Three researchers have developed a novel method to consider that question: they analyzed the research output of experts who filed a brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving violent video games and teens.
You know why it’s novel? Because no scientist would ever have used it.
Their conclusion? Experts who say violent video games are harmful to teens have published much more evidence supporting their claims than have experts on the other side of the debate.
“We took what I think is a very objective approach: we looked at the individuals on both sides of the debate and determined if they actually have expertise in the subjects in which they call themselves experts,” said Brad Bushman…professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“The evidence suggests that those who argue violent video games are harmful have a lot more experience and stronger credentials than those who argue otherwise.”
You would be forgiven if you thought this was a study about video game violence. It is not. It is a study about how to validate scientific claims, and this method hopes to be used more generally.
Look carefully at the argument being made and the conclusion. The entire study is a cognitive bias, and that bias is called Appeal To Authority.
In essence, the study is studying which group of people is more “expert” about this question. How do you define expert? Experts have published more extensively on this question. I hope it is obvious that this is so flawed as to be useless. The only people who judge expertise by number of publications is social scientists, and that’s why they aren’t considered scientists by anyone else. There’s an entire academic journal devoted to parapsychology that’s recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in which I could happily publish 50 studies. So?
And note that the system has an inherent bias. Whichever side of the question is currently in vogue will be overrepresented by academics and research; eventually this gets corrected as science progresses, but at any moment the number of experts in the field more closely represents the prevailing wisdom than scientific accuracy. Which isn’t to say it isn’t accurate, just that you are less sure that it’s accurate than that it’s the prevailing wisdom.
Nevertheless, this study allowed the author to assert, “”It provides strong support for the argument that video game violence is indeed harmful.””
No it doesn’t, it’s simply not a link a scientist could make using this method. No one is making any attempt to interpret the studies themselves– that’s not what they want. The point is to be able to quickly screen a social or controversial question for expertise in an effort to control the dialogue on matters no one wants to/can evaluate on their own. I’ll let you imagine how this “novel method” might be put to excellent use in climate change and etc. Science becomes a matter of faith.
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