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Study Claiming Video Games ‘Train’ Players for Real-World Violence Retracted

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A 2012 report on the effect of violent video games on players has been retracted by the publisher.

Communication Research has officially retracted a report entitled “‘Boom, headshot!?’: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy” by Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman. The report claimed that “first-person shooter” video games could have a lasting effect on players; for instance, that playing these games might be able to “‘train’ a person to shoot a gun,” and “influence players to aim for the head.”

The retraction is due to variable irregularities within the study, which suggest that the numbers therein may have been skewed toward the desired conclusion. Villanova University Psychology Professor Dr. Patrick Markey and Behavioral Psychology Dr. Malte Elson of Ruhr University recommended the article’s retraction after Communication Research Editor Professor Jennifer Gibbs received what she called “a detailed report that documented data irregularities in the study” which showed that “the main findings would not have held up without these irregularities.”

Whitaker was put on notice for misconduct by Ohio State University.

Bushman has claimed Drs. Markey and Elson were engaged in a deliberate smear campaign against him: “I believe Dr. Markey has an ulterior motive for going after me and my former Ph.D. student Jodi Whitaker — he wants to discredit my research and ruin my reputation.” But Bushman was forced to agree with the retraction when unable to verify the original sources of the study’s data. He’s claimed that the original author, Cengiz Altay, could not be contacted due to the attempted coup in Turkey.

Elson, however, denied the accusation in a statement made to Retraction Watch:

I am pleased to see the paper is finally retracted almost 3 years after the authors were first notified of the concerns (and 2 years after it was first reported to the Ohio State University). The public record has now been corrected, which is the only thing Patrick and I ever wanted after we found evidence of severe errors in the data on which the now retracted paper was based.

For his part, Markey feels so strongly that studies attempting to link violent video games to negative behavior are incorrect that he is publishing a book in rebuttal. Moral Combat: Why The War On Violent Video Games Is Wrong will hit bookshelves in March 2017.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Whitaker was investigated for misconduct according to Retraction Watch but not Bushman.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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