The Psychology of Cyber Addiction– W.o.W.

Get it? WOW (like world of warcraft)! I couldn’t help myself.

We’ve been talking a lot about what classifies an addiction or a compulsion, and whether or not clear distinctions can even be made between these two concepts. One ‘addiction’ that seems to be rather questionable (at least in it’s status as an addiction) is addiction to the internet–more specifically, addiction to online gaming. If I had to characterize this addiction, the first thing that comes to my mind is my younger brother. He is 20 years old and currently lives at home with our parents. In his free time he plays World of Warcraft practically non-stop. He will go to work for a couple of hours and when he returns he is in his room on his computer playing WoW. If he’s not at the computer, he’s in the kitchen getting food or in the bathroom. No where else. Anytime I am home I don’t see him unless it’s dinner time or I go into his room. He is constantly on the computer (granted, he was on it a lot more frequently in high school, but he certainly spends more time playing this game than even sleeping per day).

I just don’t understand it. I would be INCREDIBLY bored if this was what my days consisted of. I was interested in looking more into the possibility and reasoning behind such ‘addictions’, because I feel as though this is so different from something like a cocaine addiction (at least this is my opinion). Furthermore, as I mentioned today in class, I have been wondering whether the idea of having a sensation-seeking personality may actually ‘predispose’ or make you more ‘vulnerable’ to develop an addicition. Since Melissa is NOT PubMed (who knew!?) and wasn’t sure if there were any studies on this subject, I turned to actual PubMed in my quest for answers. And behold-I found a really interesting study in the Journal of Cyberpsychology & Behavior (yes, this is a real journal) which discusses risk-factors for addiction in a sample of college-age participants. Check out the abstract-it’s pretty interesting!

 Research into online gaming has steadily increased over the last decade, although relatively little research has examined the relationship between online gaming addiction and personality factors. This study examined the relationship between a number of personality traits (sensation seeking, self-control, aggression, neuroticism, state anxiety, and trait anxiety) and online gaming addiction. Data were collected over a 1-month period using an opportunity sample of 123 university students at an East Midlands university in the United Kingdom. Gamers completed all the online questionnaires. Results of a multiple linear regression indicated that five traits (neuroticism, sensation seeking, trait anxiety, state anxiety, and aggression) displayed significant associations with online gaming addiction. The study suggests that certain personality traits may be important in the acquisition, development, and maintenance of online gaming addiction, although further research is needed to replicate the findings of the present study.

Mehroof, M., & Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Online gaming addiction: The role sensation seeking, self-control, neuroticism, aggression, state anxiet, and trait anxiety. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, e-published.

What do you guys think of this study? Do you think such observations/conclusions can be applied to drug addictions? Sex addicitions? Food? Admittedly, this study seems rather limited, but I think it is very telling that they would find such compelling correlations. Futhermore, I thought it was pretty amusing that they performed the necessary questionnaires online… 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Psychology of Cyber Addiction– W.o.W.

  1. Jenn – funny but great post! An interesting thought and an interesting study. About 8 of my guy friends here have recently been playing hours and hours on end of “HALO”. I don’t get why they would want to run around an arena shooting at people for a significant portion of their day, but when I hear them talking about it, they are always talking about how one isn’t good or one has the best strategy. I think part of it has to do with the competitiveness between the boys. That might be another factor that the study could have looked at.
    On another note, I admit that I was addicted to the TLC show Addiction tonight because they were describing so many of the addictions from a behavioral perspective that we have discussed in class. So I watched 3 hours of this and to answer your question, it seems like there is more to their addiction than underlying traits. Many had family issues going on that they felt a need to fill a void in their life and thus they turned to something that causes them to forget their worries. Very depressing but interesting to analyze.


  2. Jenn – I was also very intrigued by this type of “addiction” and whether or not it can be classified as one. I wonder if people who spend their days constantly playing video games or attached to their computers/the internet, when they are apart from it, are thinking about it, or are craving/yearning for it. I think it would be interesting to see if these people went into “rehab” or had their internet shut down, if they would display any ‘withdrawal’ symptoms and what these would exactly be. Would they be affected physiologically? I would also be interested in the correlation between the people who are depressed and have family issues (like Sars mentioned) and are addicted to the internet or video games..


  3. In line with personality affecting internet addiction, I found another article that compared Chinese kids to children from the United States and found a significant difference based on another factor which may certainly influence personality, i.e. the values of a particular culture. This paper showed that the internet and video game culture is considered far more important and hence salient in China due to which, motivational levels to seek out the same were much higher. This also comes in line with what I discussed in my presentation with regard to motivational salience and the psychology of addiction and relapse.


  4. This is really interesting! I’m surprised they found such results with online gambling! I feel like if online gambling yielded such results than other addictions must be correlated with personality traits too. Honestly I knew a lot of people who were really into WOW and I just don’t get it. There must be some subliminal messages or something in there because it seems incredibly boring to sit and play vicariously through a game for days, weeks, and months at a time.


  5. I really like this post a lot. I wonder if you could apply this to a broader gaming addiction as opposed to internet. For instance tetris or solitaire,had to delete those off of my computer during exams once or twice :). I also wonder if the same sort of reward circuits are stimulated when using this game compared to other sorts of addictions.


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