MJA InSight Article

An opinion piece I wrote for the Medical Journal of Australia went live last week. I argue that violent video game effects are often considered in isolation and without context. It’s entirely conceivable that violent video games are one of several aspects of human experience that can increase aggression. Ideally we should be looking at how aggressive behavior is affected by other socially-accepted leisure activities (e.g. contact or combat sports).

iStock_000002270568XSmallAgressive boxing fight

SASP Summer School 2014

On 3-9 February 2014, I and others attended the SASP Summer School, this year held in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

We were split into three streams. I was successful in applying for the Emotion, Motivation, and Human Neuroscience stream, taught by the charismatic trio of Eddie and Cindy Harmon-Jones from UNSW, and Jon Maner from Florida State University. Our stream focused on issues of approach and avoidance motivation in emotion, as well as evolutionary accounts for emotion.

A key component of all the summer schools I’ve attended is the student collaboration project. The students in each stream were split into smaller groups and tasked with taking the key message of their streams and designing a research project. I was fortunate enough to be grouped with James Cox (Uni of Missouri-St. Louis), Rosemaree Miller (Uni of Newcastle), Eric Sun (Uni of New South Wales), and Amy Datyner (Uni of New South Wales). Our project was titled The role of target posture in emotion perception by an observer, and seeks to evaluate the relative usefulness of using postural information (leaning forward vs. leaning back) in interpreting emotional and goal-directed behavior.

Working with these fantastic individuals was a great experience and helped me form some understanding of an area of social psychology for which I had little.

After each day’s hard work, we unwound each evening with, what became a routine, game of ‘Werewolf’ (thanks Thekla). I have little doubt that Werewolf is enjoyed the most by social psychologists studying group processes.

I had a great time at the summer school and would heartily recommend it to anyone thinking of attending one in the near future!

Emotion, Motivation, and Human Neuroscience stream
Emotion, Motivation, and Human Neuroscience stream

CRiSP Writing Retreat 2013

I’ve spent the last few days reading and thinking while the Moreton Bay tide creeps in and out. Every year the Centre for Research in Social Psychology (CRiSP) at UQ hosts a three day writing retreat on Stradbroke Island. I’ve spent the time working on some ideas for the final experiment of my PhD and I’m eager to get back to Brisbane and start putting these plans into action!
CRiSP Writing Retreat 2013

Conversation article

The editors at The Conversation saw my paper and wanted me to write a piece on difficulties in replication. I also try to make the argument that null results, in the case of direct replications, should be given the time of day. The article ended up as the lead for the Science and Technology section that day.

The article here, and a reply article here from Andy Ruddock.


Media roundup of PLoS One article

The media response to my PLoS One article published a few weeks ago has been pretty awesome! Big thanks to Matt and Mel for the crash course in science communication and dealing with media requests.

Here’s a quick roundup of the best quality coverage the paper got:

Technology Spectator

The Courier Mail

Ausgamers interview

Chris Ferguson’s Checkpoints blog

Online section of Time Magazine

Psychobabble Q&A episode on video games

PLoS One Publication

Our paper “Failure to Demonstrate That Playing Violent Video Games Diminishes Prosocial Behavior” went live yesterday morning. Here’s a link to the PLoS One page.

There are three key things we report in paper:

  1. We were unable to replicate findings by Greitemeyer & Osswald (2010) that prosocial games increase prosocial behavior.
  2. We were unable to find a reason for Greitemeyer & Osswald’s failure to demonstrate a detrimental effect of violent games.
  3. While were unable to reveal an effect of video game content on behavior, we were able to demonstrate that slight differences in the administration of the experiment led to large changes in behavior

On a personal note, I’m really happy to see this work published. When we started writing, we were resigned to the fact that we would have trouble getting this manuscript accepted, given that it’s essentially three failed replication attempts. Failures to replicate have typically been difficult to publish because they are often viewed as less interesting or unfairly labelled as difficult to interpret. In a literature as divided as the violent video game literature, I think null effects are valuable. If we never report difficulty in reproducing past research, then we are only seeing a partial account of the true nature of the effects.

Some people might wonder why we report the direct replication last. We initially wanted to ask a different series of questions using the pen-drop task and felt it was important to replicate the Greitemeyer and Osswald studies as a base from which to test our ideas. What followed was a number of surprising failures to conceptually replicate, which culminated in a last-ditch attempt to reveal the effect by conducting a replication as faithful to the original as we could run. The order of experiments in the paper reflects this thought process.

Tear, M. J., & Nielsen, M. (2013). Failure to demonstrate that playing violent video games diminishes prosocial behavior. PLoS One, 8(7): e68382. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068382

Failure to Demonstrate That Playing Violent Video Games Diminishes Prosocial Behavior

Cairns 2013 – SASP Meeting

The Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) recently held their annual meeting in Cairns, Australia. I presented some work that Katie Greenaway and myself conducted over the last year. We looked at violent video game effects and attribution interventions. Specifically, we show that some people show fewer aggressive cognitions when they attribute video-game induced arousal to an unrelated source. This only seems to work for people who are normally quite perceptive of changes in their arousal.

We are collecting more data for a second experiment as I write this. This time we ask participants to try and be mindful of their arousal to see if we can reveal the same effect as in those who are high in trait bodily awareness.

The presentation was well received and most attendees shared our anticipation for the upcoming data!

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