My first thought is to wonder if this is the article that the guy read:
EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AGGRESSIVE COGNITION, AGGRESSIVE AFFECT, PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL, AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature
Research on exposure to television and movie violence suggests that playing violent video games will increase aggressive behavior. A metaanalytic review of the video-game research literature reveals that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults. Experimental and nonexperimental studies with males and females in laboratory and field settings support this conclusion. Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases prosocial behavior.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t really answer the underlying policy question- after all, it’s called a “cost-benefit analysis” and not a “cost-analysis” for a reason, so it’s incorrect to come to a conclusion after examining only one side of the cost-benefit puzzle.
Economists Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna take the analysis to another level even and investigate whether these aggressive behaviors actually manifest themselves in increased incidence of violence. Apparently not only is the answer no, but the effect actually appears to go in the opposite direction:
Laboratory experiments in psychology find that media violence increases aggression in the short run.We analyze whether media violence affects violent crime in the field. We exploit variation in the violence of blockbuster movies from 1995 to 2004, and study the effect on same-day assaults. We find that violent crime decreases on days with larger theater audiences for violent movies. The effect is partly due to voluntary incapacitation: between 6 P.M. and 12 A.M., a one million increase in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.1% to 1.3%. After exposure to the movie, between 12 A.M. and 6 A.M., violent crime is reduced by an even larger percent. This finding is explained by the self-selection of violent individuals into violent movie attendance, leading to a substitution away from more volatile activities. In particular, movie attendance appears to reduce alcohol consumption. The results emphasize that media exposure affects behavior not only via content, but also because it changes time spent in alternative activities. The substitution away from more dangerous activities in the field can explain the differences with the laboratory findings. Our estimates suggest that in the short run, violent movies deter almost 1,000 assaults on an average weekend. Although our design does not allow us to estimate long-run effects, we find no evidence of medium-run effects up to three weeks after initial exposure.
I read this as “violent movies make people want to punch other people in the face, but they don’t actually do so because they are busy not drinking and watching movies where people punch other people in the face.” As usual, science FTW. Though I have to wonder who doesn’t just smuggle booze into the movie theater.