[From Rick Marken (2008.12.08.2240)]
I think you just sent this to me but I hope you don’t mind my copying my reply to CSGNet.
This research is fine as sociology or policy research; but I think
it’s worthless as an approach to understanding individual human behavior.
This is a strong statement, as I’m sure you are aware, and one that really
undercuts a huge discipline.
I know. But this is not a uniquely PCT point of view. Several psychologists have pointed out what they thought were problems with studying individuals using statistical analysis of group data (David Bakan and B.F.Skinner come to mind). The fact of the matter is that group level statistical studies can tell us something about individuals only if 1) the causal (general linear) model of behavior is correct (IVs cause DVs) and 2) the effect of the IV on the DV is the same for all individuals. I think the poor performance of the general linear model (measured by r square or eta square values that are typically in the .3 range) suggests that 1) is not true. And I think there is certainly good anecdotal evidence that suggests that 2) is not true either (for example, showing an aggressive model to some kids leads them to be less rather than more aggressive).
assert that the media violence studies (and those linked to such studies
– let’s go ahead and say the bulk of contemporary psychological research
into the development of aggressive and violent behavior) are NOT
“worthless as an approach to understanding human behavior.”
I agree. As I said they are not worthless as an approach to understanding the behavior of groups of humans; they are just worthless (well, “misleading” is probably a better term) as an approach to understanding individual human behavior.
There is a
substantial literature in clinical psychology on “best practice” or
“evidence-based” or “empirically validated” treatments… The best of these
programs have had striking, significant and long-lasting intervention
effects – take for example Scott Henggeler’s Multisystemic Therapy or
Patty Chamberlain’s Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. These are top
shelf interventions built on strong foundations of psychological theory
and research – and the findings from these programs have returned the
favor by providing new insights into dynamic risk factors amenable to
Yes, at the group level there may be a benefit from using one treatment rather than another. But at the individual level there are probably many people who do worse with the treatment than they would without it.
Violent media won’t go away - we know this. The entertainment industry
makes too much money from violent programming, and in any case people seem
to want it. But, as I said in the interview, parents can and should
control their children’s access to it.
IU think you must be saying this because you think that violent programming causes aggressive behavior and you don’t want to see such behavior? I just don’t think violent programming can possibly cause violent behavior because behavior doesn’t work that way. People control what happens to themselves; what happens to them doesn’t control them.The fact that this is true is demonstrated by the many instances where exposure to violence leads to precisely the opposite of violent behavior.
This is an individual level theory. And it’s an open loop causal theory,
which is consistent with the general linear model of statistics that is
used to test it. If the results of these statistical tests don’t produce
consistently high r squared (goodness of fit) values then the model should
be rejected. We have a better alternative: closed loop control theory.
That’s a fine assertion; as I’ve mentioned to David previously, I’m
waiting for the empirical research to support this model with respect to
I think there is plenty of evidence that the causal model of aggression is wrong. I think it would be pretty easy to get empirical evidence for the control theory model of aggression. According to PCT, whether or not exposing a child to an aggressive model produces aggressive behavior depends on the purposes of the child. To demonstrate that this is the case, I would do an experiment where I would ask a child to view a violent video with the purpose of either learning how to act or how not to act when another person comes in the room. Tell the child that he or she will get a prize if the correct action is taken when the person comes in. My prediction is that every kid who has the purpose of learning how to act from the video will act violently; every kid who has the purpose of learning how not to act from the video will not act violently. It should be 100%. This little piece of empirical research will show that it’s not violent media that causes violence; it’s the relationship of that violent media to a person’s purposes.
In the experimental research, exposure to violent media causes aggression.
It appears to cause it (statistically). PCT shows why it looks that way, and why the apparent causal connection is only statistical.
model) is typically about .3 and rarely greater than .5. I thinkit’s about
time that the basic model underlying research on media violence – indeed,
the basic model underlying all research in psychology, which is the
general linear model of statistics – is what is wrong and should be
rejected. It’s time to try PCT.
This last point is where David and I have most of our discussion – if the
PCT model cannot square with the general empirical model underlying social
and behavioral science, there really is nothing I nor any of my colleagues
could say regarding media violence research that would be convincing.
Which leaves us where we started!
I don’t understand this. But it doesn’t matter, really. I see you are an Assistant professor. I think your best off staying the course with conventional psychology, at least until you get tenure. That’s basically what I did, though I left academia after getting tenure anyway. But thanks for the discussion; it has rekindled me interest in trying to write a book about doing research from a PCT perspective.
Oh, and I do have a paper coming out on this topic – in Review of General Psychology – in June 2009. I can send you a pre-publication copy if you’re interested.
On Sun, Dec 7, 2008 at 4:44 PM, Paul Boxer email@example.com wrote:
Thanks for the interesting thoughts on this…
Paul Boxer, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology,
Adjunct Research Scientist,
Institute for Social Research,
University of Michigan
Mail: 101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102
Richard S. Marken PhD