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← Guest post: Baroness Greenfield, junk neuroscience, and the dangers of video games

Guest post: Baroness Greenfield, junk neuroscience, and the dangers of video games - Comments

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 1 by Red Dog

I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 15:19:05 UTC | #881081

Daz365's Avatar Comment 2 by Daz365

Comment 1 by Red Dog :

I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

Bollocks

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 15:28:33 UTC | #881084

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

I think it's sad, if it is indeed the case, that Baroness Greenfield is distancing herself from the scientific community; I've always thought of her as an excellent expositor of and ambassador for science.

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 15:48:05 UTC | #881090

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 4 by Marc Country

Strangely riddled with typos... I guess it's "just a blog" and all that, but still, this is a newspaper website, and the columnist is supposed to be employed as an EDITOR by the Telegraph...

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 15:53:20 UTC | #881091

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 5 by Stafford Gordon

Comment 2 by Daz365.

"Bollocks".

Do we have a troll here?

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 16:04:10 UTC | #881094

Hammert1me's Avatar Comment 6 by Hammert1me

Comment 5 by Stafford Gordon

Mabye. According to Richard Branson vs. CPS in the 70's, 'Bollocks' was found to be inoffensive.

It's original meaning was a slang term for priests. As they spouted such concise, rational, useful information in their sermons, it eventually became slang for 'rubbish'.

But that was a 1 word reply. Is that trolling now?

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 16:19:32 UTC | #881097

tembuki's Avatar Comment 7 by tembuki

Comment 1 by Red Dog :

I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

There are plenty of video games that aren't those things, though -- we shouldn't blame video games as a whole because there are some that contain objectionable content. That would be like blaming all books because some of them are truly horrid.

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 16:25:35 UTC | #881098

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 8 by AtheistEgbert

"First things first: 'Mind' in scientific terms has no universally accepted definition, so the majority of behavioural and neurological studies simply ignore it as a factor altogether. "

I find this a fascinating admission. I actually agree with the statement, but it has obvious consequences for people trying to use naturalism to explain the mind.

"Again, yes. This is a largely accurate statement. But it's annoying how people (scientists in particular) will use long-winded, verbose methods of describing something in order confuse people, and attribute a meaning to it which suits their arguments."

Rhetorical tricks played by people who try to win arguments with jargon is indeed annoying and not reasonable, yet continues to be effective. Well spotted.

It's a problem for Greenfield and all scientists that attempt to explain what is going on in the mind--how can their claims be supported by fact?

Sat, 15 Oct 2011 16:55:55 UTC | #881101

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 9 by Red Dog

Comment 7 by tembuki :

Comment 1 by Red Dog :

I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

There are plenty of video games that aren't those things, though -- we shouldn't blame video games as a whole because there are some that contain objectionable content. That would be like blaming all books because some of them are truly horrid.

Of course there are some video games that nurture creativity and have other laudatory goals. My point is not that ALL games are bad or that violent video games should be banned. My point is that there are a lot of violent, misogynistic, misanthropic video games. Just a few examples:

  • Carmageddon a game where part of the point is to run people down with a hot car
  • Postal where the game includes "using cat carcasses as silencers on your gun, hitting people with anthrax-laden cow heads and playing “fetch” with dogs using the severed heads of your dismembered victims."
  • Grand Theft Auto where part of the game includes "barbecuing prostitutes with flamethrowers"
  • It seems to me a very legitimate concern that children are spending hours each day playing these games.

    I don't know what to do about it. In general I'm against censorship of any kind so I probably wouldn't support a ban on such games, it would just make them go on the black market and be more popular anyway. All I'm saying is that as people who believe in critical thinking and in making the world a better place its a legitimate question to ask what effect these games have on children and what if anything society should do to address the harm they might cause.

    While the Baroness' article was not good science there are legitimate studies being done on the effect these games have. At a minimum I think we should encourage such research and pay attention to the results.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 16:57:27 UTC | #881102

    Daz365's Avatar Comment 10 by Daz365

    Comment 6 by Hammert1me :

    Comment 5 by Stafford Gordon

    Mabye. According to Richard Branson vs. CPS in the 70's, 'Bollocks' was found to be inoffensive.

    It's original meaning was a slang term for priests. As they spouted such concise, rational, useful information in their sermons, it eventually became slang for 'rubbish'.

