Communications: Psychology and Video Game Essays

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The Influence of Video Games on Social, Cognitive, and Affective Information Processing
Kira Bailey, Robert West, & Craig A. Anderson
Iowa State University Department of Psychology
Draft of chapter to appear in Handbook of Social Neuroscience (Oxford University Press)
Jean Decety & John Cacioppo, Eds.
September 2009
Keywords: attention, cognition, cognitive control, emotion, executive control, individual differences, negativity bias, video games, video game violence, visuospatial cognition
Video Games 1
Computer and console-based video games represent a pervasive form of leisure activity in industrialized nations beginning in early to middle childhood and continuing through adulthood. A recent representative sample of U.S. teens found that 99% of boys and 94% of girls had played video games (Lenhart, Kahne, Middaugh, Macgill, Evans, & Vitak, 2008). Boys typically play more than girls (Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005). For example, a survey of over 600 eighth and ninth grade students found that boys averaged 13 hours per week and girls averaged 5 hours per week (Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004). In addition to the entertainment value of video games, evidence from a growing number of studies demonstrates that video games can produce positive pedagogical outcomes related to the development of health-related knowledge and behaviors (Baranowski, Buday, Thompson, & Baranowski, 2008; Barlett, Anderson, & Swing, 2009) and military training (Gopher, Weil, & Bareket, 1994).
Widespread use of video games begs the question of what intended and unintended effects they may produce. There is not a simple answer to this question. For instance, exposure to a specific type of game (e.g., violent action games) might have multiple effects (e.g., increases in aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 2001) and improvements in visuospatial attention (Green & Bavalier, 2003)). Because games differ on a range of dimensions, and engage various cognitive, affective, and behavioral systems, it is reasonable to expect that they will influence multiple information processing systems (Gentile & Gentile, 2008). Indeed, there is growing evidence for a wide range of video game effects that influence social and antisocial behaviors, cognitive styles, and affective processing (Barlett et al., 2009). Furthermore, some of these effects
Video Games 2 may be moderated by personal characteristics (e.g., gender) or by social circumstances (e.g., parental involvement). Thus, the potential positive or negative effects of video game experience must be considered within the socio-cognitive-cultural context where the individual is embedded. With this in mind, the goals