Study show that video game playing can result in automatic thoughts, impulses and behaviours
A new study shows how gamers’ thoughts and behaviours can be influenced by video game playing. Some gamers experienced intrusions in their cognitive processing, new research has shown. The gamers responded, at least for short periods of time, to real life stimuli as if they were still playing video games. This included overreactions, avoidances, and involuntary movements of limbs.
The study, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction was carried out by psychologists Angelica Ortiz de Gortari and Professor Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit. The study involved the analysis of 1,022 experiences from 762 gamers collected in 44 online video game forums. A total of 262 different video game titles were identified.
This study investigated the influence of video games on players’ mental processes and behaviours in day-to-day settings, and it is the second study in a series of studies that aims to identify, classify and explain ‘Game Transfer Phenomena’ (GTP) experiences in different sensory modalities. GTP research focuses on gamers’ perceptions, cognitions, and behaviours influenced by video game playing and aims to further understanding of the psychosocial implications of video games.
The researchers reported that some gamers appeared to show lack of cognitive and motor flexibility when changing from virtual to real life tasks. Examples included gamers being unable to stop thinking about the game, expecting that something from the game would happen in real life, confusions between video game events and real life events, impulses to perform something as in the video games, verbal outbursts, and voluntary and involuntary behaviours. While some gamers claimed these experiences were funny, amusing, or normal, others said they got surprised, felt worried, embarrassed, and that their experiences were a reason to quit playing.
Psychologist Angelica Ortiz de Gortari said: “The findings suggest that gamers’ experiences appear to be enhanced by virtual embodiment, repetitive manipulation of game controls, and gaming habits. But similar experiences can occur with non-gaming related activities. Gamers’ behaviours were in most of the cases harmless, but some involuntary actions when the gamers where incapable to control their impulses caused problems or made them feel awkward”.
The researchers acknowledge that positive effects of gaming were observed when gamers transfer strategic thinking to real life context, and when moral thinking and personal boundary testing took place, as well as when gamers started to self-monitor their gaming habits. However, the intrusiveness and the automatic nature of GTP raises some concerns, particularly when real life objects were interpreted with the logic of the game (at least momentarily) and automatic associations resulted in gamers’ episodic dissociations that lead them to perform actions without awareness.
The researchers point out that the psychological profile of the gamers were unknown since the data was collected in online video game forums.
Professor Mark Griffiths says: “The studies that we have carried out all appear to suggest that gaming excessively can cause players in some cases to carry out behaviours from the video game in real life situations. Most of these are relatively short-lived but in a minority of cases there may be consequences that may cause harm to the player and/or those around them”
Gamers’ experiences were typically triggered by a similarity between real-life events and those in the video game. These experiences lasted short periods of time but some gamers experienced them recurrently. More research is needed to determine if there are some long-term effects.