On Wednesday, The Guardian published an article concerning possible harmful mental health effects of video games.
The article, entitled “Video game link to psychiatric disorders suggested by study,” has a sub-header which says that video game “benefits, such as improved attention and perception, could come at a price, according to research.”
The article reports responses to a study conducted by the Canadian Royal Society. The Guardian quotes lead author Professor Greg West as saying “there might be a serious risk with [videogames]” before he states that he doesn’t “want to be alarmist.” But in the article’s very last sentence, Prof. West admits the study “cannot draw any conclusions about video games and dementia risk.”
Terms like “suggested” and “could” are passive and conditional, undermining the scientific basis of the study on which the article is based; speculation and actual evidence simply cannot coexist.
Fellow The Guardian authors Chris Chambers, “a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the school of psychology, Cardiff University,” and Pete Etchells, “a lecturer in biological psychology at Bath Spa University,” performed a watchdog effort of their own. In a piece titled “No, there is no evidence for a link between video games and Alzheimer’s disease,” they criticized the “series of logical leaps” taken by the Royal Society.
Chambers and Etchells state that, contrary to Prof. West’s discovery that “gamers rely on the caudate nucleus to a greater degree than non-gamers,” the study “measured a type of behaviour that previous studies have associated with activity in the caudate nucleus.” They lamented, “As usual, the news headlines conflate this conjecture with fact.”
“So once again, we’re faced with a situation in which a study that tenuously claims a negative effect of playing video games is vastly overhyped, both in the press release and the subsequent media coverage,” they said. “We can do better than this.”
Follow Rob Shimshock on Twitter @Xylyntial.