The relationship between your personality and gaming addiction
A new study explores the link between an addiction to video gaming and well-known personality traits.
Video games are immensely popular, propelling the video games industry to become a multi-billion-dollar industry that is larger than the film and music industry combined. While games can be very entertaining, it can be easy to get absorbed in the competition, resulting in negative symptoms associated with excessive gaming.
“Most gamers have little or no negative consequences from their pastime, but Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) is a recognised phenomenon which affects a small number of gamers,” said Dr Peter Chew, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore.
According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders — IGD is defined as “a pattern of excessive and prolonged Internet gaming that results in a cluster of cognitive and behavioural symptoms, including progressive loss of control over gaming, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms, analogous to the symptoms of substance use disorders.”
Past studies have shown that one’s personality plays a critical role in IGD, where core characteristics of individuals may interact with specific game design elements to result in the development and maintenance of specific Internet-use disorders. In his study, Dr Chew sought to examine IGD in comparison to the Big Five personality factors, a well-established set of personality traits that everyone has to varying degrees.
The Big Five personality factors are:
- Openness to experience
- Conscientiousness (a tendency to exhibit goal-directed behaviour such as persistence, organisation, and motivation)
- Neuroticism (the tendency to be sensitive, emotional and to be prone to experience negative emotions)
By meticulously analysing and reviewing data on the subject, Dr Chew determined that IGD was not significantly correlated with openness to experience. However, IGD was negatively associated with conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, and positively linked to neuroticism.
“This means the more conscientious, extraverted and agreeable a person is, the less likely they are to experience IGD, but it’s more likely they will experience IGD if they score highly on neuroticism,” Dr Chew explained.
After all, conscientious people are unlikely to compromise their relationships, jobs or education with gaming. And while there are social aspects of games that could appeal to extraverts — such as working together with other players to complete quests — these activities might be insufficient to meet the high levels of external stimulation they desire. Furthermore, highly-agreeable people tend to be eager to avoid conflict, and may dislike the conflict present in gaming as well as the real-life conflict with family and workplace managers that could be caused by IGD.
Dr Chew added, “People high on neuroticism might play games to escape from reality or relieve negative moods. Over time, with the relief of negative moods serving as a form of negative reinforcement, neuroticism might contribute to the acquisition and maintenance of IGD.”
Understanding the relationships between IGD and the Big Five personality factors could be useful for mental health practitioners to identify at-risk individuals for IGD. Individuals who struggle with an addiction to video gaming may learn more about their behaviour and be empowered to change. Specifically, individuals low on conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, and high on neuroticism might benefit from IGD interventions.
Peter K.H. Chew, A meta-analytic review of Internet gaming disorder and the Big Five personality factors, Addictive Behaviors, Volume 126, 2022, 107193, ISSN 0306-4603, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.107193
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