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February 20, 2020

Dear APA Council of Representatives:

We are writing in reference to the recent 2019 review of the APA’s 2015
resolution on violence and video games, which will be voted on at the February 2020
Council meeting. We appreciate that the APA has taken the time to review the evidence
regarding video games and aggression. However, we are also concerned that the
conclusion of this review will leave in place a resolution statement that does not fully
inform the public and policy members of the complexities and inconsistencies of this
research field. The conclusion that a “small and reliable” relationship between video
games and aggression exists is incorrect, given the current mixed and inconsistent state of
the evidence. As stated by the public member of the task force review, we believe the
resolution should not stand due to “concerns about the quality of the studies, the
magnitude of the effect, and the policy implications of a resolution.” Our concerns fall
along several lines.

First, we appreciate the clarification to the 2015 resolution suggesting that the
resolution not be extended to suggest games cause violent crime. However, we feel that
the addition itself may be confusing given its claim other factors may “interact” with
games to cause violence. This statement does not seem to be supported by any current
evidence elucidating any interaction between games and other factors to cause violence.

Second, there is a small but increasing pool of preregistered studies, experimental,

correlational and longitudinal. Out of approximately a dozen studies that now exist, all
but one have returned null results regarding video games and aggression-related
outcomes (the final study returning mixed results). We suggest that this trend in the
preregistered studies should give the APA pause, particularly given the APA’s recent
stances suggesting that open science is particularly important.

Third, given that the 2019 review acknowledges debates and inconsistencies in
the evidence, we find it concerning that the 2015 APA resolution does not disclose these
debates and inconsistencies to the general public but rather suggests to the public that
links between games and aggression are consistent. The 2019 review suggests that such
debates can’t be concluded empirically, yet the 2015 resolution appears to suggest a
conclusion has been reached. To acknowledge these debates yet suggest the 2015
resolution that does not acknowledge these debates, appears to be an inconsistent

Fourth, and related, given that meta-analyses largely agree that effect sizes in the
research area are very close to zero (i.e., smaller than r = .10), there is good reason to
suggest that such small effect sizes are likely due to methodological “noise” rather than
true effects. There is also evidence that these effects are primarily due to publication bias
(Hilgard et al., 2017) or researcher expectancy effects (Ferguson, 2015).
Fifth, and of particular concern, we note that the APA’s 2015 resolution on this
matter has already attracted significant controversy and criticism. We are concerned that
a public resolution statement that does not accurately reflect the state of debates and
inconsistencies in this field will do damage to public confidence in the validity of APA
policy positions specifically and psychological science more generally.

Sixth, the 2015 resolution does little to define aggression for the public or place
the research into proper context. For instance, most experimental studies operationally
define aggression using abstract measures putting hot sauce into someone’s food or
giving people annoying but non-painful bursts of white noise, usually with an authority
figure’s (the experimenter) permission. These behaviors likely differ from what the
public has in mind when defining the term “aggression.”

We note that, as a division, we do not take a stance on whether violent video

games do or do not cause aggression. We believe that there are arguments to be made for
and against a number of potential effects of video games. But we do suggest that the
APA’s 2015 resolution, even with the clarifying statement, fails to fully inform the public
of the nuances of research in this field. By appearing to suggest evidence consistently
supports one side of a debate when evidence is not clear the APA puts itself in an
untenable, unscientific position. As such, we call upon the APA to retire this policy
statement and take a less conclusive position while increasingly stronger studies continue
to clarify the degree of the actual relationship between violent video games and


Society of Media Psychology and Technology (Division 46)

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