A research paper published by SAGE Journals was retracted this week after mutiple independent researchers pointed out significant procedural flaws and “data discrepancies.”
The study was titled “The Priming Effect of Violent Game Play on Aggression Among Adolescents” and was authored in 2018 by Qian Zhang, Dorothy L. Espelage, and Da-Jun Zhang.
The Chinese contributors to the study are academics at state-run universities in China, while Espelage is a Professor of Education at the University of Northern Carolina who focuses on “cyberbullying” and sexual bullying.
SAGE retracted the study after independent researchers uncovered data discrepancies and unreliable findings:
Several independent researchers contacted the journal with concerns about the accuracy of the data reported in the above-listed manuscripts. We thank Dr. Joe Hilgard of Illinois State University for his time and effort for identifying this issue and bringing it to our attention. After review of the identified discrepancies and completing our own analysis, the editors were convinced that the data discrepancies rendered this manuscript too flawed to correct. We are therefore, retracting the manuscripts as reporting unreliable findings.
The study claimed that playing violent video games correlates with aggression in adolescent boys, an allegation which has never stood up to empirical scrutiny despite being a prominent talking point for media and political figures:
There was a dispute over the relationship between playing violent games and follow-up aggression, which was worthy of in-depth analysis. A total of 3,000 (50% girls) adolescents participated in this study, with 1,500 assigned to play violent games and the other 1,500 allocated to play nonviolent games. The data analysis model of five-way ANOVA was employed. The results revealed that the number of adolescents with strengthened aggression levels increased after playing violent games in comparison with nonviolent game players.
Specifically, boys with strengthened aggression levels escalated after playing violent games compared with girls; adolescents with highly aggressive traits (HATs) exhibited high levels of aggression compared with adolescents with low aggressive traits (LATs) after playing violent games; adolescents aged 10 to 14 years with strengthened aggression levels escalated after playing violent games compared with those aged 15 to 20 years. The findings indicated that boys, adolescents with HAT and adolescents aged 10 to 14 years were the key group of aggression prevention and intervention after playing violent games.
Before its retraction, the study was cited by professors as evidence for the link between video games and mass shootings.
The study did not discuss the link of internet lag, skill-based matchmaking, and poor game design to violent thoughts, which unlike “violent video games” is probably the only such correlation to actually exist.