[MUD-Dev] Moral / legal responsibility of games

Koster Koster
Mon Feb 3 19:09:06 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: Ben Hoyt
> Raph Koster wrote:
 
>> After a fatal car accident involving a 23 year old white male,
>> the general incidence of car crashes rises. In fact, the general
>> incidence of FATAL car crashes rises. Most specifically, the
>> incidence of fatal car crashes involving 23 year old white males
>> rises. Speculation is that these "accidents" are actually
>> suicides to some degree, because the fatality rate for these
>> "imitative" crashes is in fact dramatically higher than the norm.

> Raph, I find this statement fascinating, though somewhat difficult
> to believe.  Do you have any sources to substantiate these claims?
> I'd very much like to read about these studies.  Is there any
> evidence that these incidences are increasing at a statistically
> significant level?  Is there any evidence that the cause is, in
> fact, suicidal?

It's called "the Werther Effect." Googling the term will give you a
fair amount of hits.

I first read about it in INFLUENCE: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSUASION by
Robert B. Cialdini, which is readily available at any bookstore
(it's sadly considered to be a bit of a classic business book even
though it's about how to AVOID being persuaded).

As it happens, INFLUENCE is on my bookshelf here at work, so here's
some citations from the bibliography:

  Phillips, D. P. "Airplane Accidents, Murder, and the Mass Media:
  Towards a Theory of Imitation and Suggestion." Social Forces 58
  (1980): 1001-24.

  _____________. "The Impact of Mass Media Violence of
  U.S. Homicides."  American Sociological Review 48 (1983): 560-68.

  _____________. "The Influence of Suggestion on Suicide: Substantive and
  Theoretical Implications of the Werther Effect." American Sociological
  Review 39 (1974): 340-54.

  _____________. "Suicide, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, and the Mass
  Media: Evidence Towards a Theory of Suggestion." American Journal
  of Sociology 84 (1979): 1150-74.

  _____________, and L. L. Carstensen. "The Effect of Suicide
  Stories on Various Demographic Groups, 1968-1985." Suicide and
  Life-Threatening Behavior 18 (1988): 100-14.

While you're on Professor Phillips' website, I recommend the paper
on the Baskerville Effect as well, which is somewhat similar.

  http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dphillip/

-Raph

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