Over 200 psychologists and researchers have called on the American Psychological Association to form a task force for the review of research into the effects of violent media.
Though some American lawmakers have called for more investigations in the aftermath of several shooting rampages throughout the country in the past year, an open letter from researchers asks only that the APA check to see if the existing research is reliable.
“Particularly in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, whether rightly or wrongly, much discussion has focused on this issue,” reads the letter.
“Much is at stake regarding the way scientific information is communicated to the general public, the way in which policy statements can set scientific agendas and the credibility of the field as a careful and objective science.”
In 2005, the APA updated its policy to reflect its view that exposure to violent media “increases feelings of hostility, thoughts about aggression, suspicions about the motives of others, and demonstrates violence as a method to deal with potential conflict situations."
The ‘Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media’ also suggested that violent games could have more of an effect on children than other media, since games require active participation, and stated an intention to advocate for the reduction of violence in games.
The group behind the letter claims the previous research on which the APA penned this resolution is heavily biased, based on flawed methodology, and draws conclusions from weak evidence.
“During the video game epoch, youth violence in the United States and elsewhere has plummeted to 40-year lows, not risen as would have been expected if the 2005 APA resolution were accurate,” said the group.
“Although we do not assert video games are responsible for this decline (such would be an ecological fallacy), this decline in societal violence is in conflict with claims that violent video games and interactive media are important public health concerns.”
The Entertainment Software Association has released its own statement applauding the researchers for their efforts, while also pointing to other studies that found no causal link between violent media and real-world violence.
“A host of respected researchers and numerous authorities – including the US Supreme Court – have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between violent media and real-world violence," said ESA president and CEO Michael D Gallagher.
"We agree with these experts that additional APA’s analysis must be objective, fact-based, and peer-reviewed, and must comprehensively examine all relevant factors."