Games, technology, creativity, and creative reporting

A new study came out from Michigan State University this week – Information technology use and creativity: Findings from the Children and Technology Project by Linda A. Jackson , Edward A. Witt, , Alexander Ivan Games, Hiram E. Fitzgerald,  Alexander von Eye, Yong Zhao.

First problem – it’s behind a paywall. It costs $19.95, or becoming a subscriber of the journal, Computers in Human Behavior. Well, sure, I could pay for it, or better yet, I “know people” and could probably get it free, but then I can’t post it, and worse, I can’t link to it and therefore we (me + you out there) can’t talk about it. Even the links in the abstract to what the tests of creativity are based on do not go anywhere (see the funny little anchors?). The only other information from MSU is the press release.

Abstract
“This research examined relationships between children’s information technology (IT) use and their creativity. Four types of information technology were considered: computer use, Internet use, videogame playing and cell phone use. A multidimensional measure of creativity was developed based on and test of creative thinking. Participants were 491 12-year olds; 53% were female, 34% were African American and 66% were Caucasian American. Results indicated that videogame playing predicted of all measures of creativity. Regardless of gender or race, greater videogame playing was associated with greater creativity. Type of videogame (e.g., violent, interpersonal) was unrelated to videogame effects on creativity. Gender but not race differences were obtained in the amount and type of videogame playing, but not in creativity. Implications of the findings for future research to test the causal relationship between videogame playing and creativity and to identify mediator and moderator variables are discussed.

Highlights ► Positive relationship between videogame playing and creativity. ► Relationship held across types of videogames (e.g., violent, interpersonal). ► Despite gender and race differences in videogame playing, there were no gender or race difference in creativity.”

Already the abstract has got my antennae tuned. Did they really call videogame playing “Information Technology Use”? I mean, I see what they were going for – do the things kids do with common technology correlate to measures of creativity?

But it really makes me want to see the actual study. I wonder what the correlation was between the three other types of “information technology use” – computer use, Internet use, and cell phone use. What kind of “use” did they test? Was it a survey? What did they ask? Was it just hours? What were the kids doing?  What was the difference between Internet use and computer use (isn’t one a subset of the other?) Questions, questions, questions.

Plus, if ed tech enthusiasts are happy that creativity is linked to videogames, what does it mean that computer and Internet use did not show the same link? For learning game enthusiasts, what does it mean that the link to creativity didn’t depend on what kinds of games the kids played.

Next problem – the press picks up the story, reads the abstract (if we’re lucky) and proceeds to write a story that really isn’t what the research says. That’s true even just reading the abstract.

USA Today Headline Research: Video games help with creativity in boys and girls starts off, “Here’s another reason to include The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on those holiday shopping lists: children who play video games are more creative.”

OK, so the headline implies that video games are responsible for making children more creative – but the article is fairly carefully worded about assuming that playing videogames MAKES children creative.

The Register (an IT site from the UK) headlineKids! You get back in front of that Xbox right now: Playing videogames makes kids more creative. Positive news for gamers, and their parents. Hours in front of the glowing box hammering zombies as a youngster can make you more creative.”

Several commenters point out that correlation does not equal causation, but there are an equal number of commenters who believe that videogames cause children to be violent, so therefore we will have a lot more creative axe-murderers due to games. So it’s not like you can really look to the comments for wisdom.

There are lots of headlines that get it right, or at least use some caution, using words like “linked” or “tied” to connect creativity to videogames, but from my brief survey, plenty more that get it wrong.

Play More Video Games, Be More Creative? – Parenting.com
Study: Playing Video Games Promotes Creativity
Video Games Are Making Your Kids More Creative
Study Finds Games Make Kids More Creative

Repeat after me… Correlation is not causation!

Sylvia

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