Does the APA know good science if it hit them in the head?

I know I said I was taking a break from videogame violence stuff, but every time I ttry to get out, they pull me back in…

It seems that the American Psychological Association is in full press release frenzy. First off, I wonder why they bother. Every year they have their convention which is followed by a bunch of press releases. Is there the thought that this serves the public interest, or is this simply an association trying to hype themselves and prove that there is a reason for their existance?

Regardless, like clockwork, they have released a press release about a paper delivered at the conference and resolution about videogame violence. Of course it have been covered by tons of web sites. On Slashdot, there was much discussion about videogame violence. Always currious, this is the post I made:

I took about five minutes and went to the APA’s website and found that this great new study isn’t based on original research, but, according to the APA’s press release is simply a review of the research. So this “news” isn’t anything new at all. And, if you bother to read the subtitle of the press release, it says, “Boys Play Games Longer and May Be More Vulnerable to Increases in Aggressive Behavior.” Note the use of the word “may.”

If you read through the press release, we find that the lit review is presented by “Jessica Nicoll, B.A., and Kevin M. Kieffer, Ph.D., of Saint Leo University.” Those in academia know that it is kind of unusual for a prof to collaborate on a paper with an undergrad. Looking at his webpage I didn’t see any paper that seem remotely close to violence or media effects stuff. THe press release says they are from St. Leo, so a search of their website finds that on April 21, 2005 Jessica Nicoll gave a paper called “Violence in Video Games: A Review of the Empirical Literature” (page looks like ass in Firefox). That panel was chaired by Dr. Kevin Kieffer. So, unless the paper underwent serious revision between then and when it was given at the APA, this is really Jessica Nicoll’s paper.

That’s right, this paper that is getting a press release and all sorts of media attention is the work of an undergrad. While it is wrong to judge the quality of the paper without having read it, it seems safe to say that *gasp* just maybe this is being blown out of porportion a little bit…

This post says that she is a graduate student but I didn’t find any evidence of that and all indications are that the original April 21, 2005 paper was given when she was an undergrad.

This seems especially true when WebMD quotes Kieffer as saying

“The bottom line is we see three things,” Kieffer tells WebMD. One is short-term change toward more aggressive behavior. Two, there are gender differences: Boys play more often and they are more likely to be at risk of behavior changes. And three, some more vulnerable kids are drawn to these games — kids who are already more violent, and those with low self-esteem.”

…none of which sounds all that groundbreaking to me and pretty tame.

Furthermore, this post links to the APA’s “Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media.” If you look at the press release about that resolution you will see that at the bottom is states:

Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media: Elizabeth Carll, PhD, and Dorothy Singer, EdD co-chairs; Craig Anderson, PhD, Brad Bushman, PhD, Karen Dill, PhD and Lilli Friedland, PhD.

As this post points out, If you look at the resolution’s references we see 3 papers authors by Elizabeth Carll, 4 by Dorothy Singer, 6 by Craig Anderson, 5 by Brad Bushman, and 2 by Karen Dill. OF all the people on the committee, Lilli Friedland is the only one that has not listed as a reference for the ill effects of videogames. One more cynical than I might think that these people have an agenda or something… (And this doesn’t even mention that they start the resolution stating, “…decades of social science research reveals the strong influence of televised violence on the aggressive behavior of children and youth..” as if were a given fact that too much tv makes you violent.)

Oh well, I suppose I should be thankfull that they didn’t bring up the old myth of rape in Grand Theft Auto since there is no rape in GTA…

One Comment Showing 50 most recent
  1. J. Kees

    In reference to the student with the B.A. degree, one should recognize that she has received her, that’s why it is listed after her name. Since she is still a student under Dr. Kieffer, it is likely that she is in a Masters or Ph.D./Ed.S. or other advanced degree program – post B.A. That explains the reference to her as a graduate student. Also, it is common for professors to collaborate with students on papers. That’s how they develop and mentor students.