• Demolishing the Competition: The Association between Competitive Video Game Play and Aggression among Adolescents and Young Adults

      Adachi, Paul; Department of Psychology
      The link between video game play and aggression is an important issue as video games The link between video game play and aggression is an important issue as video games are the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world. Past research on this association has been focused primarily on the link between video game violence and aggression; however, this research has confounded the effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. The main goal of the current dissertation, therefore, was to examine the short- and long-term associations between competitive video game play and aggression. In addition, the longitudinal work on this association to date has been limited to adolescent samples, but not young adults. Thus, the second goal of the dissertation research was to investigate whether video game play predicts aggression in the long-term among young adults in addition to adolescents. To address these goals, three studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of a series of experiments examining the short-term effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. Study 2 examined the long-term association between competitive video game play and aggression among adolescents, and Study 3 examined this long-term link among young adults, in addition to adolescents. Taken together, the results of the three dissertation studies converged to suggest that video game competition, rather than violence, may be a stronger predictor of aggression in both the short- and long-term. Overall, the current research represents an important advance in our understanding of the association between video game play and aggression, and leads to a new direction in the video game and aggression literature. are the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world. Past research on this association has been focused primarily on the link between video game violence and aggression; however, this research has confounded the effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. The main goal of the current dissertation, therefore, was to examine the short- and long-term associations between competitive video game play and aggression. In addition, the longitudinal work on this association to date has been limited to adolescent samples, but not young adults. Thus, the second goal of the dissertation research was to investigate whether video game play predicts aggression in the long-term among young adults in addition to adolescents. To address these goals, three studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of a series of experiments examining the short-term effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. Study 2 examined the long-term association between competitive video game play and aggression among adolescents, and Study 3 examined this long-term link among young adults, in addition to adolescents. Taken together, the results of the three dissertation studies converged to suggest that video game competition, rather than violence, may be a stronger predictor of aggression in both the short- and long-term. Overall, the current research represents an important advance in our understanding of the association between video game play and aggression, and leads to a new direction in the video game and aggression literature.
    • The development of sensitivity to threat among children and adolescents

      Heffer, Taylor; Department of Psychology
      Several theories of adolescent brain development suggest that adolescence is a sensitive period of development characterized by the onset of internalizing problems, such as anxiety. Sensitivity to threat, a heightened responsiveness to aversive situations, has been suggested to be a precursor to anxiety, highlighting the importance of understanding sensitivity to threat among children and adolescents. Yet relatively little is known about the development of sensitivity to threat. Further, identifying the neural indicators that are associated with heightened sensitivity to threat would help classify which youth are most at risk for anxiety. The primary goals of my dissertation were: 1) to explore whether adolescents, compared to children, have heightened sensitive to threat, 2) assess which neural indicators are associated with heightened sensitivity to threat, and 3) assess whether individual differences (e.g., in consistency of sensitivity to threat across time and situation) help predict which youth are most at risk for anxiety-related problems. Study 1 of my dissertation examined, with concurrent data, whether adolescents have greater neural sensitivity to negative feedback compared to children. Study 2 examined whether children and adolescents differ in their longitudinal trajectories of sensitivity to threat (e.g., consistency across time). I also was interested in whether these trajectories were associated with frontal asymmetry, a neural indicator associated with avoidance motivations. Study 3 extended the findings from Study 2 to examine consistency across threatening situations. While Studies 1 through 3 investigated whether adolescence is a period of heightened sensitivity to threat, Study 4 of my dissertation used a latent class analysis to investigate whether individual differences in sensitivity to threat, impulsivity, and emotion dysregulation are associated with anxiety and/or risk taking. Results indicated that adolescence (especially when defined by pubertal status), may be a normative period for sensitivity to threat. At the same time, not all youth who are sensitive to threat go on to develop anxiety; thus, it may be that for many adolescents, sensitivity to threat is an adolescent-limited phenomenon, meaning that threat sensitivity may peak in adolescence, but then tapers off into adulthood. Importantly, neural indicators associated with threat sensitivity helped identify which youth may have the highest levels of threat sensitivity. Overall, my dissertation shows that while some level of sensitivity to threat is normative, it is less common for youth to be consistently sensitive to threats and importantly, these youth who are consistently sensitive appear to be most at risk. Taken together, the four studies of my dissertation incorporate EEG, longitudinal designs, multiple indicators of development (age and pubertal status), and self-report data to gain a holistic understanding of sensitivity to threat from childhood to adolescence.