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Psychologists: linking video games to violence ‘not scientifically sound’

On Tuesday the American Psychological Association, the leading scientific and professional organization of its kind in the United States, reaffirmed its position on violence in video games. “There is insufficient scientific evidence to support a causal link between violent video games and violent behavior,” it said in a news release. The statement reasserts a resolution made in 2015, and was based on a review of the most recent literature on the subject.

“Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policymakers and the public,” said APA President Sandra L. Shullman, PhD. “Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.”

The statement did provide a caution, however, stating that there was some perceived link between violent video games and “aggressive outcomes, such as yelling and pushing.” But, it added, “these research findings are difficult to extend to more violent outcomes.”

The topic of violent video games in high schools recently made headlines when, in January, Kentucky’s high school athletic association banned Fortnite from varsity esports. Its technical partner, PlayVS, added the competitive third-person shooter to its platform in a surprise move overnight, causing confusion among coaches and players throughout the state. At the time, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) said it was working with PlayVS to resolve the issue.

In 2018, following a string of tragic school shootings, President Donald Trump came out strongly against violence in video games, saying that he was “hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” He eventually set up a commission to study the topic, which ultimately had little to say about entertainment’s impact on school violence.

Polygon has reached out to several high school esports organizations for comment, including PlayVS, High School Esports League (HSEL), NFHS, and the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF).

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