CORRELATION = CAUSALITY? Yet another study determines that watching violent TV shows makes kids more violent. The problem with such studies is that they are essentially univariate and non-directional. It may well be that people who watch a lot of violent TV shows as children are more likely to grow up violent. Does that mean TV watching is the culprit? Maybe. But only if we set up a study in which all other variables are held constant. Are kids who watch a lot of violent television also more likely to live in poorer households, single-parent households, have alcoholic parents, consume diets with poor nutritional value, have parents who are more violent, have neuro-chemical disorders that make them more predisposed to violence (and to be attracted to violent shows?!). . . .

I don’t know. Any and all of those things strikes me as plausible alternative explanations, though. Unless the study controls for those factors in a meaningful way, it is of limited value.

The article also contains another annoying bit of statistical “analysis” that I often see. “[T]he only contradictory studies she has seen ‘were commissioned by the entertainment industry.'” Even if this is true, which I doubt, so what? The funding source of the research is absolutely irrelevant to its value. Indeed, if the industry research controlled for the variables I mentioned above, it is far more valuable than “independent” research that didn’t.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.