Is Baroness Greenfield A Nuclear Bomb?

By John Walker on November 8th, 2011 at 1:19 pm.

This WILL HAPPEN.

No. No she is not. But Baroness Greenfield recently came under some considerable fire for making inaccurate and unevidenced claims about gaming’s effects on the brain. The once highly respected scientist has now become a go-to for the worst sorts of anti-scientific scaremongering. It’s one thing when a Melanie Phillips type writes any old rubbish that falls out of her face, but when it’s the former director of the Royal Institute, it’s especially sad and frustrating. So how did the member of the House of Lords, and professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford, respond to the widespread criticism debunking her claims? She produced more of the same, this time in the form of an edited extract from a forthcoming book, published in the Times (requires subscription) on Saturday.

Employing that most wondrous of scientific article beginnings, her headline reads:

“Are video games taking away our identities?”

Somehow the following article doesn’t consist of, “No. Don’t be so silly.” Instead it’s a couple of thousand words of yet another attack on gaming, without evidence or reason.

I have said this before, and I will likely say it every time: Neither I, nor RPS, are dismissive nor hostile toward research into the dangers of gaming. In fact, we enthusiastically encourage it, because as gamers, we have a heavily invested interest in being informed about such matters. If gaming is proven as harmful (which will admittedly come as something of a surprise, what with the ubiquity of gaming and the lack of demonstrated widespread harm) we absolutely want to know about it for our own protection, and the protection of our readers. And it is for this reason that we get so angry about spurious rubbish being published in the guise of scientific findings or expertise. The more the subject is obfuscated by scaremongering and unevidenced, biased speculation, the more potential danger there is for gamers. So we are very much dismissive and hostile toward those who perpetuate this. Thus.

Greenfield’s untiring campaign against all forms of modern technology is this time being focused on how exposure to such electricity-based items will irrevocably undo our identities.

“Will ‘identity’ remain a robust and continuous experience, or change in some new way, or – bleakest of all prospects – cease to have any real meaning altogether?”

Let’s hope it’s the last one, eh, Baroness? She explains that using a computer causes you to become a “nobody”, in a way that even drugs can’t. Unfortunately, Greenfield hasn’t heeded Ben Goldacre’s excellent advice in his recent Grauniad column, in which he argued that such serious claims require serious scientific evidence, cited and peer reviewed, and published in scientific journals. Because when making such astonishing claims, one must not only provide astonishing evidence, but also respect the scientific process. It’s Greenfield’s disrespect for that scientific process of which she was, until recently, a part, that makes her articles quite so offensive. For instance, in the Times piece she states,

“One study reports that addicts, with an average age of 27, are spending an average of more than 80 hours a week in online gaming…”

A few questions:

1) What study? Where was it published?
2) Addicts of what?
3) What circumstances are these “addicts” in?

But so apparently uninterested is she in including anything approaching evidence that not only does she not stop to answer any of those questions, but even changes subject before she’s put in a full stop.

“…while another survey revealed that children in the UK, between their tenth and eleventh birthdays, spend on average 900 hours in class, 1,277 hours with their family and 1,934 hours in front of a screen – be it television or computer (it doesn’t matter, as the two types of device are converging).”

1) What survey? Where was it published?
2) What was the scale of the survey?
3) What were they doing for the other 4,649 hours?
4) How many hours were spent with family before the ubiquity of video gaming?

See, it’s clever the way she lists three activities with hours lower than looking at a screen, making it look like it’s taking up the rest of their time, eh? Somewhat ignoring the 50%+ of their time not accounted for by the apparent “survey”. But hang on – why should we be concerned about these things? What’s the problem here, Baroness?

“Prolonged and frequent video gaming, surfing and social networking cannot fail to have an effect on the mental state of a species whose most basic and valuable talent is a highly sensitive adaptability to any environment in which it is placed.”

Oh! Well then. It cannot fail to! It’s beyond parody at this point. The core of her argument, the crux of everything she wishes to convey, appears to come down to the wildly ambiguous declaration that it’s just the way it is, so it is. Because she said so. And we’re not even out of the first of five columns of this speculative, unevidenced, waffle. It gets so much more demoralising.

Greenfield argues that “screen experiences are literal”. Well, what she actually says is, “Might the reason be that screen experiences are literal?” and then continues on as if asking the question is all the evidence we need to assume the question to be accurate. “After all, what you see is what you get,” she argues, explaining that “screen images do not depend for their impact on seeing one thing in terms of anything else.” May a hundred years of film theorists please now headbutt their screens. (It’s important to state that Greenfield frequently conflates television and gaming when convenient in her piece, and thus I feel it’s only fair to do the same when interpreting her statements.)

Of course, the absolutely literal nature of screen images is worse in gaming. Because, as Von Greenfield explains as fact,

“Just as it would be hard to translate inner feelings into literal screen images, so it would be difficult to expect software to help the user to gain a sense of abstract concepts or metaphor. How might ‘honour’, for example, be depicted as a simple visual icon? Or how could the famous lines from Macbeth starting ‘Out, out, brief candle…’ be shown as a visual image that conveys its power, and meaning, as metaphor for death?”

If we can ignore the extraordinary notion that all screen-based experiences are apparently static, visual-only icons, this consistent asking of questions to which she seeks no answer becomes extremely painful for anyone who has experienced, enjoyed or been moved by the visual metaphor of gaming. Let alone film. And that’s ignoring the bewildering logic of Macbeth apparently requiring something screens prevent to be understood. It seems that Macbeth is supposed to only exist as a book, because surely to represent that line in theatre, one would have to use a visual image, rather than hold up the line for the audience to read on giant flash cards. (Oh, and that no line in Macbeth can be described as “starting out” with “Out, out brief candle,” what with that being where the line ends. It in fact comes midway through Macbeth’s twelve-line speech during Act V, Scene V, the second half of the seventh line, following, “The way to dusty death.” Which may, in some small way, help us to understand its metaphorical context as related to death. Just a thought.)

Metaphor, she continues, is essential for distinguishing our brains from those of chimps. So that asks another question.

“Could constant exposure to a literal world, devoid of metaphor and abstract concepts, actually lead to a situation where the user’s brain remains trapped in a literal present with images that really ‘mean’ nothing other than what they literally are?”

Good question! Perhaps the response to such a question to be to begin a study into this matter, and have her findings published in a journal, so her peers can assess her process, results and conclusions. Although I’m not entirely sure where she’s going to find these screen images devoid of metaphor. Oh no, wait, she’s found them.

