A team compared the studies cited on both sides of the Supreme Court case against violence games and had some surprising findings.

In preparation for the Supreme Court case heard back in November on whether it was Constitutional to restrict videogame sales as if they were guns or pornography, both sides prepared amicus briefs citing research that upheld their arguments. The State of California’s brief – called the Gruel brief after the lead lawyer on the team – was signed by 115 people who believe that violence in games promotes violent behavior, while 82 people signed the Millet brief in support of the EMA’s position that games are protected by the First Amendment. An independent group of researchers analyzed the two briefs and found that 60 percent of the 115 on the Gruel brief had been published in respectable scientific journals while that was true of only 17 percent on the Millet brief. Their findings therefore conclude that research that claims violent games cause harmful effects are quantifiably more reliable.

“We took what I think is a very objective approach: we looked at the individuals on both sides of the debate and determined if they actually have expertise in the subjects in which they call themselves experts,” said Brad Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University specializing in communication and psychology.

Bushman also reported how many authors listed in each brief had specifically done research on violence in the media. Only 37 percent of signers of the Gruel brief had displayed expertise in that area, but it was even less of a ratio amongst the supporters of videogames in the Millet brief – 17 percent.

“The evidence suggests that those who argue violent video games are harmful have a lot more experience and stronger credentials than those who argue otherwise,” Bushman said.

In the final piece of evidence put forward by Bushman’s study, he found that if you only compare the studies published in more strenuously peer-reviewed journals, the anti-gaming Gruel brief has a staggering 48 times the number of “respected” studies in the Millet brief.

Bushman believes that if the nine Justices of the Supreme Court were to look at these statistics, they’d have to conclude that the Gruel brief is superior to the Millet. “We just wanted to point out to the justices that not all briefs are the same. In this case, the credentials and experience of those who signed the Gruel brief far exceeds that of the ones who signed the Millett brief,” he said.

I have several problems with this logic. First, one cannot simply use sheer numbers to judge whether something is true. If that were possible, we’d all be forced to believe that Twilight is the greatest piece of art created in the 21st century or that the world was flat in 1492. The Justices are intelligent people and they will have to judge whether the research found in both briefs is sound based solely on the merits of each study, not how many of them there are.

Secondly, I think the discrepancy in numbers has more to do with how our culture funds such research. It is much easier for politicians to siphon public funds to pay for research to “save our children from the videogame menace” than it is for private advocacy groups like the EMA and ECA to conduct their own research. Plus, many scientists or researchers are reluctant to speak out in support of unpopular sentiments – like being pro-gaming – because it might impact their ability to receive public funds in the future. It’s the same with research concerning marijuana – no scientist wants to be known as that “stoner guy” because then he won’t be able to conduct research on other topics.

So, Justices of the Supreme Court, please take Mr. Bushman’s study with a very large silo of salt and be sure to look at the agendas behind each and every study submitted for both sides. It’s the only way justice will be truly served.

I’m looking forward to the decision, sources predict that we’ll see it released in the next few months.

Source: Science Daily

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