    But that was a 1 word reply. Is that trolling now?

    I thought one word was enough and yes a strong version of rubbish is what I was aiming for but let me elaborate.

    When one claims to be disturbed by someone elses hobby whether it be movie going, music, gaming or reading novels it's a bit like claiming to be offended by something because you just don't like it or understand it, unless of course you can come up with good evidence that it is harmful in some way, if not...... it's just..... well....Bollocks.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:00:18 UTC | #881103

    Hammert1me's Avatar Comment 11 by Hammert1me

    Comment 10 by Daz365

    I have to agree here, most strong anti-gaming opinions are pushed by people who arn't gamers.

    'Extra credits' (google it) is an example of serious, responsible gamers addressing the issues surronding the gaming sector. They have covered female characters, racism/race, addiction amongst others.

    I'd point out that no GTA mission has ever required a player to BBQ a prostitute with a flamethrower. But the option is there in sandbox. Likewise no GTA game has featured a very old or very young character. No-one in the game is 'vulnerable', alot of the pedestrians pack heat and often hijack your cars, leaving you for dead.

    I'm more concerned with the vast 'Get rewards for shooting turban wearers in Arabstan' genre, a.k.a modern warfare. Guns are not toys.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:15:49 UTC | #881106

    UGAtheist's Avatar Comment 12 by UGAtheist

    I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

    As oppose to how much time children used to spend playing sports of various kinds, jumping barbed-wire fences to swing from dangerous tree branches (one of my childhood favorites), or any number of other leisure time activities a child of years gone by might have selected instead?

    I can see legitimacy in argument around video-games and lacking physical health (ie. not enough exercise), but linking them to social disorders seems weak at best. I have read far more disturbing things in classic novels than i've seen in any video game premise and we rightly consider that stuff to be art. I'm not going to assert that Grand Theft Auto is high modern art, but we shouldn't view new culture negatively simply because it isn't what we grew up with. Dean is right to take an empirical appraoch and discredit the pseudo-scientific tirade of Ms. Greenfield.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:26:02 UTC | #881110

    Red Dog's Avatar Comment 13 by Red Dog

    Comment 10 by Daz365 :

    Comment 6 by Hammert1me :

    Comment 5 by Stafford Gordon

    Mabye. According to Richard Branson vs. CPS in the 70's, 'Bollocks' was found to be inoffensive.

    It's original meaning was a slang term for priests. As they spouted such concise, rational, useful information in their sermons, it eventually became slang for 'rubbish'.

    But that was a 1 word reply. Is that trolling now?

    I thought one word was enough and yes a strong version of rubbish is what I was aiming for but let me elaborate.

    When one claims to be disturbed by someone elses hobby whether it be movie going, music, gaming or reading novels it's a bit like claiming to be offended by something because you just don't like it or understand it, unless of course you can come up with good evidence that it is harmful in some way, if not...... it's just..... well....Bollocks.

    You are misrepresenting what I said. I never said anything about how any adult spends their time. And I never said anything about being offended.

    What I said was that its a legitimate concern that many children spend hours every day playing extremely violent, misogynistic video games. There already is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, court room testimony, and studies that show some correlation between violent video games and actual violence.

    I'm not claiming to know one way or another how much (if any) harm is done by children spending hours each day doing things like burning alive virtual prostitutes with flame throwers (see previous comment) but I'm saying it seems reasonable that a society that cares about the mental health of their children will give the issue some thought and do some research into it.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:30:15 UTC | #881111

    Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 14 by Atheist Mike

    Considering the interactivity in games for mature players I think parents should be stricter about what they let their children play and for how long. Indeed another part of the problem is addiction, I remember having commented on a thread on this website a few months ago regarding a disturbing trend of video game addiction in Korea. Parents had let their baby starve because they were too busy pretending to raise one in a virtual world.

    For the first issue raised I'd simply suggest that parents should be more conscious, games made for 18+ people shouldn't be played by 8 year olds. For the addiction issue I'll propose the same thing I proposed in that thread back then: Put a clock in games that shuts them down after too many hours of play time.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:35:00 UTC | #881113

    Narvi's Avatar Comment 15 by Narvi

    "There already is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, court room testimony, and studies that show some correlation between violent video games and actual violence."

