Top Scientist Addles Brain, Warns Gamer

By Jim Rossignol on October 14th, 2011 at 8:11 am.

Demented, I tell ya!
The Sun, yesterday:

COMPUTER games and Facebook can addle kids’ brains, a top scientist warned yesterday. Baroness Greenfield said they may lead to temporary “dementia”.

It’d be great to think this was just the tabloid rag taking Greenfield’s words out of context, but sadly she has a record of saying unfounded things about the “negative” impact of technology. Not that I deny that kids should be going out and playing in the fresh air, Baroness Greenfield, it’s just that they’re probably not going to end up demented (temporarily or otherwise) if they stay in all the time. They’ll just be a bit sad.

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55 Comments »

  1. Rich says:

    I, at least, went a bit mental when I was a kid and played too much Lemmings on the Mega Drive.

  2. OlliX says:

    >Tags: Not Science, Science.

    I chuckled a bit.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Good enough for science? Not Aperture Science!

    • The Colonel says:

      Not poems and rubbish… Science! So we can get everything working. We’ll build villages and towns and… and… we’ll play each other at……. Call of Duty?

  3. Premium User Badge

    Morlock says:

    I am a cognitive psychologist (I’m not kidding) and rest assured, a lot of us consider Baroness Greenfield a joke. Some of the research she presents is solid, the video game/internet stuff is almost completely made up. Her line of argument goes like this:

    Our experiences shape the brain -> a new generation is making new experiences due to new media -> we should consider the effects of these new experiences on the brain -> [all the insane claims you heard about, without any data to support them]

    Wait, there were data – in a talk at the University of Sheffield she showed a trailer (!) of a multiplayer game I dodn’t know. The trailer had a lot of very fast editing and cuts, like trailers tend to have. She then asked the audience to imagine what happens to someone if he/she is exposed to such input for hours and hours. As if the trailer represented the pace of the actual game. It was laughable, and I am happy she was finally kicked out of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

    • deejayem says:

      It’s a shame, because I remember her back in the day being pretty good on public understanding of science. Sad to see her get caught up in personal bugbears. Ah, scientist – science thyself. Or summin.

    • Balobam says:

      See, that sounded like it would be really clever. “Ah, scientist – science thyself. Or summin.”

      “To err is human; to forgive, is pretty cool too I guess”

    • Wunce says:

      I demand to see some P-Values!

      Seriously did she make a paper and get it published or is she just making stuff up?

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      Bluerps says:

      Getting something published does not necessarily say much about the quality of the research. There is all manner of nonsense being published, constantly. Or at least, that’s my experience in my field (which has nothing to do with cognitive psychology, but I would be surprised if there is much difference, regarding this).

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      She’s been touting this stuff for years now. Sadly because of her work it means she has access to a lot of very public science platforms. I remember seeing her at Cheltenham Science Festival without any opposition whatsoever.

      The laughable bit is that she endorsed this business http://www.mindfit.com/

      Bit rich from someone who writes books about how technology is infantising us all.

    • bill says:

      Back when I hung out with scientists (!) they seemed to mostly consider her a publicity seeker. But on the other hand, scientists can be rather stuck in their ways, so I was never sure how much of this was true and how much came from the “scientists shouldn’t speak to the public” mentality.

    • Christian O. says:

      I don’t think giving stupid people a platform is the same as making them stupid.

    • Leonard Hatred says:

      The problem with Facebook is that not only does it empower stupid people, but it encourages the dopey fuckers to goad each other into ever more dizzying heights of idiocy.

      I hate Facebook.

  4. AbyssUK says:

    Having worked as a games tester for a year I can safely say this is true, myself and most of the testers at the time suffered from signs of dementia all the time…

    • Gnoupi says:

      Having worked with software testers, I can safely say that this effect is not restricted to games.

    • Nemrod says:

      That whole Shotgun Fortress is populated with psychos!

    • aerozol says:

      Do you think your work as a paid games tester can be accurately compared to the experience a child might have playing a game?
      I assumed as a game tester you would be repeatedly combing small pieces or combinations of games over and over (and over), trying to pinpoint issues, which would drive anyone a bit mad. I think some play habits/ game mechanics may be similar, but I didn’t think they could be broadly compared.

