Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Immersive Video Gaming Alters Real-Life Experience

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Immersive Video Gaming Alters Real-Life Experience

Article excerpt

Spending time immersed as a virtual character or avatar in a role-playing video game can numb you to realizing important body signals in real life. This message comes from Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany and Stephen Loughnan of Melbourne University in Australia in an article in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

The researchers studied what hap-pens when gamers take on the role of a nonhuman character such as an avatar during immersive video gaming and how it especially influences their experience of pain. Avatars often have automaton-like, robotic characteristics such as mechanistic inertness, rigidity, and a lack of emotion and warmth.

Participants were asked how much time they spend each week playing video games. Their responses were then correlated with a measure of pain tolerance by counting the number of paper clips that they could retrieve from ice-cold water. In a second experiment, participants played either an immersive or a nonimmersive computer game before taking part in the same pain-resistance task. The immersive video-game players exhibited a reduced sensitivity to pain and removed significantly more paper clips from ice-cold water. They were also more indifferent to people depicted as experiencing displeasure than were the nonimmersive players.

Weger and Loughnan found that by taking on and acting from the perspective of an automaton-like avatar, people are desensitized to pain in themselves and in others. …

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