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Critique of Results, "Study: Kids' Gaming Is 'Strongly' Associated with Attention Problems"

A critique of the misleading claims in "Study: Kids' Gaming Is 'Strongly' Associated With Attention Problems," posted on Serious Games Source July 7th, 2010

I love research, almost as much as I love videogames. However,  sometimes people produce bad research, or produce good research that makes huge claims that the research won't support. This post is an example of the latter.

I'm writing about the article posted on Gamasutra sister site SeriousGamesSource, "Study: Kids' Gaming Is 'Strongly' Associated With Attention Problems."  I don't blame the author (Leigh Alexander) for any of the following, since these inconsistencies are difficult to spot and were embedded in the original press release, but there are a few things I'd like to point out about this article.

  1. This study did not show a "Strong" relationship between media exposure and attention difficulties. The relationship between gaming and attention problems in this study had a Pearson's correlation coefficient of r=.22 at initial testing and r=.10 after 13 months elapsed. A strong relationship is a relationship where r is greater than .5, up to a maximum relationship of 1.0. In fact, if the authors of the article are being honest, they can't even call .22 or .1 a medium strength connection- .1 to .3 is a small or weak relationship.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson_product-moment_correlation_coefficient

  2. The relationship between gameplay and attention problems shrinks over time, going
    from r=.22 at the first point of measure to r=.10 after 13 months. This is directly in contradiction to the claims made in the study: "Nonetheless, because of this cumulative later-life effect, the study recommended that parents limit their kids' TV and game time to under two hours a day for the best chance of effective and healthy habits in early adulthood."

  3. I scoured the study, and I can't find anywhere that the author supports the claim of "those who play games more than two hours a day are 67 percent more likely to have
    attention problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in home and in the classroom." You would think a claim that central to the author's point would be prominently displayed in the article, but I surely can't find it. Also, more likely than whom? Those who play no videogames? Those who only play one hour? Those who are below two hours a day?

  4. This article comes out of Iowa State University; they have a history of releasing articles that make grandiose claims with small statistical backing, but get massive media circulation due to their inflammatory "video games are unhealthy" positions.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_A._Anderson, section "Controversies"

Gamasutra and its sister sites are fantastic, informative, and enjoyable to read. Unfortunately, with articles like this, unless the journalist has extensive research experience, he/ she is essentially forced to take the author's word, even if that author makes expansive claims that his research doesn't support.

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