228 Academics and Scholars Submit Open Statement to the American Psychological Association Task Force on Violent Media

Last week 228 Academics, researchers and scholars sent an open statement to the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on Violent Media calling for the ongoing review of media effects research to be objective, non-ideological and data driven.  The statement also challenges many of the conclusions in the 2005 APA policy statement on media and actual violence.

Media Coalition believes this is an important message to the APA and to other researchers in the field.  It challenges the common narrative that research connecting the media to actual violence is conclusive and anyone who disagrees is a lone voice ignoring the overwhelming evidence.   The statement shows that these assumptions are wrong.  It was signed by a broad array of scholars who are affiliated with a wide range of universities and colleges from all over the United States and the world.

The statement raises many long-standing concerns about the existing research on the effects of media violence.  We raised many of these concerns in our recent report: Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence released this summer.

The APA Task Force on Violent Media has begun a review of the 2005 APA statement on violence in video games and interactive media.  The scholars’ open statement to the APA raises a number of concerns with the 2005 APA statement.

  • Null result bias – This makes it harder to publish a study if it does not find a positive result thus skewing the body of research towards studies that find a connection between the media and actual violence.
  • Inability to replicate a result is ignored – again this gives greater weight to research that finds a connection between media violence and actual violence.
  • Ignoring other possible causes that could explain why a study finds a connection between media violence and actual violence – Those who are predisposed to violence preferring violent media, violence in the home, etc.
  • Disputes over measure of aggression – Some researchers measure as aggression what others would consider competitiveness.
  • Aggression in a lab is not the same as aggression in the real world – using imaginary horn blasts or fictional hot sauce to measure aggression does not translate to a propensity to commit actual violence.
  • Real world indicators do not show increase in violence even as some research concludes that it should – crime rates have dropped substantially even as media continues to proliferate.
  • Dissenting views are commonly dismissed – The APA’s 2005 and prior statements do not acknowledge research that does not find that media violence is associated with aggression or actual violence.

Many of these weaknesses with the existing research are explored more fully in our in our report: Only a Game.