“When you play a computer game to rescue the princess, it is not because the princess is meaningful or significant to you – you probably won’t care about her as a person – but because of the thrill of the process of playing and winning. Yet when you read a book, it is because you care about the characters, their relationships with others and their fates: their past, present and future and interrelations with other characters give them meaning.”

To me it seems that Greenfield doesn’t want to hear otherwise. If she had even the merest interest in actually understanding the subject she is so willing to write about, surely she would have asked a single gamer if her statements were accurate. Since she simply cannot have done this, I can only conclude that she doesn’t care about accuracy.

Having just played the indie masterpiece, To The Moon, and encouraged so many others to play it, I’ve been receiving very many messages from people who have been moved by it. Many men, in fact, letting me know that the game caused them to cry, some to sob. A game that’s exactly about the characters’ pasts, presents and futures, and the interrelations with the other characters, that gives the game its meaning. It’s literally about characters’ pasts, and the significance of their interrelations! That game comes to mind as it’s the most recent game I’ve finished. I’m currently playing Saints Row: The Third – a big, AAA action game – and I’m absolutely gripped by it, not just by the compelling action, but because I find I’m completely hooked by the story, the politics of the characters, their relationships, and how they are changing as the ludicrous story progresses. That’s the game I was playing yesterday. I’m not picking and choosing my examples here.

But even those protestations from me are to ignore the complete mystery of suggesting that television, film and gaming are incapable of offering metaphor that live theatre can. Does Greenfield storm the stage at Shakespeare productions, demanding that she be allowed to interact with the cast, lest the experience become too passive? (Um, because even if that were her requirement, isn’t that what gaming does that other screen-based offerings do not?) Or does she truly believe Shakespeare to have written novels? Because we’re getting to novels.

I know they're technically not evil, but they are in my eyes.

Then things get really inaccurate. She was saving it for halfway.

“A recent report on 1,400 US college students showed a decline in empathy over the past 30 years, with a particularly sharp drop in the past decade. Screen-based violence has been associated with lower empathy, while repeated exposure to violent video games in turn increases aggressive behaviour via changes in personality factors associated with desensitisation.”

Wow. So much in so little space. Yet again not even a hint as to where this survey came from. How was empathy measured? Where has screen-based violence been associated with lower empathy? I’ve never heard of such a claim, let alone seen a study demonstrating this. And that spectacular last sentence, in which she attempts to use sciency-sounding words to say absolutely nothing whatsoever.

But it gets better/worse. The neuroscience expert explains how human empathy is in fact reliant on the reading of novels.

“Normally we learn to empathise from real conversations where we rehearse eye contact and learn to interpret body language and how and when to give someone a hug. We then progress to reading novels and understanding how differently people can see the world, how they feel and interpret the actions of others.”

I mean, kudos. It’s hard to imagine a more peculiar thing to claim. Humans, as they evolved, would progress from hugging to novels, and that’s how we have empathy. But in Second Life (oh yes, she goes right there, bypassing even WoW!) it’s not the same as learning when to hug before moving on to novels. (Oh, and remember, 10-11 year olds spend 1,934 hours in front of a screen, but only 1,277 hours with their family, and so because the screen number is higher, that means the family number doesn’t exist at all. Right? Surely? It’s birth, then Second Life.) And just in case she weren’t being insulting to everyone possible, she adds,

“It’s not surprising that Second Life is popular with those with autistic spectrum disorder, characterised by their impairments in empathy.”

Yeah, you beastly autistic people, stop finding ways to communicate through technology! Go back to angrily sitting on your own, like you should be. Read a novel.

(Which is to say, stating an example of how a piece of software can be appreciated by those with autism in NO WAY suggests that a piece of software can cause or reproduce the effects of autism, and the implication here is despicable.)

And Twitter. That’s bad too.

“One could even suggest that the constant self-centred readout on Twitter belies a more childlike insecurity, an existential crisis.”

Yes, one could suggest it, if one was prepared to bother to study it and provide some evidence demonstrating it, before declaring it in a national newspaper. If one were a scientist, rather than a scaremongering page-filler.

This continues on for hundreds more words. Despite even listing far more likely reasons for the three-fold increase in prescriptions for ADHD over the last decade, she still goes on to then blame it on gaming. She goes into some detail into the effects of damage of the prefrontal cortex with relation to physical damage and schizophrenia, as if some of her scientific past manages to unconsciously force its way out, but then deflates with a “could” and “might” laden paragraph suggesting that games could/might cause the same effects, without any evidence for that.

To see a formerly respected scientist acting this way is depressing, and potentially extremely damaging to those wishing to take the subject seriously. But then, this is the same Baroness Greenfield who, when Ben Goldacre suggested she should provide evidence for her claims, replied saying that Goldacre was, “like the people who denied that smoking caused cancer.” This is not, I believe, the way anyone in her position should go about things. Articles like the one described above are unhelpful, unscientific, and impede the progress of any genuinely useful research.

Huge thanks to Michael Cook for letting us know, and to Laurence Pope for the scan.

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152 Comments »

  1. Jarenth says:

    Wow. I feel I should thank you for linking this story, as I hadn’t heard about it yet… but on the other hand, I feel I could have lived a long, happy life without knowing any of this.

    I’ll go with the first, then, as knowledge is amazing, even if only in a warning capacity. Thanks for reporting on this news; I can’t imagine it having been easy.

    • Kirioth says:

      I’m singularly impressed that this has been reported as calmly and coherently as it has. Personally, I think the Baroness is simply talking out of her arse.

    • undead dolphin hacker says:

      The poor woman will probably turn out to have a brain tumor. You don’t go from 0 to crazy in this short a time without a stressor.

      I think the less than subtle stab at autism kind of lends itself to a decaying internal filter too, especially since I’m sure she worked with a wide range of autistics/aspies as a scientist. Her profession isn’t exactly known for its social skills.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Seriously though, seen that she’s basically throwing around very questionable statistics – lack of verifiable sources are a big red “made up bullshit” warning AND a well known and time-tested propaganda tool – and jumping to even more dubious conclusions, well, I’d say that makes for a TERRIBLE behaviour for a scientist. Well, for anyone, but especially for a scientist, whose work is or should be strictly adherent to the facts, and way I see it, a scientist making up stuff or relying on bogus data just because it confirms his/her preconceptions, is betraying the very foundations of the trade.

      Even worse, after being called out for a VERY poor scientist, she stubbornly keeps making up crap to cover her previous crappy “research” up. In a manner not entirely dissimilar to a 5 year old caught with his mouth full of biscuits, who denies having stolen them and swearing it was some other kid. While spitting biscuit bits all around.

