After a string of mass shootings, politicians, including President Donald Trump, blamed video games. Video games have been blamed for mass shootings for decades now, but new research published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture has revealed that if the shootings were carried out by people of color, politicians would have been less likely to blame video games and more likely to put blame on the shooter.
This research was conducted by Villanova University psychology professor Patrick Markey, Ph.D., and his team. As reported by the American Psychological Association, Markey and his team analyzed over 200,000 news articles about 204 mass shootings that have occurred over a 40 year period. They found that video games were eight times more likely to be blamed when the shooting occurred at a school and if the shooting was carried out by a white male as opposed to an African American male.
Researchers also engaged in an experiment where 169 college students were asked to read a fake newspaper article that described a mass shooting carried out by an 18 year old male gamer. Half of the people in the experiment read a version of the newspaper that showed a mug shot of a white person, whereas the other half saw a mug shot of an African American. Researchers found that people who read the newspaper with the white mug shot were more likely to say that video games played a role in the shooting than those who read the news paper with the African American mug shot.
Another factor that impacted whether someone in the experiment blamed video games for the shootings was whether or not they themselves played games. Researchers found that those who didn't play video games were more likely to blame games than those who do.
Markey offered some explanation for his findings in Psychology of Popular Media Culture. "When a violent act is carried out by someone who doesn't match the racial stereotype of what a violent person looks like, people tend to seek an exteranl explanation for the violent behavior." Markey added, "Video games are often used by lawmakers and others as a red herring to distract from other potential causes of school shootings. When a shooter is a young white male, we talk about violent video games as a cause for the shooting. When the shooter is an older man or African American, we don't."
It's unfortunate that some politicians continue to blame video games for mass shootings, but it's worth pointing out that some politicians have started shifting away from that mindset. For example, Hillary Clinton defended video games recently, whereas she spoke out against video game violence in the past.
Regardless, it seems like the debate about whether or not video games cause violence will continue for some time to come.