survey with complex moral topics and giving it to children. They have less real world experience to draw from and so would use their imagination of what the situation might be like more. So they respond with a cartoonish impression. However the reality would be so different as to make their responses somewhat unreliable because it's not the same situation they were thinking of at all. A more controlled and practical morality test would give more conclusive findings as to their true moral maturity.

Still one study builds on another and another. Their's nothing wrong with this study so long as people don't assume it's anything but a test towards the truth rather then to assume it was the truth. That tends to more be medias fault then the scientists and I'll save any indignation for them if they misrepresent it.

Gorrath:
I've never read an interpretation of the words "suggest", "may" and "some" in a study summary that somehow translated to "X causes Y". I get that a lot of people seem to be reading it to mean that, but I'm at a total loss as to why. As for people banging on about the sample size, correlative studies like the one here often have University mandated minimum sample sizes of between 30 and 100 depending on the University and the study. Nothing about the sample size included in this study is out of whack with what is proposed in the study.

It isn't that single statement that implies that. Multiple bits of the Implications and Future Research sections of the paper do. For another example, how about "Future research can expand these findings in a variety of ways. One direction for future research may involve investigation of how other individual variables, such as personality, socioeconomic status, and family situation, may mitigate the effects of violent video game playing on real aggression." implying that video games are the cause via claiming that all other factors mitigate the damage they do?

I'm not saying the study is completely bogus, as it does help to establish correlation, but that doesn't change that the study, whether intentionally or not, implies causation by exclusively and repeatedly relating the correlation to a single potential cause-effect relationship.

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