Media’s Influence on Youth Violence and Crime: The Debate Wages on
Inevitably, when a youth commits a violent crime, the news story of the tragic event includes mention of the perpetrator’s video-gaming habits and the role that exposure to violent media may have played. As reviewers Craig Anderson, Matt DeLisi, and Christopher L. Groves note, there has been hearty public debate around the effects of media on youth and behavior. Anderson et al. reviewed Christopher Ferguson’s recent book Adolescents, Crime, and the Media: A Critical Analysis that critiques the evidence from scientific studies showing a link between media and violent behavior. In his book, Ferguson levels methodological criticisms, for example, that aggression measures lack validity and are unstandardized, and that demand characteristics have influenced study findings. Ferguson also points out that the effect of violent media on behavior is small, that is, small effect sizes are often found in studies on this topic.
Anderson et al. object to the implication that small effects are not meaningful, noting that the effect sizes in this area are comparable to many others found in social psychology and that they are larger than those found in research deemed important enough for societal action, for example, the effects of asbestos on laryngeal cancer, calcium intake on bone mass, and exposure to lead on IQ scores in children.
Which side of the debate about the influence of media on youth violence are you on? Why? What is your opinion on the issue of small effect sizes in psychological research, particularly when there are implications for public safety?
By Craig A. Anderson, Matt DeLisi, and Christopher L. Groves
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(51)