Recently, we posted a facetious response to a Fox News article titled, 'Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?' In Fox's piece, psychiatrist Carole Lieberman is quoted as saying that violent games have caused an "increase in rapes." Such an absurd statement demanded ridicule, but we did feel that Dr. Lieberman deserved a chance to explain herself. Perhaps she was misquoted?
Today, Dr. Lieberman issued a condescending response to "all of the reporters, editors, bloggers, gamers, and others" who contacted her regarding the quoted statement.
"When the Columbine murders took place, there were national polls where people voted on what they believed caused the two young men to kill. Media violence ranked high on the list, so I, obviously mistakenly, assumed that people still knew about the studies showing this connection - and believed them to have proven the link."
The research she "assumed we still knew about" most notably included 'Vulnerability to Violent Video Games: A Review and Integration of Personality Research,' a study published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The paper reviews past research on violent games, and concludes a link between violent games and aggressive behavior "in some individuals."
The report concedes that "a considerable number of studies have failed to find compelling links between VVGs (Violent Video Games) and aggression," but suggests that these inconsistencies may be the result of "poor research design and invalid measurements to publication biases," which seems awfully dismissive. None of these contrary studies were pointed out by Dr. Lieberman (such as the findings of the Australian government, or this study by Yale).
Even so, the APA report states that "it is clear that most children who play these games do not go on to behave in violent or murderous ways," and concludes that violent games are most likely to have an adverse effect on children who exhibit the following traits: high neuroticism (e.g., easily upset, angry, depressed, emotional, etc.), low agreeableness (e.g., little concern for others, indifferent to others feelings, cold, etc.) and low conscientiousness (e.g., break rules, don’t keep promises, act without thinking, etc.).
So, according to this research, kids who are depressed, angry, cold, and impulsive may exhibit aggression when exposed to violent media. And this conclusion supports the claim that violent games have caused an increase in rape? Did Dr. Lieberman read this? Granted, she also provided links to reports on violent pornography and an article admonishing 'RapeLay', but those articles and studies are either not expressly about videogames, or have little relevance to mainstream titles like Bulletstorm.
Most importantly, Dr. Lieberman does not defend her claim that there has been an "increase in rape." According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, instances of sexual violence have decreased by 60% since 1993 (the same year Doom was released, by the way). If we were, much like Fox News, in the habit of ignoring that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, we could say that violent games have caused a decrease in rape. How about that, Doc?
Her full response is below (sans attached documents):
I am sending this email to all of the reporters, editors, bloggers, gamers and others who have contacted me asking about what my opinion regarding violent video games was based upon. When I was first asked to provide studies, I did not have them on my fingertips - not because I didn't know they existed - but because I thought that everyone already knew about these studies and I had them filed away. My obligations to patients and other professional commitments have delayed my gathering these examples of such studies, and sending them to you, until now.
I have worked in the area of media violence for many years. This included testifying before Congress on the issue, doing numerous media interviews, stopping the 'Schwarzenegger rocket' that was to have had an ad for "Last Action Hero" on it, being invited to contribute an essay on video game violence to Larry King's book Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, etc. When the Columbine murders took place, there were national polls where people voted on what they believed caused the two young men to kill. Media violence ranked high on the list, so I, obviously mistakenly, assumed that people still knew about the studies showing this connection - and believed them to have proven the link.
In any case, I would appreciate your including a mention of these studies on your websites, blogs or comments, or at least including a mention of the fact that I did provide such studies to you. Thank you.
EXAMPLES OF RESEARCH LINKING VIDEO GAMES TO REAL LIFE VIOLENCE (INCLUDING RAPE)
1) AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION-Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media
Feb 14, 2011