Skip to main content

Former FBI-profiler: "Video games do not cause violence"

But FBI does consider them "fuel" for existing violent predilections

A former FBI-profiler and risk assessor has spoken out about perceived causal links between gaming and outbursts of violence, warning US viewers that trying to establish that connection is to ignore the true causes of tragedies like December's shootings at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut.

Having reported that perpetrator Adam Lanza had several games at his house when it was searched by investigators following his massacre of twenty children, CBS engaged in a debate on the possible links with a panel of experts, Raw Story reports.

Whilst various conservative and pro-gun lobbyists had laid the blame for Lanza's actions at the door of videogaming, former FBI analyst Mary Ellen O'Toole offered a different perspective.

"It's my experience that video games do not cause violence," explained O'Toole. "However," she continued, "it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently.

"It's important that I point out that as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don't see these as the cause of violence, we see them as sources of fuelling ideation that's already there."

During the same discussion, Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University, pointed out that rather than increasing as games have become more violent, youth violence has actually receded - although he claimed no causal connection there, either.

"I think we have to put this discussion, to some extent, in historical perspective," Professor Ferguson believes. "And when new media come out that they tend to go through a period of what we call moral panic, in which they are blamed for all manner of societal ills. And probably the best example of this was from the 1950s, when we had Congress and psychiatrists who were claiming that comic books were responsible for not only juvenile delinquency, but homosexuality.

"We're in a mode of worry about - or panicking about this type of media. We may do some putting the cart before the horse, and we may see some people sort of starting with a conclusion and trying to assemble data in a very selective way to try to support that conclusion."

An extract from the program is here.

Read this next

Related topics