    Anecdotes are not evidence. If there are studies that show the correlation, kindly provide them, rather than expecting us to have faith they exist. Baseless assertions don't carry much weight around these parts.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 17:50:35 UTC | #881116

    alaskansee's Avatar Comment 16 by alaskansee

    @ Red Dog

    It seems you are in good company,

    “[It] destroys memory [and] weakens the mind, relieving it of…work that makes it strong. [It] is an inhuman thing.”

    Socrates on the new fad of writing

    I think too much writing has weakened your mind. Where there is evidence let us hear, where there is none let us not jump to conclusions. This article was written by someone you should be listening to, an expert in the field, your gut feel and intuition is not. Having said that as a probability you have a slightly less than 50/50 chance of being correct so when the evidence is in, you may be right but don't hold your head up high because your uninformed guess was right.

    What was the movie called again, Bowling for Columbine or was it Violent Video Gaming for Columbine?

    PS I don't play video games, they bore me, but just one more small reason why I'm not jumping to conclusions. Some of the newer more body interactive games look cool.

    PPS Your "kids are playing adult games argument" applies to many many things and has nothing to do with whether or not it has an effect on the brain or behaviour. I'm hoping you take a great deal more care with your offspring that the imaginary friends you have. If anything in the world has an adults only label my advice is pay attention, not just for video games.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 18:34:21 UTC | #881131

    StephenH's Avatar Comment 17 by StephenH

    Comment 9:

    The mentioned games, such as Grand Theft Auto, Postal, had 18 certificates on them

    If children are playing these games... well they should not be

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 19:48:37 UTC | #881154

    Stevehill's Avatar Comment 18 by Stevehill

    A lot of posts about people's personal opinions/prejudices....

    The only relevant fact, surely, is whether Baroness Greenfield's findings amount to some sort of stand-up, peer-reviewed (or at least reviewable) hard science.

    If not, she's just another pub bore on this topic, like Dr Aric Sigman. An attention seeking whinger.

    In which case I'm not wasting oxygen debating it.

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 20:32:30 UTC | #881163

    alaskansee's Avatar Comment 19 by alaskansee

    Here here Hill, far too many empty barrels.

    In addition video games are an incubator for more useful technology. Next time you go for an ultra sound the video card that you leave behind in your house is more advanced and powerful than the "state of the art" medical tech. :-(

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 20:40:25 UTC | #881165

    Quine's Avatar Comment 20 by Quine

    In thinking about the impact of these things (good for us v. bad for us), I recommend to you (if you have not seen it) Ben Goldacre's TED presentation:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4MhbkWJzKk

    Sat, 15 Oct 2011 22:34:00 UTC | #881179

    Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 21 by Reckless Monkey

    I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.

    What this speaks of is parents lack of control of the media their kids are put in front of.

    He's an idea, have your computer/ play station in a public place. Prohibit violent games in your house until an age you deem to be acceptable. Explain to your children why these games might be harmful or concern you, teach them some empathy, let them watch the news and explain what is happening re-child soldiers etc. Most children cannot afford any violent computer games most parents buy them Xboxes etc. and then buy them the games. Spend an hour looking up tutorials online for how to set up your modem/ router to limit or exclude Internet access (or read the damn manual), use a proper password and hide it from your children. Limit the websites your children visit. Or if you are too tech illiterate pay someone to come out and set up all your gear. Better still tell them if they want games they can program them themselves then by the time they are capable of anything too graphic they'll have a first class tech education and their screen time will be of some benefit. Give them a computer and install linux on it, most of the games your worried about won't work (and you'll have little virus problems). Set a time limit No-one would think of going down the local video store and hiring out porn for their 8 year old. If parents are so removed from parenting then the primary problem with some of these kids might well be just violent video games but a general lack of parenting.

    There are fit kids at my school who spend every lunch hour playing rugby. I had to supervise the games (qualified coach with me but I had to be there for legal reasons). I had to ask not to be put on anymore because after one season and having concussions, broken ribs, busted knees and a dislocated shoulder I decided I didn't want to be associated anymore for legal reasons. If I had as many injuries in my science classroom (and they can and do happen) I would rightly be pulled off teaching science and likely kicked out of my job for negligence. We have a double standard here.

