Psycho-physiological reactions to violent video gaming : Experimental studies of heart rate variability, cortisol, sleep and emotional reactions in teenage boys

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Ivarsson, Malena (2014)
  • Publisher: Stockholm : Department of Psychology, Stockholm University
  • Subject: video gaming | autonomic nervous system | HPA axis | emotional reactions | teenagers | desensitization | media violence | cortisol | heart rate variability | sleep quality
    mesheuropmc: human activities | mental disorders | social sciences

Playing violent video games may provoke aggression. Psycho-physiological methods may provide knowledge about the underlying psychological processes. Most previous studies have been performed in laboratory settings at daytime with adults. Thus the aim of this thesis was to investigate psycho-physiological (autonomic and HPA related reactions), sleep-related and emotional responses in teenage boys to playing a violent and a non-violent video game at home before going to sleep. In Study I the autonomic responses differed between the violent and the non-violent game during playing and more distinctly during sleep. In Study II the HPA axis was not affected by video gaming at all. In Study III, the effect of habits of playing violent games was assessed (≤ 1h/day and ≥ 3h/day). High versus low experience of violent gaming were related to different autonomic, sleep-related and emotional processes at exposure to a violent and a non-violent game, during playing and during sleep. The present thesis demonstrated that violent and non-violent games induce different autonomic responses during playing and – more distinctly – during sleep. Frequent gaming seems to influence physiological, sleep-related and emotional reactions, possibly as an expression of desensitization processes.
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