Controversial video game gun study gets retracted

A controversial study about video games and guns titled in part “Boom, Headshot!” has been pulled because of issues with the original data, the website Retraction Watch reported recently. The now-retracted study argued that training with a violent video game can actually make people better at shooting with a real gun.

The study, published in 2012, involved 151 participants who played different video games. One of those games had “humanoid targets” and “rewarded headshots,” according to a version of the study that’s still online. The upshot? People who had played the violent game with a controller that was shaped like a pistol subsequently did better when asked to shoot “a realistic gun at a mannequin.”

“Thus, playing violent shooting video games can improve firing accuracy and can influence players to aim for the head,” the study reported.

But the study has now been retracted because two other researchers, who were not involved in the study, pointed out “irregularities in some variables of the data set,” according to a statement about the retraction.


“Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable,” that statement added.

That same retraction statement also said that one of the two authors on the study, Brad Bushman of The Ohio State University, was “in agreement” about the retraction decision.

The study has been disputed for years, Retraction Watch pointed out. One of the researchers who pointed out problems with the data was Malte Elson, a postdoctoral researcher at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.


“I am pleased to see the paper is finally retracted almost 3 years after the authors were first notified of the concerns (and 2 years after it was first reported to the Ohio State University),” Elson told Retraction Watch. “The public record has now been corrected, which is the only thing Patrick [Patrick Markey, of Villanova University, who was also concerned about the study] and I ever wanted after we found evidence of severe errors in the data on which the now retracted paper was based.”

The Ohio State University said in a statement that they had been "alerted to irregularities in some of the variables of the data set" in the beginning of 2015.

"The university and Dr. Bushman were unable to confirm the values of the questioned variables because the original research records had been taken from The Ohio State University," the statement said. Ultimately, an editor at the journal that published the study "decided a retraction was warranted."

The statement added: "A replication of the study by Dr. Bushman has been done and is under review."