ESA challenges ‘pathological addiction’ study

ESA challenges ‘pathological addiction’ study

The Entertainment Software Association has hit back at a contentious study which recently concluded that 8.5 percent of young gamers are pathologically addicted to their hobby. 

In an open letter, ESA CEO Michael Gallagher claims that the study was “based on flawed methodology”, and has asked science journal Psychological Science to abstain from publishing the report as planned.

The survey saw research firm Harris Interactive examine 1,178 North American children, concluding that 8.5 per cent of the 8-18 year olds questioned were “pathologically or clinically addicted to playing video games”. The study also stated that 23 per cent of male respondents and 13 per cent females said they felt addicted to games.

Gallagher, however, has concerns with Harris Interactive’s methodology, claiming that “the sample group for the study was not randomly chosen; It was a ‘convenience’ sample of individuals who agreed to participate in the survey.”

The study’s participants were invited via an opt-in online panel, which rewards gifts in exchange for completing the questionnaire.

“As you are likely aware,” said Gallagher, “such a sample is not truly representative of a national population group. Thus the results cannot be projected onto the broader population of children in this country.”

Gallagher also claimed that the sampling error of 3 per cent that the study cited was “meaningless”.


The research had generated considerable news coverage, which Gallagher says was made more newsworthy by virtue of being deemed a scientific study. But Gallagher states that the study’s results reflected no scientific basis, due to the composition of the surveyed group.

Gallagher also points out that the study’s author, Dr. Gentile, had admitted in an interview that he was unaware that the sample group for the study was not randomly chosen.

“We accept Dr. Gentile’s admission of error at face value,” said Gallagher, “although it is hard to understand how a researcher would base a scientific study upon an assumption about the nature of the group he was studying.”

Gallagher's open letter concludes by requesting that any references to the study in Psychological Science should “clarify the methodological flaws in Dr. Gentile’s study and inform your readers how those flaws affect the accuracy of the study.”

“It would be unfair and misleading for a respected publication to leave on the record such knowingly mistaken information.”

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Tags: esa , addiction , study , michael gallagher

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