    In spite of my reservations about these games there has NEVER been any convincing evidence that they cause harm. NEVER! If there was wouldn't Greenfield have presented it? She is after all better qualified than most to do so. The very fact that someone who could quite likely get a proper study up and settle it once and for all doesn't says something.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 01:46:24 UTC | #881202

    Greenforest's Avatar Comment 22 by Greenforest

    I took the time to view a video of the talk Dr. Greenfield gave in which she discussed these issues and in which these alleged statements were made. I found Dr. Greenfield's discussion to be thought-provoking, reasonable, and balanced. My main criticism is that things seemed a bit rushed near the end of the talk [though her presentation was still smooth and professional], but that's a common occurrence. It certainly was not a "rant," as Tim Chivers alleges. Dr. Greenfield is thoroughly well-qualified to be raising concerns, discussing, and speculating about these issues, and she does cite relevant evidence in her talk. This article by Tim Chivers and Dr. Burnett seriously misrepresents what Dr. Greenfield actually said.

    For example, she did not say that video games "blow the mind." In the talk (see link below), around 48:00 to 50:00 into it, she was discussing the different types of mental processes engaged by different types of activities, with some, according to her, being more external and sensory, and others being more self-conscious, abstract, and cognitive. In speaking to a general nonspecialist audience, she cited some familiar phrases people used to describe their experiences of some recreational activities such as "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," dancing, downhill skiing, etc. Around 49:20, she noted that in describing such experiences in casual or metaphorical terms, people say "we let ourselves go," or "we say we've blown our mind." Note well that Dr. Greenfield herself was not employing these casual terms, but was merely citing these familiar terms in the context of discussing her distinction between "sensory" and "cognitive" processes.

    It seems to me that many of the criticisms of Dr. Greenfield here are simply missing the mark because they are based on erroneous assumptions about what she said. Suggestion: Listen to her talk, then make criticisms.

    Here's the link for the talk: Susan Greenfield: The Future of the Brain http://vodpod.com/watch/4498308-susan-greenfield-the-future-of-the-brain

    or try this:

    http://vodpod.com/search/browse?q=susan+greenfield

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 01:56:44 UTC | #881203

    Greenforest's Avatar Comment 23 by Greenforest

    p.s. Correction to my previous comment:

    The link I provided is to a video of a previous talk by Dr. Greenfield on this topic, but not of the most recent one given at the Sherborne Girls school mentioned in the Telegraph article by Nick Collins, which is referenced in the Chivers/Burnett article above. Nevertheless, from the quotes and descriptions by Nick Collins, it seems that the more recent talk was quite similar in substance to the former. It seems likely to me, after having listened to Dr. Greenfield's previous talk, and hearing her mention of the phrase "blown our minds" in proper context, that Nick Collins or whoever reported this has erred and has misrepresented Dr. Greenfield's views.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 03:36:22 UTC | #881210

    Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 24 by Functional Atheist

    Comment 22 by Greenforest :

    I took the time to view a video of the talk Dr. Greenfield gave in which she discussed these issues and in which these alleged statements were made. I found Dr. Greenfield's discussion to be thought-provoking, reasonable, and balanced. My main criticism is that things seemed a bit rushed near the end of the talk [though her presentation was still smooth and professional], but that's a common occurrence. It certainly was not a "rant," as Tim Chivers alleges. Dr. Greenfield is thoroughly well-qualified to be raising concerns, discussing, and speculating about these issues, and she does cite relevant evidence in her talk. This article by Tim Chivers and Dr. Burnett seriously misrepresents what Dr. Greenfield actually said.

    For example, she did not say that video games "blow the mind." In the talk (see link below), around 48:00 to 50:00 into it, she was discussing the different types of mental processes engaged by different types of activities, with some, according to her, being more external and sensory, and others being more self-conscious, abstract, and cognitive. In speaking to a general nonspecialist audience, she cited some familiar phrases people used to describe their experiences of some recreational activities such as "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," dancing, downhill skiing, etc. Around 49:20, she noted that in describing such experiences in casual or metaphorical terms, people say "we let ourselves go," or "we say we've blown our mind." Note well that Dr. Greenfield herself was not employing these casual terms, but was merely citing these familiar terms in the context of discussing her distinction between "sensory" and "cognitive" processes.

    It seems to me that many of the criticisms of Dr. Greenfield here are simply missing the mark because they are based on erroneous assumptions about what she said. Suggestion: Listen to her talk, then make criticisms.