    • Roshin says:

      Does she in the full piece define what “identity” is? I think it would be kind of important, if we are at risk of losing it.

    • Ruffian says:

      I have to say I am completely indifferent to people like this and I think it’s very sad that she would abandon her post in an actual scientific field to spout anti-tech rhetoric, because without any evidence that’s all it is. Sad. really really sad.
      it sounds almost like she’s scared of the whole man-machine singularity thing.

      edit: I was halfway through reading when I started writing and having just come to the metaphor section I feel I have to assert that from what I am reading here that this lady’s whole theory is utter folly, and possibly the stupidest thing I have ever read. She needs to get a brain that is capable of empathy or something. Right now I can’t think of a single game I’ve actually played that I wasn’t to some degree emotionally invested in or that didn’t have, however small, some degree of metaphor or nuance. Bitch needs to play some Portal and try to tell me that games are without metaphor. Or Ico, or Binding of Isaac.
      Ok: games have scripts = scripts contain story = story almost undoubtedly always contains metaphor.

      She must have woke up and realized how old she was or something. “Well I guess I’m old now – high time I start harassing them youths!” *angrily waving walker through the air.

  2. Jacques says:

    “Prolonged and frequent video gaming, surfing and social networking cannot fail to have an effect on the mental state of a species whose most basic and valuable talent is a highly sensitive adaptability to any environment in which it is placed.”

    She’s right there, our brains do adapt and change, and it’s an area I’d love to see properly assessed.

    • ComradePenguin says:

      This is what makes this all the more depressing. In theory she has all the skills and background to properly examine current studies, what we can draw from it and where further investigation is needed but chooses not to.

      I love these articles. Would it be possible as a counter point for someone who knows their stuff to point towards decent research being done in this area? I doubt that penetrates the media in the way this has.

    • Tams80 says:

      Shocking new scientific discovery! Human brains react differently to different stimuli.

      In other news so do most animals’.

    • Jacques says:

      Brain elasticity and the immediate connection we have with the world around us thanks to digital devices is definitely something that needs investigation.

    • battles_atlas says:

      This is the real killer for me:

      “Normally we learn to empathise from real conversations where we rehearse eye contact and learn to interpret body language and how and when to give someone a hug. We then progress to reading novels and understanding how differently people can see the world, how they feel and interpret the actions of others.”

      The only possible interpretation of this is either that a) humans didn’t actually exist before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, or b) Homo sapiens actually developed the mass dissemination of the printed word some two hundred thousand years before anyone thought. Either way, I’d have thought the Baroness could wring another couple of books out of the discovery.

    • Jacques says:

      Or c.

      YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY A REAL HUMAN UNTIL YOU’VE READ HER BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Shuck says:

      @battles_atlas: The novel is even more recent than that. Or rather, novel reading is more recent than that – some have traced the “first novel” back to the 15th century, but there really weren’t enough to read until the 18th. Interestingly, the reading of novels by the young was vilified for supposedly changing personalities and behavior…

    • Premium User Badge

      imperialus says:

      @Shuck[i]The novel is even more recent than that. Or rather, novel reading is more recent than that – some have traced the “first novel” back to the 15th century, but there really weren’t enough to read until the 18th. Interestingly, the reading of novels by the young was vilified for supposedly changing personalities and behavior…[/i]

      Check out the moral panic and fad surrounding “The Sorrows of Young Werther”.

      Basically a whole bunch of young men read the book, started dressing and behaving like the main character. It got really weird when there were a rash of suicides by the books fans “Wertherites” as they were called. This is generally regarded to be one of the earliest cases of copycat suicides to the point that the phenomenon is still referred to as the Werther effect.

    • Shuck says:

      @ imperialus: Oh yes, and it wasn’t the only novel to have that sort of romantic, controversial following, though I was thinking more of the attitudes towards reading novels in the 18th/early 19th centuries, when it was generally seen as somewhat decadent. In many ways it was viewed as video games are now, as were the later “penny dreadfuls,” motion pictures, comic books, rock music, and television…

  3. Premium User Badge

    Screwie says:

    Amazing collection of images. Queeg!!

    • diebroken says:

      Demon Seed!

      Thinking about it now I can see inspiration for the Mechanical Cherub in Thief 2…

  4. Artiforg says:

    As they say on Wikipedia, “Citation Needed”. What’s that last image of? Looks like 1970′s British Sci-Fi.

    • baby snot says:

      You know you can search by image with the googlemethingy nowadays. I found this.

      Update: Thanks to PeopleLikeFrank a few posts below. Also this.

    • Artiforg says:

      @baby snot, I wasn’t sure what to google, thought about typing in “giant metal rubiks snake coming out of a sideboard from the 1970s” but didn’t think it would turn up anything. Hang on I’ll try it…….. Well, it sort of worked, it found a link to something describing the giant metal rubiks snake but the website in question didn’t have the image. Image search had nothing for my description, mostly cyclists and people posing with snakes, this was a bit of a weird one though

      Could you point me to this mythical image search? I’ve never seen it myself. Cheers.

    • Tams80 says:

      Shhhh, baby snot. Von Greenfield might get whiff of that blog!

    • magnus says:

      British Sci-Fi? Actually it’s from ‘Demon Seed’

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075931/

    • Premium User Badge

      PeopleLikeFrank says:

      @Artiforg

      If you copy the image URL and use it as your Google search, it will give a link at the top of the results page: “For matching images, try search by image”.

    • Artiforg says:

      @PeopleLikeFrank

      Cheers for that.

    • Gnoupi says:

      @PeopleLikeFrank – interesting thing about it is that using Opera won’t give you the suggestion. Not because of limitations but because of them checking the browser.

      Making Opera identify as Firefox gives the suggestion, like described.

      Weird. I mean, I could understand the idea of pushing people to use another navigator, but like this, without a word, what’s the point?

  5. MadTinkerer says:

    This seems like it’s really personal to her. I wonder if, like another lady I saw in a documentary about WoW, someone close to her died while addicted to games* and she blames the games for the death even though the games actually had nothing to do with it.

    I know people who still think that Dungeons & Dragons is unhealthy in an extremely unspecific way. I don’t know anyone who thinks the same about movies or comic books, but those used to be the boogeymen back in the day. It’s strange how various forms of entertainment can be viewed by some as having similar properties to illegal drugs, despite the drugs having concrete medical facts against them and the entertainment barely having anecdotal evidence of the flimsiest kind. Those Nerds Must Be Stopped, I guess.