  5. pupsikaso says:

    So, can someone explain to me why it seems that newspaper editors in the UK are willing to take any bullshit story they can grasp their wicked hands on and spin it into mad sensation instead of first validating who their source is, and what exactly they are trying to sell to them?

    I mean, this isn’t the first time that RPS mentions a UK newspaper that has written articles that are very disputable, so why is this happening? Is the UK such a boring place that there’s nothing else to talk about? Do a majority of the editors there have some kind of personal vendetta against video games?

    I’m serious… I just don’t understand why an editor for a newspaper that’s supposed to be considered reputable is passing on articles without first making sure that the research is backed up by solid evidence.

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      Colthor says:

      Because newspapers are interested in three things:
      1. Selling advertising space.
      2. Encouraging the biases of their readers.
      3. Espousing the world-view of their owners.

      So they will report anything, regardless of accuracy, truth or relevance, that supports those objectives, as long as they can get away with it. And they can get away with pretty much anything.

      Besides, I don’t think The Sun is supposed to be considered reputable. I’m not sure many of our newspapers are.

    • apocraphyn says:

      >The Sun
      >Reputable

      Ahahahaha! Ahahaha!! Oh wow, that’s a good one. (Sorry, too much videogames).

    • deejayem says:

      UK press is in a funny place at the moment – in a nutshell, dropping circulation plus nobody can afford advertising means no money for newspapers means staff cuts means firing all the sub-editors and support staff means journalists spend much less time reporting and researching and much more time grabbing stories off press releases and typing them directly onto page layouts. Also means shocking/hilarious decrease in editorial standards across the board.

      That said, I don’t know if the UK press is uniquely bad, or if it just gets more exposure on RPS cos it is like a British site, innit?

      Edited for typo – oh the irony!

    • gabbaell says:

      Also, I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but the UK ‘regulatory’ body, the Press Complaints Commission is a bit of a joke to say the least.

      It has absolutely no legal powers, is made up of representatives from the press, and is completely voluntary. So, even though they seem to dismiss everything on technicalities anyway, papers can pretty much ignore anything they do say, even though they make the rules up themselves.

      And, if a paper cannot even be bothered to pretend to be self regulating, they can just leave the PCC altogether like the Express decided to.

    • Terr says:

      Replied to wrong comment, ignore me.

    • BAshment says:

      The amount of slander attributed to “anonymous” sources in British tabloids is laughable. Retractions should be required to be on page 1 in bold.

    • Tams80 says:

      Sun reputable?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!! No, really.

      We call ‘newspapers’ like the Sun, the ‘Red Tops’. What you just mentioned is basically what red tops do, to varying extents.

      Example from article: “a top scientist warned yesterday” Admittedly they actually named the anonymous source this.

      We do have some more reputable newspapers. I don’t think any newspapers anywhere are really that reputable though. You don’t make money selling facts, but you can make some selling opinions.

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      stahlwerk says:

      @gabbaell you need to consider that any direct and effective state involvement in newspaper regulation would be very anti-freedom-of-press. In the end, the fault lies not with the papers, but with their readers for buying the one with the biggest headlines.

    • deejayem says:

      The PCC is on its way out, of course, post hacking scandal. Which is a shame in a way – self-regulation of the press is always preferable to government regulation. But the PCC has proven itself totally inadequate, subject to vested interests and toothless when it counts.

      Ideally it’d be replaced by something like the BFCC, which over the last decade or so has turned into a pretty stand-up example of how media self-regulation backed by legislature should operate. But that’s another story.

    • The Colonel says:

      Despite its often far-too-blatantly leftist perspective, the Guardian is one of the few papers left which still funds and champions (proper) investigative journalism – See MP’s expenses scandal, privacy and access to information campaigns and Wikileaks for recent examples. Indy is perhaps more balanced on issues but other than Johann Hari’s adventures into every sensationalist topic you can think of it’s not strong on IJ. Financial Times is still a favourite, but beyond that you’re mostly looking at tabloid-cum-broadsheet papers like Daily Mail and the wings of the Murdoch Empire corroding everything it touches.

      Where are you from pupsikaso?