    Here's the link for the talk: Susan Greenfield: The Future of the Brain http://vodpod.com/watch/4498308-susan-greenfield-the-future-of-the-brain

    or try this:

    http://vodpod.com/search/browse?q=susan+greenfield

    Thank you. It appears that there is some out-of-context mischief happening with this blog posting, and perhaps the Moderator should remove this 'story,' which appears to be based, at least in part, on a misrepresentation of the Baroness.

    While I'm inclined to defer to the current rating system of video games as an adequate safeguard for children, I don't see the inherent harm in studying the potentially ill effect of some games on some children. If such research were funded by, or conducted by, biased prudes, hell-bent on banning games they personally disapprove of, that would be an altogether different proposition.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 03:37:12 UTC | #881211

    deevybee's Avatar Comment 25 by deevybee

    I agree with Greenforest that it is not safe to rely on media reports of what Greenfield said. If anyone does have either a transcript or video of the Sherborne school lecture, that would be helpful. I find it hard to believe that someone who has worked on Alzheimers could, for instance, say that computer games are giving children dementia, as reported in the Sun. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/health/health/3871474/Computer-games-are-giving-kids-dementia.html The popular press are notorious for getting things wrong (according to the Daily Mail she's a neurologist and was talking at a conference), and we do need correct facts before launching in to criticism. But, having said all that, I don't think video footage of past lectures necessarily reflects her current pronouncements, which do seem to be getting more extreme and detached from mainstream scientific discourse. I criticised her earlier this year for associating internet usage with autism; there was no question that she did this, albeit by a kind of innuendo. http://deevybee.blogspot.com/2011/08/open-letter-to-baroness-susan.html She did not attempt to respond seriously to my main point (that autism symptoms appear before children are exposed to the internet), but implied I'd behaved badly in publicly criticising her. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/aug/06/research-autism-internet-susan-greenfield She hasn't published research on the topics she talks about, and doesn't engage with other scientists on these topics. So to a large extent, I think she has brought the criticism upon herself. Nevertheless, if we want to take issue with what she said, we should not rely on the Daily Mail or Sun's account of it.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 07:42:22 UTC | #881224

    MarkMyers's Avatar Comment 26 by MarkMyers

              [Comment 12](/articles/643522-guest-post-baroness-greenfield-junk-neuroscience-and-the-dangers-of-video-games/comments?page=1#comment_881110) by  [UGAtheist](/profiles/180498)          :
    
    
                     > I think the original article by Baroness Greenfield was indeed mostly pseudo-science. However, I have to say I don't find the concerns of the Baroness to be groundless. It is disturbing how much time children spend playing video games many of which are extremely violent, misanthropic, and misogynistic.> As oppose to how much time children used to spend playing sports of various kinds, jumping barbed-wire fences to swing from dangerous tree branches (one of my childhood favorites), or any number of other leisure time activities a child of years gone by might have selected instead?I can see legitimacy in argument around video-games and lacking physical health (ie. not enough exercise), but linking them to social disorders seems weak at best.  I have read far more disturbing things in classic novels than i've seen in any video game premise and we rightly consider that stuff to be art.  I'm not going to assert that Grand Theft Auto is high modern art, but we shouldn't view new culture negatively simply because it isn't what we grew up with.  Dean is right to take an empirical appraoch and discredit the pseudo-scientific tirade of Ms. Greenfield.
    

    I agree that an empirical approach is merited. This is a complex issue and that seems be taking a while to resolve. Meanwhile there are strong indications that video-games are much more socially dangerous than the traditional childhood activities you and I enjoyed. Children playing video games, as opposed to playing sports, jumping fences, & climbing trees includes and dis-includes some very specific elements that quite sensibly may have significant impact on a child's social development.

    While barbed wire, high trees, frozen rivers and lots of the things I played on and around posed specific dangers to myself, these had little impact on my social development while I learned to use my mind and body to negotiate my natural environment. It was fun, a little too risky (Now that I have kids) but these things had obvious benefits, and if governed a little more carefully, as I have tried to do with my own children, can be a very healthy and educational activities.

    Virtually all sports that children engage in include rules governing fairness and often safety and violence, let alone physics. While video games have their own rules, much of the inherent fascination of video games is the apparent and often opulent violation of exactly the rules that govern real life. Inherent in the allure of a video game is to seem super-real but with none of the boring or painful real consequences.