    *You can be psychologically addicted to just about anything, especially if you have a compulsive personality or more serious condition. I’m referring to that kind of addiction as opposed to a specific “game addiction” boogeyman.

    • Unaco says:

      No. She just has a book to sell.

    • Kdansky says:

      Use “Game compulsion” instead. Because that’s the proper word. Luckily, English can differentiate (some other Languages I speak cannot, which is really annoying).

      I refer to
      http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/game-addiction-pt.1

    • Archonsod says:

      “This seems like it’s really personal to her. I wonder if, like another lady I saw in a documentary about WoW, someone close to her died while addicted to games* and she blames the games for the death even though the games actually had nothing to do with it.”

      Nope, she’s went the same route as the alternative medicine people – turns out it’s far easier and more profitable to write pseudo-science than it is to actually do the real thing.

      “*You can be psychologically addicted to just about anything, especially if you have a compulsive personality or more serious condition.”
      Although that’s another statement which has yet to see definitive proof. Although admittedly, psychology generally struggles in that area in the first place.

    • shitflap says:

      Archonsod, it’s called Behavioural Addiction. Millions of gambling addicts would argue that there is a wealth of proof out there, as would the people who’s Parkinsons drugs caused them to indulge in gambling and other risk-taking activities ;)

    • wu wei says:

      far easier and more profitable to write pseudo-science than it is to actually do the real thing

      Case in point: how much coverage did Greenfield get on RPS before she started spouting this bullshit?

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Use “Game compulsion” instead. Because that’s the proper word.”

      Yes, that’s the term I was actually thinking of. As shitflap (wut!?) pointed out, though, behavioral addiction is also a thing. But I meant compulsion.

  6. Hirmetrium says:

    Can I just say, I am a scientist and this is both shocking and appaling.

    Science is not about making ridiculous claims. It is about proving facts or theories.

    While I fully believe that the effect on human behaviour of computers/video games has yet to be fully mapped, nothing she says has any merit until I see a scientific journal. Which I haven’t.

    God, she gives Baroness’s, Green fields, fields, and science a bad name all at once. Here’s hoping shse loses her title.

    • JFS says:

      But remember, you can’t prove a theory. You can only debunk it ;) Apart from that, you’re right.

  7. Drayk says:

    Come on ! This gal is a joke. I love how those “so called” scientists manage to damage the public image of both gamers AND scientific research…

    Gamers deserve real Science !

  8. Vexing Vision says:

    I honestly would love to see a serious study on this.

    Or engage with the lady in a meaningful discussion about her claims without her getting overly defensive (a psychological sign about personal insecurity, by the way – people confident in their thesis are usually willing to engage in critic dialogue). Would it be possible to get a – polite! – interview with her?

    I would love to read that.

  9. Lewis Denby says:

    A part of her current media campaign designed to promote her several books, it would seem. She also appeared in the Mail to make similar comments, alongside the absolutely horrifying subtext that pharmaceutics drugs such as Prozac and Ritalin are actually bad because they transform people’s identities. And again, it’s an extract from a book, with an ad for it printed at the bottom.

    Any publication reprinting this extraordinary advertorial for Greenfield’s fearmongering commercial work should be ashamed of itself. I expect better, even of the rubbish papers.

    • Aatch says:

      That makes me sooo angry. As a sufferer of ADHD, and only recently diagnosed, I am fully aware of both the benefits of receiving medication, and the fact that it doesn’t “change your identity”. I am quite sure that I am still me, and I reckon the people around me would agree.

      (Off-Topic: Part of the problems with ADHD is the idea that Ritalin is only given to children, but most adults continue to take the medication.)

  10. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    It’s like she read this article and thought it was a how-to instead of satire.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/24/1

    More fun, Swedish television news reported from the http://www.gamex.se/ game conference . They kept repeating that as much as 20% of the games were “very violent”. In fact they spent 100% of the 5 minute clip on it. They interviewed a very precocious and brainy kid (11-13 years?) who explained that he preferred adventure games, because violent action games could cause you to lose empathy.

    Back in the studio the news anchor interviewed a “games expert” and asked if he had any opinion on “the fact that games cause you to lose empathy, as we just heard”. Yeah, I’m sure the kid is a widely respected expert in the field with many years of research behind him.

    • Jarenth says:

      I read that last line in the Bastion narrator voice.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      Oh, do you happen to know what channel and program it was?

      Ah, SVT, Aktuellt. a public service program that’s supposed to report news with a minimum of editorialising.

      [insert licence money rant]

    • Urthman says:

      And of course their spin was not, “Even a 12-year old has the good sense to choose not to play violent video games if he finds them disturbing.”

  11. sinister agent says:

    Good Lord. I can’t help but wonder if the Baroness is on the brink of some kind of meltdown. How can one possibly fall from respectability so quickly over such a relatively unimportant thing as games?

    It’s very disappointing indeed that the Times were willing to publish such unmitigated propaganda, too.

    • MiniMatt says:

      The Times will, like almost all papers unfortunately (and despite hosting Goldacre’s columns the Graun falls for this regularly too), all too regularly just re-gurgitate press releases as gospel fact. The Daily Mail’s ongoing oncological campaign to classify everything as either causing or curing cancer being the most obvious example, and just about every newspaper’s shameful regurgitation of the MMR scare which, without any hint of hyperbole, killed children. Junk science kills and it’s peddlers should be ashamed of themselves.

    • niddler says:

      I was so annoyed with the Baroness after reading this article that I registered! 100% agreeing with MiniMatt (would have said 110%, but thought that kind of meaningless hyperbole might be a bit wrong in a scientific debate).

    • The Colonel says:

      Willing to publish? It would almost certainly have been commissioned specifically with a brief to talk about games. The Times became a tabloid in 2004 and is controlled by Murdoch so really what do you expect from it?

  12. Cerzi says:

    Can’t..stop…facepalming.. :(

  13. MiniMatt says:

    Science is so much easier when you do away with those pesky requirements for peer review and evidence.

  14. taikonaut says:

    A recent study has shown that there is an 84% chance that Baroness Greenfield is, in fact, a nuclear bomb

  15. strange_headache says:

    Oh yeah and this thing the kids nowadays call “Rock and Roll” is pure evil too! Pelvic thrusts and all that are rotting our children’s minds. I need to lock up my son 3 times a week in a room equipped with a gramophone playing Schubert and Stravinsky only to cleanse his brain of all this modern filth. I would let him listen to Debussy too, but his name rhymes with a certain slang word for the female genitalia. WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

    Now if you would excuse me, I have to go and burn my son’s stash of lingerie catalogs that he so shamelessly tried to hide from me. My fellow neighbours are already waiting with the torches…

    • jhng says:

      I think you’ll find that Schubert is, of course, deeply corrupting both on account of his sexual orientation and his fondness for through composition (i.e. not writing properly uniform verses for his lieder). Much better is to scrap this polyphony altogether and go back to plainchant.

