Violent Video Game Effects Remain a Societal Concern: Reply to Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder (2017)
A large meta-analysis by Anderson et al. (2010) found that violent video games increased aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior and decreased empathic feelings and helping behavior. Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder (2017) reanalyzed the data of Anderson et al. (2010) using newer publication bias methods (i.e., precision-effect test, precision-effect estimate with standard error, p-uniform, p-curve). Based on their reanalysis, Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder concluded that experimental studies examining the effect of violent video games on aggressive affect and aggressive behavior may be contaminated by publication bias, and these effects are very small when corrected for publication bias. However, the newer methods Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder used may not be the most appropriate. Because publication bias is a potential a problem in any scientific domain, we used a comprehensive sensitivity analysis battery to examine the influence of publication bias and outliers on the experimental effects reported by Anderson et al. We used best meta-analytic practices and the triangulation approach to locate the likely position of the true mean effect size estimates. Using this methodological approach, we found that the combined adverse effects of outliers and publication bias was less severe than what Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder found for publication bias alone. Moreover, the obtained mean effects using recommended methods and practices were not very small in size. The results of the methods used by Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder tended to not converge well with the results of the methods we used, indicating potentially poor performance. We therefore conclude that violent video game effects should remain a societal concern.