    Lets take this argument a little closer to its edge: Specifically many video games include use of some type of gun, often in a social (Or extremely anti-social) situation. As a country boy, guns were a significant part of my youth. I remember learning early how utterly unrealistic televised shootings and gunplay were. Using guns and hunting as a young person exposes first hand to the horrific damage inflicted by a firearm. This is sobering exposure to the truth that firearms are not toys nor tools to be used as social props and that they are to be treated with utmost care and that laws governing their use and care are a really good idea. We learned to never point them at anyone or ourselves, EVER, even empty or disassembled. If you actually use guns, you may even encounter a few close calls to drive the lessons home. But not in a video. I've played a few and like some, and don't recall many misfires, jams, close calls shooting my foot, etc. There is inherent danger in sensationalizing violence and dangerous weapons that are too easy for young people to encounter without benefit of any real experience or training.

    In video games, pointing guns at people as targets is 'Normal' and encouraged. Actually firing a real weapon was always either in the form of careful practice or as a rare part of a long day of physical activity. Firing a real weapon has costs, and risks. In video games rounds are countless. The painful kick and loud (Even dangerous) sound and blow by gases, that are at least reminders of the power involved, are either absent or hugely minimized. The dollar cost of ammunition was a significant consideration for me on my childhood budget. I still cringe when I hear what we spend on a single missile and wonder if voters would feel differently about miltary costs if they were more aware of them.

    Even as a young person, I could see the huge difference in the way my friends, whose only experiences with firearms were with tv and video games, talked about and treated guns. It seemed impossible for me to consider using a gun to manipulate or threaten someone, in a suicide attempt, as part of a game, or even just carelessly handling or storing it, yet I saw these happen among peers in my own community then and now. What children learn about a gun from video games is very different from what is real about a gun, yet I am afraid that early misconception becomes the basis of decision making when eventually real guns are discussed, considered or encountered.

    Regarding disturbing things in novels and even classical literature. This is not a fair comparison. I read a lot, but have encountered little if any literature that comes close to the saturation of violence in most video games. While I am sure some people both read a lot of literature and play a lot of video games, I am also sure that many youth expose themselves to many more hours of video than they spend reading.

    Finally, should we view "New culture negatively?" I would say, we should view new cultural developments both critically and carefully. It is often a safe bet that if it looks dangerous and violent, racist and misogynistic on the surface, it may really be those things, at least until overwhelming empirical evidence says otherwise.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 11:22:14 UTC | #881246

    Daz365's Avatar Comment 27 by Daz365

    Comment 26 by MarkMyers :

    Meanwhile there are strong indications that video-games are much more socially dangerous than the traditional childhood activities you and I enjoyed

    No there isn't, that is exactly what this sort of scaremongering nonsense is lacking.

    In video games, pointing guns at people as targets is 'Normal' and encouraged.

    No, in video games you never point a gun at a person, they are not real guns and they are not real people. People who play video games are well aware that it is a fantasy scenario it is only those who don't understand the genre who fail to recognise this.

    I am also sure that many youth expose themselves to many more hours of video than they spend reading.

    So what, It's only revelevant if you can show it has harmful effects

    It is often a safe bet that if it looks dangerous and violent, racist and misogynistic on the surface, it may really be those things, at least until overwhelming empirical evidence says otherwise.

    Now that is bollocks, before you investigate an effect you must be sure that effect exists, show us the evidence that demonstrates that children who play videogames have got steadily more violent than those who don't.

    If games do show racism and misogyny they do so as a reflection of real life and that's where it should be attacked.

    Put down your real weapon and pick up a virtual one and no one ever gets hurt.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 12:37:40 UTC | #881259

    Greenforest's Avatar Comment 28 by Greenforest

    deevybee,

    I agree with you in objecting strongly to her statement about increase in autism spectrum disorders as evidence of the effects of increased use of digital technologies, quoted in the New Scientist, as well as her inadequate backtracking from those comments.

