What Happens When Evidence Doesn’t Matter?: Blog Post 2- Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson’s article “The School Shooting/Violent Video Game Link…” makes a scientific rebut of the predominant hypothesis that the rise of violent video games causes violent outbursts like school shootings. Written in 2008, it is astonishing how little has changed and how the recent surge high profile violent crimes continues to perpetuate research and support of this hypothesis despite so much evidence to the contrary. Ferguson mentions how most research that critiques the prevailing assumptions during a moral panic are ignored. Reading his valid criticism and reassessing how our media and government have made little to no observance of studies like this several years later, serves to strengthen his argument about how moral panic operates in a void of valid scientific discussion.

By first underscoring the illegitimacy of most media “talking heads” in regard to linking game and real world violence, Ferguson demonstrates how the majority of people’s primary information comes from a platform that makes little use of scientific evidence, but rather relies on buzzwords and surface level hypotheses. He then goes on to critique the existing scientific evidence in the two categories of experimental and correlative data. According to his research, both categories have yielded largely inconclusive results ranging from increased, static, and even decreased aggression in relation to violent video game exposure.

To go even further, the correlative research does not even regard the important factor of various third variables such as “personality, family violence, or genetics.” Perhaps most halting, Ferguson provides evidence that actually suggests a correlation between an increased prevalence of violent video games and a decrease in violent crimes. While he notes that this is not necessarily causal, it does serve to discredit the reverse hypothesis. By and large, Ferguson proposes a research-rich dismantling of the prevailing social assumption of video games’ link to violence.

Unfortunately, whether or not the scientific evidence has merit or not, most of us consume our information through media outlets, and the very fact that this content is not substantiated by scientific evidence puts our source of information into a fragile category of possibly inaccurate or unverified data. This means that, whether or not researchers like Ferguson can refute generally held conceptions like the links between violent games and school shootings, most of us will continue to be led on a leash by our misinformed and unacademic professors of information: the media.

While this article offered a startling critique of a relevant and predominant hypothesis, and made me regard the issue in a new light, I saw it even more as a sobering reminder of the inadequacy of media coverage, and the importance of scientifically sound research. Now I feel I will begin to recognize and question unsubstantiated claims that I procure from the news and other outlets of information. However, my primary concern lies in addressing society’s non-critical interaction with media, and how to motivate others to demand the same level of empirical evidence to substantiate the claims that it fill our ears with.

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One Response to What Happens When Evidence Doesn’t Matter?: Blog Post 2- Ferguson

  1. cstabile says:

    Why do you suppose, in light of Ferguson and other evidence, the media and politicians keep having this conversation about violent video games? As you point out, it’s really a fruitless debate from a research perspective. We no longer believe, for example, that marijuana use turns teens into violent, crazed criminals or that comic books turn boys into axe-wielding murderers. Why, against all evidence, do we keep reproducing this debate?

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