Economists Do It With Models

Warning: “graphic” content…

Bookmark and Share
Science Versus The World, Violent Video Games Edition…

May 10th, 2012 · 7 Comments
Fun With Data · Uncategorizable


My first thought is to wonder if this is the article that the guy read:


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.

Tags: Fun With Data · Uncategorizable

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michael L. // May 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

    The conclusions from the study could be a number of things. Because there are more people at the movies in general, a violent crime is less likely to happen simply because there are less people on the street to violate. Also, I know I like going to the movies with friends and it’s been shown social interaction makes people happier. Perhaps those watching the movies go with friends and, while they are watching violence, are less prone to it themselves because they are happier from the social interactions.

    Not disagreeing, just some other alternative explanations.

  • 2 Ali // May 11, 2012 at 3:16 am

    The results complete omit the longer term effects of consuming violent media and the cross-application of results for films to videogames. I fail to see a connection…

  • 3 Ahren // May 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Almost all news media promotes feeling of violence, but only because the present days quality and thoroughness is exquisitely terrible. I think their ultimate goal is to compete with Real Housewives of NJ.

  • 4 Michael L. // May 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Adding to this, Landsburg has written an article talking about the effects of porn on rape and found similar findings.

  • 5 Hasdrubal // May 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I wonder if there have been studies asking whether actual violent behavior leads to more violence than watching violent behavior. I.e. Are football players more violent (off the field) than their fans?

    Are football players more violent than baseball players? I.e. Is it the violent or competitive aspect that correlates with violent behavior?

    Do people react to playing violent video games more like football players or fans watching the game?

    So much of the literature I’ve heard about only looks at the initial correlation without any controls. There are so many more questions that need to be asked to come to any meaningful conclusion.

    In the meantime, I’ll stick with my policy that “There ain’t no therapy like shooting shit.”

  • 6 Nate // May 30, 2012 at 8:29 am

    You know what makes me feel more violent? Watching C-SPAN. My head just feels like its going to explode and I start to understand better what made our forefathers revolt.

  • 7 Clumsy Bird cheats // Feb 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

    This piece of writing is in fact a good one it assists new net people, who are wishing for

    Feel free to surf to my blog post Clumsy Bird cheats

Leave a Comment