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Wed, 12 Jan 2022

Gaming addiction linked to personality

Computer gaming
Image: Florian Olivo

A new study by James Cook University has found an addiction to video gaming is linked to well-known personality traits – and some, including people who display neurotic tendencies and are introverted are more likely to suffer the disorder.

Dr Peter Chew is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at JCU. He said gaming is larger than the film and music industry combined, with an estimated 2.7 billion gamers spending a total of $US 159 billion on games last year.

“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 Chew.

He said the official definition of IGD is a pattern of excessive and prolonged gaming that results in a cluster of symptoms, including progressive loss of control over gaming, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms - similar to the symptoms of substance use disorders.

“What I wanted to do was examine IGD in comparison to what is known as the Big Five personality factors - a well-established set of personality traits that everyone has, to various greater or lesser degrees,” said Dr Chew.

He said the Big Five factors are openness to experience, conscientiousness (a tendency to exhibit goal-directed behaviour such as persistence, organisation, and motivation), extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (the tendency to be sensitive, emotional and to be prone to experience negative emotions).

Dr Chew re-examined previous comprehensive studies on the subject using sophisticated analytical techniques.

“The results showed that IGD was not significantly correlated with openness to experience. However, IGD was negatively correlated with conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, and positively correlated with 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,” said Dr Chew.

He said the nature of conscientious people was such they were unlikely to play games to the detriment of their relationships, job, or education. While for extroverts gaming might be insufficient to meet the high levels of external stimulation they wanted – and conversely more attractive to those low on extroversion (introverts).

Dr Chew said people high in the trait of agreeableness tend to be eager to avoid conflict and may dislike the conflict inherent in gaming and the real-life conflict with family and workplace managers IGD could bring about.

“IGD was positively correlated with neuroticism. 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,” said Dr Chew.

He said the results could also be useful for mental health practitioners to identify at-risk individuals for IGD.

“Specifically, individuals low on conscientiousness, extroversion, and agreeableness, and high on neuroticism might benefit from IGD interventions.”


Dr Peter Chew
E: Peter.chew@jcu.edu.au