Interaction with Video Games and Their Effects on Cognitive Absorption and Polygraph Measures
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
PODRASKY, C. L. (2007). Interaction with Video Games and Their Effects on Cognitive Absorption and Polygraph Measures. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 10. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Interaction with Video Games and Their Effects on Cognitive Absorption and Polygraph Measures

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Ten male and female students form Missouri Western State University, ages 23-52, first completed a pretest survey used to assess video game play habits such as average weekly play time, average duration of play sessions, the three most recent games played, and motives for play. The ten subjects were then randomly assigned to either a violent or non-violent game play group which interacted with their corresponding game type for a total of 12 minutes. At intervals of 3, 6, 9 and 12 minutes a polygraph was taken to assess Heart Rate, Respiratory Rate, and Galvanic Skin Response in order to gather data on sympathetic nervous system activity. After the play session participants rated their experience on a survey developed to measure the five dimensions of cognitive absorption. A series of 4 x 2 mixed design ANOVAs were used to assess the physiological measures and t-tests were performed on the pre and post test surveys. This small amount of data suggests that non-violent games are just as enjoyable and exciting as violently themed games. In future studies of this nature a much larger sample size should be utilized.

Literature ReviewCognitive absorption, according to Agarwal and Karanna “ . . . is a state of deep involvement with software [or interactive media] that is exhibited through five dimensions: temporal dissociation, focused immersion, heightened enjoyment, perceived control, and curiosity (2000).” The state of absorption refers to the cognitive experience, which could actually be the outcome of a combination of internal and external factors and is synonymous with Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) notion of Flow, or the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter (p. 4). Agarwal and Karanna (2000) describe Flow, or state absorption, as “. . . a state of optimal experience that can occur not only in the pursuit of physical activities, but also in interactions in symbolic systems such as mathematics and computer languages.” It has also been noted (Trevino and Webster, 1992) that cognitive absorption is an important element in understanding human-technology interfaces and interactive media in general, and may potentially be a more adequate model for assessing video game play effects than those currently used. Even though many of the psychological processes that underlie movie and television watching also apply to video games (Carnegy and Anderson, 2005), the deeply interactive nature of video games more effectively lends to the formation and rehearsal of schemas related to the game content. Electrodermal activity, such as galvanic skin response, is a frequently used and excellent measure of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system by gauging the electrical conductance of the skin which is related to the level of sweat in the eccrine seat glands, which are entirely under sympathetic control, and also serves as a conceptual definition of arousal (Ravaja, 2004).

The purpose of this study is to generate data concerning whether violent or non-violent game play effects cognitive absorption, heart rate, respiratory rate and galvanic skin response. Alternate Hypothesis: 1) levels of cognitive absorption will not be effected by type of game; and, 2) interaction with the violent game will generate higher levels of physiological arousal than interaction with the non-violent scenario.

After completion of the pretest survey, the participant was connected to a Bio Pac MP35 acquisition device via a respiratory transducer, five EL507 electrode transducers placed on the inside of either ankle, on the inside of the right wrist, and on the bottom of the first joint of the right index and middle fingers, attached to the acquisition unit by SS57L electrode leads. After calibrating the MP35, the participant began to play for a total of 12 minutes, during which a recording of the three physiological measures was taken at intervals of 3,6,9, and 12 minutes. After the play session was finished, a survey was completed in order to measure the remaining facets of cognitive absorption. The items on the survey were based off of the questions developed by Agarwal and Karanna (2000) to measure the same five dimensions.

Three 4 x 2 mixed ANOVAs were conducted to assess the effects of violent and non-violent game play acress four times on Respiration, Heart Rate (HR), and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). The findings for respiration were not significant. The main effect for time was not significant (F(1,8) = .162, p = .698). The main effect for group was not significant (F(1,8) = .039, p = .849). The time x group interaction was not significant (F(1,8) = .106, p = .753). The findings for heart rate were not significant. The main effect for time was not significant (F(1,8) = 1.423, p = .26). The main effect for group was not significant (F(1,8) = .486, p = .505). The time x group interaction was not significant (F(1,8) = 1.544, p = .229). The findings for galvanic skin response were not significant. The main effect for time was not significant (F(1,8) = 1.3, p = .297) The main effect for group was not significant (F(1,8) = 4.161, p = .076). The time x group interaction was not significant (F(1,8) = .788, p = .512).

In subsequent research involving cognitive absorption and interaction with video games, I would suggest using a larger sample in order to increase the reliability of the results. In this case, a small sample size was used as the result of time constraints. Another measure which could be applied to future research is balancing individual differences in levels of trait absorption, a personality trait which seems to predispose one for the state of absorption.

Agarwal R., & Karahanna, E. (2000). Time flies when you’re having fun: Cognitive absorption and beliefs about Information Technology usage. MIS Quarterly, 24(4), 665-694.

Carnage, N.L., & Anderson, C.A. (2005). The effects of reward and punishment in violent video games on aggressive affect, cognition, and behavior. Psychological Science, 16, 882-889.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow, the psychology of optima experience. New York: HarperCollins.

Lachlan, K.A., Smith, Stacy L., & Tamborini, R. (2005). Models for aggressive behavior: the attributes of violent characters in popular video games. Communication Studies, 4, 313-329.

Ravaja, N. (2005). Contributions of psychophysiology to media research: research and recommendations. Media Psychology, 6, 193-235.

Trevino, L. K., & Webster, J. (1992). Flow in computer-mediated communication. Communication Research, 19(5), 539-573.

Submitted 12/19/2007 2:53:24 PM
Last Edited 12/19/2007 2:57:00 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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