      (Interesting fact: in the olden days polyphonic music was very nearly banned by the church on account of the fact it could lead people to degeneracy. Palestrina saved the day by writing some polyphonic church music so good that the pope at the time saw the error of his infallible ways).

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      [...] that the pope at the time saw the error of his infallible ways.

      LOL

      That reminds me of the Bill Maher bit about taking the Pope to Vegas.

      “$1 million on 15 black.”
      “Oh, I’m sorry. It seems to have landed on 24 red. Better luck next time!”
      “Um, no. This is the Pope and, in case you forgot, he’s infallible. So, if he says it’s 15 black, it’s 15 black, okay? We’ll be taking our money. Thank you. Now, on to the Bellagio…”

    • Gundrea says:

      Happy fun reading time: The pope is not infallible

    • Chirez says:

      At the risk of derailing, which I certainly don’t want to do here…

      The way the church tends to deal with papal infallibility when so many popes through the years have been provably wrong on so many subjects is to say ‘well yes, he is, but only in these very specific areas which you can’t argue about’

      Unfortunately for them, even when you narrow infallibility down to just church dogma, you can still find plenty of examples of disagreement, indicating that either one pope or another must have been in error.

      They hedge and they backtrack and they still fail.

    • The Colonel says:

      YES! THAT WOULD BE AN ECUMENICAL MATTER!

  16. jhng says:

    “Royal Institution” rather than “Royal Institute”. Also, with:

    “And every serious study into the effects of exposure to virtual violence has found it has no ability to create aggressive behaviour in the non-aggressive, and indeed many have found that it can be used as a means to prevent real-world aggression in those already prone to such behaviour.”

    you are guilty of the same generalisation and lack of proper citation that you (correctly) pick Greenfield up on.

    But, otherwise, a good and entertaining article. I totally agree that Greenfield has unfortunately been seduced by the glitter and adopted ‘the Dawkins trajectory’ from scientist to celebrity demagogue. I can only hope that she enjoys her spot on Strictly when it finally comes round.

    • V. Profane says:

      Is Dawkins using junk science to ride some bizarre anti-modernity hobby horse?

    • Urthman says:

      If you consider history a science, he’s definitely using junk science to ride a hobby horse.

    • jhng says:

      Dawkins is very obviously more interested in pushing his anti-creation agenda these days than in further exploring the science for which he made his name. The same goes for Greenfield — again the social/political agenda (and concommitant personal celebrity) trumps the science.

      Obviously scientific concerns make a vital contribution to setting public agendas; however, when the scientist becomes driven by the agenda rather than vice-versa they are no longer a proper scientist in my book.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Being anti-anti-science is not the same as being anti-science.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      If you consider history a science

      What sane person would do that?

    • Muzman says:

      People say Dawkins just seeks publicity quite a bit, but for one thing most of it centres around one book he wrote in amongst a raft of other actual science books. So it being controversial to the point the media can’t let it go isn’t entirely his fault.
      Secondly, if people think they have been seeing and hearing too much of him in the media it’s worth noting that for a good portion of the recent past that was essentially his job as Professor for the public understanding of science. His position was the new Oxford chair of ‘the guy who gets infront of cameras and into the papers to talk about science’.
      He hasn’t done anything academically but read and teach since the early nineties. So it seems fairly churlish to expect him to go back to research now just to keep people from complaining about his media presence.

  17. Apples says:

    Aside from all her incredibly unfounded and ridiculous claims, I’m interested in her assumption that identity changing/becoming meaningless must be a bad thing. I think playing games does change your feeling of identity – at least, it has mine – but not in a negative way. If you’re capable of feeling that part of your identity is anything from a female space captain to a dedicated dad to an animal to an alien, how is that bad? How does that decrease empathy? I don’t think it would be terrible if our idea of ‘identity’ as being a single unchanging person rooted in a single unchanging body (which is not true in any case) did disappear.

    Also typical “books are better than games” rubbish. How exactly sitting in one place and fixing your eyes on a piece of paper is better than sitting in one place and fixing your eyes on a screen, god knows…

    • Shuck says:

      Also, the assertion that video games are “a literal world, devoid of metaphor and abstract concepts” is a complete and embarrassing failure to understand semiotics if nothing else.

    • Apples says:

      @Shuck: The funniest thing about that is that Pong, one of the earliest video games, is nothing but an abstract concept… of tennis. Obviously she meant ‘abstract concept’ in terms of emotions or some other wishy-washy definition, but she really has so little idea of what she’s talking about that anyone who ever even took GCSE English Literature should be able to refute it.

    • Shuck says:

      @ Apples: I actually suspect she meant exactly what she said, but is just rather clueless how video games/media/communications in general work. I was at a lecture many years ago by VR-enthusiast Jaron Lanier who made the bizarre claim that VR would represent “post-symbolic communication” (as if that weren’t an oxymoron). I rather suspect Greenfield has been doing some selective reading without having any real knowledge or understanding of the subject and is making assertions without thinking it through.

  18. bleeters says:

    You’d think there’d be a decent overlap between “time spent with family” and “time spent in front of a screen”, too.

    And if there isn’t, there really should be.

  19. velvetkevorkian says:

    For those of you who have managed to remove your palms from your faces, here’s a take from a neuroscientist about why the Baroness is wrong, in a number of additional ways.

    Keep up the good work, RPS.

  20. magnus says:

    Oh I SEE, that’s what this is all about, she’s got a book to promote, well I never!

  21. Premium User Badge

    Lumberjack_Man says:

    Careful now, she’ll just end up calling you ‘sexist’ and have her cronies run RPS in your place…

  22. Tams80 says:

    I wonder which editor let this dross through? Admittedly I don’t read the Times and really should read the whole article; even if it is painful to read, but it makes me question why a somewhat respectable paper would allow what seems to be utter rubbish published.

    • Maldomel says:

      My guess is that she can has it on the sole basis of her scientific fame, considering she seems to be pretty well-known (I don’t know shit about her though).

    • Chirez says:

      Always looks good to have a Baroness on the list of contributors.

    • Someblokius says:

      It worked for Cobra Commander.

  23. Mark.W.OBrien says:

    Great article, great writing John.

