Nov 212013
 

This podcast begins with Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt talking about whether virtual mayhem — from online ranting to videogame violence — may help reduce mayhem in the real world. There is no solid data on this, Levitt says, but he hypothesizes:
LEVITT: Maybe the biggest effect of all of having these violent video games is that they’re super fun for people to play, especially adolescent boys, maybe even adolescent boys who are prone to real violence. And so if you can make video games fun enough, then kids will stop doing everything else. They’ll stop watching TV, they’ll stop doing homework, and they’ll stop going out and creating mayhem on the street.

Transcript:

Stephen J. DUBNER: We’ve all heard the accusations, again and again and again…
TV CLIP: And again another story we’re following, cyber bullying. This seems to be an all too common occurrence.
TV CLIP: Porn is now available everywhere at the click of a button.
TV CLIP: Pornography is taking the place of good healthy sex education.
TV CLIP: We are exposing people most at risk to a new and toxic drug called virtual entertainment and the worst of it are these violent video games.
TV CLIP: People are so concerned about violent video games, think about your kids acting out violently on real people through social media.
DUBNER: The message is clear: technology makes it easy for people to do bad things, to engage in antisocial behaviors, that they might not otherwise do. But what if we have this question backward? What if – maybe, somehow – what if all that virtual mayhem translates into less actual mayhem? I called up my Freakonomics friend and co-author, Steve Levitt. He’s an economist at the University of Chicago. One of his favorite research topics is crime:
Steve LEVITT: So in theory there are at least three channels through which you could imagine virtual violence spilling over or not into real violence. So the first, and this is the more popular view, is that when you teach kids how to shoot guns in violent video games then they’re more likely to go out and shoot guns in the real world. And certainly it’s easy to understand how that would work. There’s a second view of the world which I think is probably hard to defend which is that if I’m frustrated I can go shoot my fake guns in my video game and I won’t feel the need to go shoot my real gun in the real world. You can also imagine how that would be. And then there’s a third answer, which really is one that economists think about more than regular people, which maybe the biggest effect of all of having these violent video games is that they’re super fun for people to play, especially adolescent boys, maybe even adolescent boys who are prone to real violence and so if you can make video games fun enough, then kids will stop doing everything else, right? They’ll stop watching TV, they’ll stop doing homework, and they’ll stop going out and creating mayhem on the street. But I think evidence that we have, it’s relatively scant, but the evidence we do have is actually that that third one is far more important that either of the first two in influencing real-world violence.

 

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Source: Freakonomics

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