OGDEN -- Violent video games may not be proven to cause violent behavior, but they can be proven to be linked to aggression. And repetitive playing of violent games can also be proven to increase aggressive behavior by large amounts each time the game is played.
These statements were the predominant message given Thursday by Brad Bushman, a well-known expert in aggression and media violence who is a professor and researcher at Ohio State University.
Bushman, a Weber State University graduate, recently served as chairman of a National Science Foundation panel on youth violence. The foundation's report is being sent to Congress and the president.
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice," said Bushman, who spoke to a group of seventh- through 12th-graders at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts charter school. "How do you learn that problems are solved through violent behavior? Practice, practice, practice."
Bushman said all of the effects that can be proven about video games are considered estimates, because researchers are not allowed to have their subjects play video games rated above their age limits. However, he said, access to those games is common among many American children.
Bushman said he just finished a study on violent shooting games.
"We do know that playing violent shooting games causes people to be better shots with real guns," he said, noting that study participants were given air-soft guns that were similar in shape and action to real guns.
He said a test group played nonviolent video games while another group of randomly selected study participants played violent shooting games, including some who played games in which shots to the head were rewarded.
Then they were each asked to shoot at a mannequin in a hallway.
"We found that those who played violent games that rewarded head shots made 99 percent more head shots and hit 33 percent more shots overall," Bushman said.
"The head is very small. Three-fourths of the time if you miss, you hit air. We didn't tell them to shoot for the head, just to shoot."
As he spoke, Bushman did not offer opinions, only statistical data from studies.
He cited a case study in which a youth who had never shot a gun but had extensively played the video game "Grand Theft Auto" was able to kill three police officers with one shot to the head each time.
He also said studies have proven it a myth that people relieve themselves of their aggressions by playing violent video games.
While he was in town, Bushman also gave the inaugural College of Social and Behavioral Science Distinguished Lecture at Weber State.
The lecture was preceded by the WSU Psychology Department honoring him with a Distinguished Alumni Award at a reception.
Following the Dec. 14 shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Bushman said he and other leading experts on youth violence wrote a report on violence, answering the questions of how scientists believe such events come to be.
In general, he said, most who commit mass shootings are relatively rich, relatively smart, get good grades but don't fit in.
"They are not cool, not athletic," he said. "Almost all of them get guns at home because parents don't lock them up.
"Almost all kill themselves or hope police will kill them."