    As for the present topic, re the specific claims attributed to her, it just doesn't seem likely to me that Dr. Greenfield would literally refer to video games "blow[ing] the mind", etc., without having some more meaningful and scientific explanation of what she was talking about, or that she would not know something as basic as the fact that the deactivation of "certain nerve connections" is a normal process. While Dr. Greenfield may be responsible to some extent for some of the misunderstandings, in the present case, by use or mention of provocative phrases that are easily pulled out of context by journalists, I suspect that in this case as well as in other cases (for example, reported in sensationalist articles in the Daily Mail) that her views are being misrepresented.

    Otherwise, I don't have a problem with her speculations as such. Publishing one's speculations is part of science.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 13:35:02 UTC | #881268

    MarkMyers's Avatar Comment 29 by MarkMyers

    I am quite in favor of using empirical evidence to discover truth. Empirical evidence regarding video gaming is accumulating (Albeit more slowly than one would expect) and the data seem difficult to interpret and even contradictory at present. Gradually consensus will be achieved. In the meanwhile, in absence of broad empirical evidence, and too often in spite of skewed and misinterpreted data, we make decisions every day, in real time, that affect ourselves, our children, and our community.

    I have played video games in moderation, as I do most things (Except pursue my interests in RDnet and other scientifc/skeptical blogs). I do not think video games have increased my tendency toward violence nor other vices. On the other hand these type games were not generally available when I was a child. I don't know, and can never recreate how access to such material might have affected me.

    Certainly, not everyone who plays, acts out violently. And certainly the racism and misogyny written into video games has its root in our own culture and ideas.

    As helpful as studies and peer review can be, most of us learn most of what we know by paying close attention to ourselves, our environment and those around us, not from statistical analyses of large amounts of objectively collected data. These are a wonderful and recent luxury for critical thinkers.

    I have witnessed immediate effects of violent video gaming in at least a significant proportion of the primarily young men I know who play. Some, not all, seem perhaps compulsively to act out in ways that are obviously socially inappropriate and can be dangerous and harmful to themselve and others. They use phrases, and act out in specific ways that are so closely aligned to a recent episode of play (And so clearly identifiable with how I played as a child after watching Star Trek or Daniel Boone) that I can not ignore the causality conclusion that what many kids watch and experience determines in large part how they act.

    Perhaps significantly, in some of these specific situations, I am aware that some of the children who take the behavior 'Over the top' posess diagnoses or other indications of mild learning, personality or social disorders, but even those young men behave, and in the cases I know, are characterized clinically and socially within normal psychological boundaries. Indeed some parents I have discussed these matters with, dismiss serious problematic and even illegal social behavior as just boys being boys, even where socially unacceptable phrases and actions are lifted directly from the script of video games the boys recently and/or frequently played.

    Eventually studies will probably show that, as with alcohol addiction and most vices, some people are more affected than others by similar exposure and for many gaming is harmless. Lots of factors to consider.

    I hope not to scaremonger and share concern about that desicable approach. Obviously these types video games are very enjoyable and important to many. I eagerly await studies that will help us understand as clearly as possible the effect of this new phenomena in recreation.

    Meanwhile, I would be a foolish parent and member of society to ignore my direct observation of how a significant proportion of children act during and immediately after violent video play, especially as this is multiplied by wide expansion and availability of sexual and violent material in video gaming.

    I limit my own type and extent of play because I think I know myself and notice a shift in the way I feel and perhaps even think during and after gaming, that is not as simple and clear cut as one might imagine the difference between reality and fantasy to be.

    Of course if you never pick up a gun or drive a car they way you might in a video game, no one will get hurt, but kids and adults encounter real guns and drive real cars and real people get hurt.

    I am convinced that fantasy (Especially when sensational or enduring) often becomes what I think about, which becomes what I talk about, which becomes what I do, which is very much who I am in the social context. This observation has helped me to achieve some good things in life, but is also a real force that can lead me down the wrong track. There are lots of opportunities within this process for me to govern and self limit my exposure, thought life, and behaviors, but some (Even many) seem to lack the discipline or inclination (OR awareness of the need) to excercise such intentional control.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 14:13:13 UTC | #881278

    Stonyground's Avatar Comment 30 by Stonyground

    If we are going to worry about video games that potentially might depict virtual images of people being burned alive, maybe we should ban Christianity which has a proven track record of burning real people alive, in reality. It is an important point that the practice ended when they ceased to have the power to do so and not because they realised that it wasn't a very nice thing to do.

    Sun, 16 Oct 2011 18:25:32 UTC | #881300