    Didn’t get the significance of a few of the pics.

    Who is the gentleman in the fourth pic? Why is there a folded piece of cardboard attacking a girl?

    I’m guessing there should be alt text, but it seems to be messed up. When I look at the HTML in Chrome, they seem to have an empty alt attribute. Other images elsewhere on RPS with no alt text don’t seem to have an alt attribute at all, so I’m guessing there was a bug?

    • sinister agent says:

      The guy in the fourth pic is Queeg, a one-off character from Red Dwarf who forcibly replaces the amiable ship AI and spends the rest of the episode bullying the crew and working them to the bone. More importantly, he says “that’s right, suckers”.

    • John Walker says:

      Nope, we’re just lazy. Also, half the fun is figuring out where the pics are from!

  24. James says:

    Thanks, John. You are best in life.

  25. Will Tomas says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: John Walker is the best journalist in games journalism.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    I’m actually alarmed more as somebody who has studied literature than a gamer.
    Just wanted to go on a rant on how she ignores thousands of years of art history, the study thereof, and shows a thorough lack of interest in facts altogether. But then I stopped, and concluded that it’s all just baffling, and sad.

  27. Elltot says:

    “It’s not surprising that Second Life is popular with those with autistic spectrum disorder, characterised by their impairments in empathy.”

    The Times are publishing an article where this is stated! I hope they get into trouble for it.

    Plus how does she even know this? I’m sure the developers of Second Life haven’t given her the information, not that they’d even have it in the first place.

    • V. Profane says:

      Wait until she finds out how popular The Sims is.

    • The Colonel says:

      Wait ’til she finds out how popular trains are with autistic people!

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      Possibly the most embarrassing thing about this statement coming from a ‘scientist’ (aside from the ugly implications about her opinion of autistic people) is that it fails at a basic logical level.

      Fact 1: Autism impairs a person’s empathetic development.
      Fact 2: Autism sufferers enjoy Second Life.

      Therefore: Second Life impairs a person’s empathetic development???

  28. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    It’s one of those rare situations where I am invested both as a lifelong (well, since I was old enough to be dazzled by the flashing coloured lights of space invaders) gamer *and* as a scientist.

    From one perspective the things she says about games are completely contrary to my experience of them, and betray a total lack of knowledge: surely to be an expert on the effects of games on brains one must also be an expert on games as well as brains?

    From a scientific perspective, her platform is all wrong. This is a debate that should be happening (is? – I’m into malaria not neuroscience) in the scientific literature, not in the daily news. As John points out she makes claims without citing references, uses ‘weasel’ words like ‘must’ and ‘could’ and ‘should’ and doesn’t appear to be carrying out any controlled research into the questions she’s asking and answering. This is all completely contrary to the scientific method and (perhaps tellingly) the kind of language that will get your papers rejected by the editors of an decent journal before the ink’s dried. It’s not science, it’s scaremongering and she must know in her heart of hearts that what she is doing is wrong (in the sense that she’s attempting to further an agenda using scientific language without having any actual science to back it up).

    In any case I applaud John’s continuing efforts to highlight the spud-science going on here. Jolly good!

  29. spedcor666 says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else constantly misread Baroness Greenfield as Baron Greenback no matter how many times I read about her.

    • John Walker says:

      I think my unhelpfully slipping in “von” probably didn’t help : )

    • spedcor666 says:

      Ha ha, I didn’t even notice you did that. I think we’ve found RPS’s answer to Derren Brown with mind tricks like that.

  30. caddyB says:

    On a study done on 1300 male subjects, we’ve discovered that masturbation causes hair growth on palms and blindness. Young males spend about 3 hours a week watching porn and masturbating, while they only spend 1 hour playing with squirrels and 2 hours thinking about their favorite football team’s chances in the league this year.

    With such convincing proof that leaves no room for any sort of counterpoints; it seems obvious that there is something wrong here and we have to prevent masturbation if we want foot to ball industry to survive. And to prevent blindness. Yes.

  31. unimural says:

    `And every serious study into the effects of exposure to virtual violence has found it has no ability to create aggressive behaviour in the non-aggressive, and indeed many have found that it can be used as a means to prevent real-world aggression in those already prone to such behaviour. Let alone those spectacular last sentence, in which she attempts to use sciency-sounding words to say absolutely nothing whatsoever.´

    Complaining about lack of sources and then making a claim like this does sort of undermine your point. However, I do seem to recall reading something on RPS a fair while ago regarding similar matters, that had some actual references listed/linked. But I couldn’t find it. And I would like to read myself some serious studies of the effects of gaming and violence in gaming.

    Actually, an article about gaming related research would be most interesting!

  32. Shrekeh says:

    With regards to her claims about the negative impact of things like Twitter, Greenfield is in the ballpark but she doesn’t know where first base is. I personally believe (not that I have evidence for it) that with the rise of instant global communication we are suffering a detriment of human interaction. I don’t think it’s changing our brains in any way, but on a person to person level it makes communication more difficult and can lead to a sense of loneliness. Humans do require being able to see people when communicating in order to understand inflection, body language, tonal variance etc etc. With the advent of things like Skype and Video Chat on Google + this problem is being mitigated and will continue to do so, but I think it’s a fair and valid point that less and less physical interaction does affect our social awareness/intelligence in the negative.

    What Greenfield is saying though is utter shite, especially with reference to those suffering from autistic spectrum disorders. It is by their very nature that makes Second Life a more appealing avenue to explore to engage socially with others. It gives them security and a sense of control that is unavailable to them through physical interactions.

    So yes, the prevalence and ease of use of technology to communicate with others, whether via game/IM/text/phone/facebook has a negative impact for some, but is mostly positive for others. The key is to find a good balance between physical distance and digital closeness so that we are more free to chat, but less lonely when we do.

    PS. This is just my own personal observation.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Pshaw… Look at you being all reasonable and logical. Thinking things through in a thorough and unbiased fashion… Harumph. You wouldn’t last three seconds in the States, my friend!

      Seriously, though, that is a much more nuanced and realistic viewpoint that Greenfield could do well to take on. Are their ills associated to gaming? I’m sure there are. However, is it as common and severe as alarmists warn? I doubt it. I could be wrong, but this just strikes me as the same levels of scare-tactic nonsense as anti-marijuana campaigns stating that if you get high, you’ll intentionally drown your children while laughing away. That heavy metal leads to suicide, murder, rape, etc. That D&D lures people into Satanism. It’s pure fear-mongering masquerading as scholastic research by a renowned intellectual, and because of that person is a renowned intellectual, we’re supposed to unquestioningly agree with their theorems. Even if the research is, essentially, nothing more than a huge screed of confirmation bias.