    • Skabooga says:

      Hey, you guys till have The Economist. As far as I can tell, they are a publication of high standards, and their articles on video games have been factual and positive. A few years back they even did a hilarious bait and switch: on the cover image and tagline were about the article on video games inside the issue, the latter reading: “Are video games breeding evil?”. Their three-page feature went on to say, “No, they aren’t.”

  6. PhilR says:

    Careful now, too much Greenfield will give you autism don’t you know.

    • iniudan says:

      I find this offensive. =p Not really for easy to see it a joke on her poor research, but actually been autistic it doesn’t come out funny. But the open letters linked in it was nice. =)

  7. adonf says:

    What, just 5 lines? John Walker would have made a 3 billion words post about this. You guys are getting soft!

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    Anthile says:

    I… I am a monster. I never knew. :(

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    Bluerps says:

    Heh. Unfortunately, crackpot scientists warning people about the “dangers of videogames” are no phenomenon confined to Britain. We have those here in Germany too.

  10. Gnoupi says:

    And of course, I’m reading this article, surrounded by hatred messages, proving the point!

    “Orcs must die!” “Slice them, burn them, skewer them, launch them… just get it done!”

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Free press mean they are free to create propaganda against media eroding their power & revenue, thankfully they’re terrible at it & this wont stop their demise.

    • pupsikaso says:

      This is what I don’t understand. The internet has been around since, what, the mid-90s? Why are newspapers so focused on bedeviling video games and not the internet? What do video games have to do with eroding their power and revenue anyway, when it’s the internet that is facilitating the erosion of it?

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      They attack both, hence the inappropriate facebook reference, the internet erodes their print media revenue, but the newspapers who perpetuate this kind of propaganda share common ownership with Sky/Fox (News International) or ITV and games are much responsible for eroding television viewing as the internet.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Also anyone who calls themselves a baroness can’t really be expected to say anything intelligent about anything.

  13. odie5533 says:

    I edited the Wikipedia page. Now it’s less of a controversy.

    Joking aside, I couldn’t find anything to backup the claim that she’s a nutter. The only thing I noticed while researching is that she has never personally research the subject or wrote any papers or books on the subject. Just does interviews for newspapers and TV shows grasping for a story. I don’t trust scientists that try to make claims in other fields. Nor do I ask my Optometrist to perform my colonoscopy.

  14. Melf_Himself says:

    Well, let’s see here.

    She’s a Professor at Oxford, so you’d think she’s reputable… except, she’s making claims that are not actually related to her line of research.

    Quoth the wiki:

    “she has been criticised by Ben Goldacre for claiming that technology has adverse effects on the human brain, without having undertaken any research or properly evaluating available evidence”

    “Greenfield cited a June 2011 study published in PLoS ONE as evidence for her claims”

    (PLoS ONE is a free online trash journal)

    • odie5533 says:

      Stating that PLoS ONE is a “free online trash journal” shows how profoundly ignorant you are of the scientific community.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    I want in on this temporary “dementia”, it sounds awesome.

    • westyfield says:

      hey bro, over here. try this dementia. its cool, first hit is free.

  16. Ralphomon says:

    Baroness Greenfield doesn’t know anything

    That is all

  17. Unaco says:

    Oh great… does she have another book or similar product she wants to shift?

    As a Neuroscientist, I can confirm that what she says is rarely taken seriously by the scientific community, and that it only really serves to enhance the disdain with which we view her recent actions. This is not really her field… there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, a ‘populariser of science’ (as she seems to be these days) can and should embrace fields they aren’t experts in. But, what is wrong, is that she is not doing balanced, reasonable, unbiased research into the field she has started getting involved in. There’s nothing wrong with a non-expert getting involved in a field… if they do the science and research right. She isn’t.

    Really, she needs to get out of the spotlight, and back into the Laboratory.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      “she needs to get out of the spotlight, and back into the Laboratory.”

      You spelled kitchen wrong.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      On a serious note though, just wondering what is her field? I thought she was a neuroscientist?
      In which case, wouldn’t talking about the effect things have on our brains be within “her field”?

  18. V. Profane says:

    Oh for fucks sakes, stupid reply system.

  19. Skabooga says:

    “She also blasted the rise in “trolling” — where malicious messages are posted online — ”

    Seems like a slightly dangerous statement to make in public outlets, considering the nature of trolls.

  20. RandomGameR says:

    This is why I prefer bottom scientists.