Letter: Research on violent videos inconclusive

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The Independent Online
Sir: Many claims are being made about links between the viewing of video nasties and criminality. In your article 'Censor criticises plan to ban violent videos' (11 April), you cite research done by the Policy Studies Institute into the viewing tastes of a sample of 78 young offenders and controls finding remarkably similar viewing preferences. I would however advise caution before drawing any conclusion about the issue up for debate for at least two reasons:

(i) The criminal group may indeed have similar tastes to controls and still view more video nasties] The use of observational methodologies is essential as a check on the claims made in interviews.

(ii) In an area as sensitive as video viewing habits the possibility of 'social desirability' bias affecting verbal reporting for both groups is a real one. Both samples may have a desire to appear 'normal' and so conceal what they believe to be socially unacceptable viewing preferences. We need to know how those engaged in such research dealt with these methodological matters before accepting their claims as worthy of further reflection, and appropriate action.

Yours faithfully,


Faculty of Education

University of Paisley


12 April