      I applaud Greenfield’s successes, but I find it worrisome when intellectuals abuse their esteemed position to entrench their own assumptions as some form of fact. Just because Greenfield is a noted professional in her field, doesn’t mean her theorems should be given automatic clearance. Hell, Dr. Kellogg was well noted in his field, and he suggested yogurt enemas and binding the hands of children to prevent masturbation. Last time I checked, most people still eat yogurt the top-to-bottom way, not Dr. Kellogg’s way.

    • Apples says:

      From observation of the way young/experienced people use the internet to communicate vs the way old/inexperienced people do so (sorry to generalise – sort of necessary here), our social skills seem to be changing rather than degenerating and causing loneliness. Yes, we do miss out on certain physical hints when we use non-face-to-face communication, but there are lots of other hints that have grown to replace that over the years. People who aren’t used to the internet always just write on it in a subtly wrong way. They find it hard to understand the differences in how you should behave on an email, a wall post, a private message, instant messaging. But it’s easy for us to spot, because we do know those rules of social interaction.

      What I mean is, maybe the ‘facebook generation’ don’t have good face-to-face social skills – but most older people have terrible online social skills. The importance of those might reverse in the future.

    • Shrekeh says:

      @Apples

      Ah very true. Of course we do develop these new systems of language to accommodate what we miss out on, but I guess I was talking about how things have changed over the past decade or so. The natural reflexive instinct seems to be fear of change as opposed to acceptance and growth into those new structures, hence why I mentioned the telephone. I bet some people found that fucking weird and strange when it was first introduced. But it’s like with anything, and its a shame that educated people lean towards this alarmist narrative, but luckily there are plenty of other well minded people that are sensible enough to look past the BS and be a bit wiser.

      edit: Thinking back on the article, as Greenfield astutely pointed out, we are susceptible to our nature, in which we adapt to our environment. Except again, she misses the point. If anything our brains learn to accommodate new experiences, not undergo radical neurological change that leads to us not knowing who we are anymore, or ignoring our fundamental human characteristics. I’ve killed many a hooker in a game, but in real life I’ve only been punched by one. In all seriousness though, humans are able to differentiate between the virtual and the real as well as understand cause and consequence. That will never change, no matter how many times I teabag someone in CS.

    • Chirez says:

      I am Asperger, and I still haven’t worked out a sensible way of arranging that statement.

      Since I have huge difficulties with exactly the things you list, expressions, body language, all of the non verbal aspects of face to face communication, I find that online interactions either in game or chat clients are far more comfortable for me than real world confrontations.

      When you say that humans require face to face interaction to fully understand one another, you are (no doubt unintentionally) excluding me and those like me from humanity. I function best on the level of text, wherein all the myriad forms of emotion and subtext can be expressed perfectly well while still being pinned in place and amenable to analysis. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy meeting friends irl when given the chance, but I think the full spectrum of human interaction is fully capable of embracing a world of communications increasingly mediated by technology.

    • Shrekeh says:

      @Chirez

      My apologies, as you say it was unintentional. What I was trying to confer, maybe poorly so, was that for people like yourself, (there are many other groups as well) the internet and the immediacy of it is a massive advantage. I was also trying to undermine Greenfields implication that your condition is seen as undesirable.

      I was, however, also speaking from my own experience with people online, or through text. I actually had this conversation with a friend yesterday about how things become more confused and muddled, but as apples pointed out, we have developed systems that circumvent some of those issues. Emoticons for instance. I have no problem with facebook or any of this technology, but like with anything, it can be improved.

      Also, our ability to convey emotion through text is limited by our inexperience. Some people are better writers, as much as some people are better speakers. But I feel that for the majority of people, expressive writing is an underdeveloped skill, and that’s where we run into problems.

      Also to iterate on what you said about suggesting you weren’t part of humanity, I was really just throwing a blanket statement over the matter for the majority. I forget which lobe it is, but our ability to understand facial expressions and body language takes up a large part of our brains processing power. Now, I don’t want to offend you further, and you’ll know better than me so correct me if I’m wrong, but with people with ASD, that part of the brain plays a less prominent part in interpretation of external experiences, right? It is not a flaw, or an inadequacy, but my suggestion was for that very reason online communication is sometimes preferable to physical interactions.

      Again, I hope I didn’t offend you too much, and I’m typing this in a rush so these ideas can easily be expounded upon by others, but I hope you get a better gist of what I was attempting to say. Or maybe not ;)

      (emoticons at play)

    • The Colonel says:

      I don’t see any reason to think that internet communication generally or necessarily leads to a lack of social activity or skills. Anecdotally, Facebook etc. is used by (probably) almost (if not actually) everyone I know to create an extra layer of communication and socialisation. Young people socialise with many people all the time, even when they can’t be in the same physical location. Are there a notable number of people who would prefer a Facebook chat to an evening down the pub if there was the option?

      We live in a globalised world now and internet communication is the best tool we have to exist in that context. If we weren’t discussing this issue on a comments thread on the internet we’d certainly not be discussing it at all or socialising with each other in this way.

  33. Premium User Badge

    Lumberjack_Man says:

    So, I’m guessing she’s never seen a text adventure then?

  34. Luk 333 says:

    Makes you wonder how people survived, created families and societies before the existence of the almighty novel, a relatively recent development in human culture, I might add. This is clearly a classic fight between high-culture (novel, theater) and low culture (TV, film, video games, comics etc) with no factual or scientific base.

  35. stupid_mcgee says:

    In other news:

    Marijuana is the number one cause of rape, murder, theft, violent crime, hate, depression, sadness, unwanted pregnancies, and just about all of societies other ills.

    And don’t even get me started on heavy metal music!

  36. clem2k3 says:

    Great article, its a bit scary how easy it is for some people to push their agenda with no backing whatsoever.

    On the subject of the other 50% of hours … might i suggest the imaginary kids in question might be found sleeping?

    Still that leaves 5840 hours awake (assuming 8 hours sleep a day) of which 15% is in class, 22% with family and 33% in front of a screen, the other 30% is presumably spent masturbating …

    What were the kids doing for that 33% before games and TV? If the sensationalist media has taught us nothing its that studies have shown that when you cannot see your kids, they are cavorting with paedophiles. So one COULD suggest that gaming has lead to a reduction in paedophilic activity of nearly 2000 hours per child per year!

  37. superflunky says:

    The standard finding amongst neuroscientists who investigate testable hypothesis’ concerning video games is that action games actually improve performance on a wide variety of tasks:

    http://www.npr.org/2010/12/20/132077565/video-games-boost-brain-power-multitasking-skills

  38. The Tupper says:

    Another peculiarity highlighed by this bit:

    “It’s not surprising that Second Life is popular with those with autistic spectrum disorder, characterised by their impairments in empathy.”

    Is how it disingenuously insinuates a connection between gaming and autism, in the same way that dishonest politicians use ‘key phrases’ in their speeches in order to manipulate electors’ fears. Truly shameful.

  39. Andrew says:

    I find it hilarious that she chooses the example of saving the princess as lacking metaphor, when in Braid, that’s all it is.

    Excellent article, John.

  40. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    My god, at this level of confusing correlation and causation, Baroness Greenfield will soon be claiming that the increase in the numbered year is causing an equivalent downturn in the GDP of the developed world and an increase in psychological and social problems. The only cure is to start counting backwards again, so that next year can be 2010 again, then followed by 2009, and so on… which also ties in to her next book, Avoiding 2012: Undoing the Apocalpyse.

    It really is just sad to see her floundering about for attention like this. I would be interested to read a psychological profile of the Baroness herself, given her apparent deep-seated need for approval and an audience, and her Crusader-complex. She will, eventually, be scorned by the media, in much the same way as Keith Vaz, Jack Thompson etc. have all fallen out of favour in turn before her, but sadly she has an enormous capacity to damage and offend until that point.

    As ever, John, you are our finest bastion of hope against such utter nonsense, and your clinical spearing of the vagaries and bullshit is as fine to admire as it always was. Dare I hope that you and Nick tear it apart yet further for our amusement in the next Rum Doings?

    • Lewis Denby says:

      My god, at this level of confusing correlation and causation, Baroness Greenfield will soon be claiming that the increase in the numbered year is causing an equivalent downturn in the GDP of the developed world and an increase in psychological and social problems. The only cure is to start counting backwards again, so that next year can be 2010 again, then followed by 2009, and so on… which also ties in to her next book, Avoiding 2012: Undoing the Apocalpyse.

      Congratulations on winning the thread.

    • niddler says:

      Come on RPS – we need functionality to vote this comment to the top!

  41. FCA says:

    Any of these unsources surveys done by Diederik Stapel by any chance?

    Of course, the recent paper on the misuse of statistics by such “suveys” might also be relevant here.

    A lot of sociology research might merit further research, but I’d be very hesitant to turn the conclusions of any kind of study into these types of problems into policy. Let alone when they consist of outright fabrications, which seems to be the case here.

  42. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    At least they weren’t playing the game’s while eating evil, addictive cupcakes!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2057849/Why-trendy-cupcakes-addictive-cocaine.html

  43. jaenglin says:

    the sentence “while repeated exposure to violent video games in turn increases aggressive behaviour via changes in personality factors associated with desensitisation” has been plagiarized from the abstract of a study by Bartolow, Sestir & Davis (2005). Correlates and Consequences of Exposure to Video Game Violence: Hostile Personality, Empathy, and Agressive behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1573 – 1586. Scientifc reference. shocking.

    The original sentence, which she adapted to make it incorrect, was “These findings suggest that repeated exposure to video game violence increases aggressive behavior in part via changes in cognitive and personality factors associated with desensitation

    Their main result indicated that condition x video game violence could explain 6% of the total variance
    in agression, which is significant (p < .05), but very small and generally not something to worry about

    Note that i went through the article rather quickly, as this will probably be drowned out by other comments anyway. Could be I made an error in finding the proper result there.

    • j3w3l says:

      yeh, I haven’t read this particularly one but have read others like it, the actual effect size is usually so small as to be really not worthy of a mentioning but such articles like this just declare their “statistically significance” and call it a breakthrough while hiding the real details. And of course many respected journals still jump on articles of sensationalism
      Also using certain methods of analysis you can just about get a statistically significant result every time with a high enough sample size, which is why for many other serious studies they are not used.

  44. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    What is it with this bloody comments box eating most the things I say at the moment? Is that a hint? Is it?

    EXCEPT IGNORE ME cos it’s just comments being slow and my first post did actually appear so don’t mind me.

  45. Inglourious Badger says:

    What? Noones going to say STARING EYES!?

  46. Hoaxfish says:

    JC, a bomb!

  47. Someblokius says:

    It’s a bit odd that someone with Greenfield’s credentials didn’t take the time to explain that the ‘empathy’ in the context of Autistic Spectrum Disorders has a different meaning to the everyday one. Autistics have trouble interpreting emotion in others and expressing it appropriately themselves. But no, the implication is given that Autistics are cold, unfeeling monsters. I admit that this bit of utterly gratuitous bigotry is a minor aspect of this particular ill-informed offering – it happens to strike a nerve with me since I’ve dealt with prejudiced attitudes like hers for years (I have Aspergers.) So grumpy did it make me that I was moved to write mildly irritated words on your blog thingy. Behold the terrrors of technology! Someone like me can make public(ish) comments that I’d be incapable of articulating in meatspace. Hurry, save yourselves before you too, become more socially adept! Perhaps you might even have your bleak life turned around by playing MMOs and making friends that cross into the outside world, like I did. What villainy!

    If there was really a magic way to take people on and off the autistic spectrum, The Baroness would be well advised to patent it as it would make her a very rich muppet.

    Please continue your splendid work lancing this particular boil on our intellectual establishment. You might be preaching to the choir here but someone has to stand up to pseudo-scientific claptrap like this before the world starts believing in it. :)

    • Chirez says:

      Yes, this. I also find that as an Asperger, interacting socially online is far easier for me and just as meaningful as the same thing face to face offline.

  48. Vandalbarg says:

    This is why I love RPS. Jolly good show chaps.

  49. Maldomel says:

    Once again, I can only nod my head up and down silently to agree with this. It’s almost funny, because Greenfield seems to have made a list of all the trolling arguments against video games in general just to rewrite those in a respectable, scientific (but nonetheless insulting and incoherent) speech.

    Sad, indeed.

  50. n0s says:

    This woman is CLEARLY no scientist.

    She can safely be ignored and laughed at.

    NOTHING is true until it has been peer reviewed and a consensus about the claim’s validity is reproducably PROVEN. Any one part of the peer review process is skipped, and it is per definition not science.

    Just because you went to school and studied a subject, you till need to prove your claims. PROVE, not make subjective connections from one to the other with no foundation in reproducable science.